With the latest Power Mac G4's, Apple has abandoned (for the most part) its dual processor strategy. During his keynote speech at Macworld SF, Steve Jobs essentially confirmed that this was due to Motorola's inability to produce faster G4 processors in sufficient quantity. The announced lineup of G4 Power Macs range from 466MHz to a potent 733 MHz. We spent several weeks with the two low end machines, the G4/466 and G4/533, putting them through their paces. How do they stack up against previous G4 machines? Read on to find out...
New and Improved: While the form factor hasn't changed, there are a number of significant improvements under the hood worth noting. The highlights are outlined below:
- The G4/667 and G4/733 use a new G4 processor out of Motorola, the MPC7450. One of the key differences of this new processor, dubbed the "G4 Plus" by some, is the presence on an "on-chip" 256K cache running at full processor speed.The 466 and 533 MHz machines we tested use the older G4 processor with the standard 2:1 backside cache. Interestingly, the backside cache on the 677 and 733 runs at a 3:1 ratio, 222 and 244 MHz respectively. There are numerous other differences between the G4 and G4 Plus that should give the new chip a real edge.MacAddict has an excellent writeup on the new chips. See pages 1 and 2.
- System bus speed has been bumped from 100 MHz to 133 MHz (PC133 RAM now required) for improved memory throughput.
- Previous G4's had a 2X AGP slot. The new G4's all sport a 4X AGP Graphics slot with one of the following cards: ATI RAGE 128 (G4/466) with 16MB SDRAM or an nVIDIA GeForce2 MX graphics card with 32MB of SDRAM (G4/533, G4/667 & G4/733). ATI's Radeon card with 32MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM is also available as a BTO option from the Apple Store.
- All of the new Power Macs have CD-RW drives allowing users to burn their own music or data CD's. The G4/733, which we will review at a later date, breaks new ground with a drive Apple has dubbed the "Super Drive." The super drive is a combination CD-RW and DVD-R drive.
- 4 full-length 64-bit, 33MHz PCI slots. Previous Power Macs had one 2X AGP slot and 3 PCI.
- A new digital audio sound system featuring a built in amplifier capable of supporting multiple audio output formats.
- Visit our Power Mac Specs & Features Page for a full comparison with previous Power Macs.
Setting up each machine took no time at all after the excess of protective plastics were removed. Side by side, the G4/466 and G4/533 look virtually identical, but our benchmark tests showed a significant performance difference between the two. In terms of raw processing tasks, the G4/466 and G4/533 fall about where you would expect from machines 67 MHz apart. When it came to our graphics tests, however, the nVIDIA GeForce2 MX made its presence known in a big way. In The Quake III test the nVIDIA card trounced the RAGE 128, delivering an impressive 68.7 FPS in high quality mode. The RAGE 128 sputtered along at 34.5FPS. That said, in terms of day to day casual use, both machines felt very responsive. The G4/533's extra muscle primarily made itself felt when doing serious work in Photoshop or data analysis in Analog.
Whistle & Bell Lab: We quickly installed AirPort cards in both machines and set up a wireless network, with one machine acting as the base station. We then used the AirPort connection to transfer files and to surf the web, all without a hitch. Although we didn't conduct any formal benchmarks in this department, surfing the web via AirPort seemed just as responsive as via our normal Ethernet/DSL connection. If you plan on transferring a lot of data around, a physical Ethernet connection will make more sense, given the available gigabit Ethernet port.
We took iMovie2 for a spin, hooking our analog video camera to the G4's FireWire port, thanks to a DV-Bridge we had for review from Dazzle. After working around a few quirks with the DV-Bridge, we had put together a holiday home video, complete with cheesy transitions and scrolling credits. The finished product was anything but professional looking, but it was also our first stab at editing. iMovie2 made the actual importing and editing process painless, and we expect the results would improve with practice. We used up a serious chunk of drive space importing clips, making us appreciate the larger 40 gig drive in the G4/533.
Lastly, we used iTunes to rip a small collection of our favorite CD's and further fill the Power Macs' drives. iTunes, like iMovie, was simple to use and coordinates nicely with Disc Burner to create custom audio CD's.
True to the Macworld SF demo, Disc Burner mounts blank CD's on the desktop and treats it like any other volume. When you eject the CD, Disc Burner asks if you would like to burn the data on to the CD. That's all there is to it!
Conclusions: Either machine would make a fine addition for the home or business user. If you want an all around solid performer and are working within a limited budget, the G4/466 will fit the bill. If you plan on giving the processor a workout on a regular basis, a faster machine will quickly pay for itself in saved time. If you are a serious gamer, your choice is likewise clear...
"Real World" Tests
The tests below are from our suite of real world application tests. These tests feature a diverse selection of applications commonly used by the Mac community. The test suite was designed to render an accurate and well rounded picture of a machine's performance. Click here for detailed information on each test and our machine's configuration. All of the tests below (with the exception of the Quake III & Cinebench 2000 tests) were timed with a stopwatch. The times are then converted to percentages relative to our base Blue & White G3/350 machine which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better. Absolute scores for most tests can be found below this section.
Interestingly, this is the one test where the 466 bested the 533...
AppleWorks 6 Tests
Quake III Tests
Actual frame rates for all machines below this section.
Photoshop 6 & Other Data Crunching Tests