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Who Let The Dog Out! Apple's "February 2001" iMacs Benchmarked And Reviewed

At Macworld Tokyo last February, Apple unveiled its latest revision to the iMac line. The new iMacs represent the 7th major revision to the iMac line and yet another, this time more radical, shift in the color scheme. Gone are the deep "Sage" and "Ruby" colors and the stark "Snow." Only the most popular colors, "Indigo" and "Graphite" survived the cut. The two new color schemes, for lack of a better description, are "Blue Dalmatian" (pictured on the left) and "Flower Power." '60's psychedelic colors aside, how do the latest iMacs compare to their predecessors?

Apple trimmed the available iMac configurations from four in the previous generation down to three. The new lineup consists of a G3/400, G3/500 and G3/600 costing $899, $1,199 and $1,499 respectively. Our astute readers will note that the low end iMac has gone up in price by $100. This is because apple has added several features not found on the previous low end iMac, specifically: a faster processor, slightly larger hard drive, FireWire ports, AirPort slot and the ability to hook up an external monitor. The G3/500 and G3/600 both sport CD-RW drives as well as IBM's 750CX G3 processor that made its debut in the iBook. The 750CX processor does away with a backside cache in favor of a smaller 256K, on chip cache that runs at full processor speed. The 512K backside cache on the low end iMac runs at 160 MHz or a 2.5:1 ratio. IBM claims that the faster speed of the on chip cache more than compensates for its smaller size. Our benchmark results below confirm this claim. All three machines continue to make use of ATI's RAGE 128 graphics card, but the G3/500 and G3/600 use the RAGE 128 Ultra with 16MB SDRAM while the G3/400 continues with the RAGE 128 Pro and 8MB SDRAM.

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For this review, we ordered up the following machines: G3/400 indigo (the only color choice), G3/500 "blue dalmatian" and a G3/600 "flower power." After their initial release, we had heard that the oft maligned flower power iMacs looked much better in person than they appear on the web. This is not the case in my opinion. The good news is that when you are sitting at the computer you can't see the multi colored pattern except as a desktop pattern which is easily changed. Others who saw the flower power iMac sitting on my desk loved it, so to each his or her own... The blue dalmatian is far more subdued with enough funk to still make a statement, but I personally would lean toward the remaining solid color options, indigo or graphite.

Documentation: The "Setup Manual" simply consists of 6 photographs, outlining what to plug in where. While this plays well on commercials, the novice user would probably appreciate some accompanying text. The "User's Guide" is also laden with graphics (primarily screen shots) and has just enough explanatory text to get you started surfing the web or using applications like AppleWorks. The user guide, however, should be thought of as the barest of introductions which should be backed up by reference books. The "Visual Quick Start" series from Peachpit Press is a good starting point.

Being iMacs, setup of all three was a breeze. I was pleased to discover that iTunes was pre-installed along with 670MB of MP3 files. The files included a healthy mix of licenced songs and spoken word files. While they are no substitute for a good set of external speakers, the iMac's internal speakers produce amazingly decent sound that is fine for casual use.

Performance: We were curious how the 750CX processor would hold up under our suite of tests. The ideal comparison would be between a 750 and 750CX at the same clock speed, but this was not an option of course. Even so, it appears that IBM's claim of equal or better performance over the 750 is correct. Our benchmark scores below show that the 750CX's performance is right where you would expect a G3/500 and G3/600 with a 512K cache to fall. apparently the speed of the cache (along with other improvements) balance out the smaller size. All three machines felt sprightly during mundane day-to-day tasks, but the performance differences became quite apparent during our processor intensive tests, Photoshop filters, QuickTime encoding and log analysis to name a few.

Conclusions: Given Apple's new emphasis on Macs as a "digital hub," we are glad to see FireWire make it to the low end iMac along with AirPort capability and VGA out. It is regrettable that Apple chose to exclude the CD-RW drive from the G3/400, but this may have been necessary to keep the price down. This complaint aside, we believe that most people would, in fact, will be quite happy with the low end machine. A RAM upgrade is a must for both the 400 MHz and 500 MHz models but RAM is running pretty cheap as of this writing. Many stores are also bundling RAM and other items with the iMacs.

If you do a lot of processor intensive tasks or want the best game frame rates possible, consider one of the faster machines which use the RAGE Ultra 128 with 16MB SDRAM. The larger drives will also be appreciated by folks working with large graphics or iMovie files as both tend to eat up drive space quickly.

Below, we outline the major differences in the iMac lineup and compare it to the previous generation. For a comparison of all iMacs from the original Bondi to the Blue Dalmatian, visit our iMac Specifications and Features Page.We also welcome your questions or comments on our iMac discussion thread below.

iMacs at a Glance


  • 64MB RAM (1 gig max)
  • 10GB Ultra ATA hard drive
  • Slot loading 24X CD-ROM drive
  • ATI RAGE 128 Pro with 8MB SDRAM
  • MSRP: $899
  • MSRP: $899

    Common Hardware Features

  • 2 FireWire ports
  • 2 USB ports
  • Internal 56K V.90 modem
  • 10/100BASE-T Ethernet
  • AirPort slot
  • VGA output port (15-pin mini D-Sub connector)
  • Common Software Bundle

    Mac OS 9.1, QuickTime, iMovie 2, iTunes (either bundled or available via download), AppleWorks 6, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator, Quicken Deluxe 2001, Palm Desktop, FAXstf, Cro-Mag Rally, Bugdom, and Nanosaur.


  • 64MB RAM (1 gig max)
  • 20GB Ultra ATA hard drive
  • Slot loading 8x4x24 CD-RW drive
  • ATI RAGE 128 Ultra with 16MB SDRAM
  • MSRP: $1,199


  • 128MB RAM (1 gig max)
  • 40GB Ultra ATA hard drive
  • Slot loading 8x4x24 CD-RW drive
  • ATI RAGE 128 Ultra with 16MB SDRAM
  • MSRP: $1,499


    Machine: iMacG3/400 iMacG3/500 iMacG3/600
    MSRP: $899 - Check current prices & bundles $1,199 - Check current prices & bundles $1,499 - Check current prices & bundles
    (5 possible)

    (5 Possible)

    (5 possible)


    FireWire, AirPort & VGA out now on low end machine, decent assortment of software and MP3's CD-RW works well with iTunes & disc Burn. Decent assortment of software annd MP3's A 600 Mhz "consumer" desktop! Roomy 40GB drive. CD-RW works well with iTunes & disc Burn.
    Misses: No CD-RW, only 8MB SDRAM, not enought RAM for OS X. Not enought RAM for OS X, new patterns not to everyone's taste. None significant.
    ZoneBench Score: 106.6 122.6 136.9
    The ZoneBench score above represents an average of all of the scores below as well as a few other unpublished tests. The ZoneBench base score is based on a Blue & White G3/350 which receives a score of 100

    "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. 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.

    When reviewing the scores below, you should note that the G3/400 iMac uses a 512K backside cache running at 160 MHz (a 2.5:1 ratio) while the G3/500 and G3/600 use a 256K "on chip" cache running at full processor speed. Our base machine, the G3/350 has a full 1MB backside cache running at 175 MHz. The G3/400 also has 8MB (video) SDRAM whereas the others have 16MB.

    Finder Tests



    It is interesting to note that the G3/400 handily out performed the other machines in the folder copy test, but returned a score you would expect when copying a large file. Perhaps the 512K cache comes into play when copying a large number of small files.

    AppleWorks 6 Tests


    Quake III Tests
    These scores are relative. Actual frame rates for all machines below this section.



    Photoshop 6 & Other Data Crunching Tests







    Encoding/Decoding Tests



    Current iMacs Reviews & Information

    Model/Mhz   Price Information

    iMac G3/600/600/256K
    Flower Power
    Blue Dalmatian

    (February, 2001)

    Reviews: | Macworld UK |C/Net | Macworld | MacAddict |

    Additional Info: | Register | Observer | LowEndMac | LowEndMac | | MBG | Wired | Applelinks | | IGM | CreativeMac | MacObserver | LowEndMac | Applelinks | MacObserver | LowEndMac | CreativeMac | MacObserver | LowEndMac | Applelinks | |


    iMac G3/500/500/256K
    Flower Power
    Blue Dalmatian

    (February, 2001)

    Reviews: | Macworld UK | BareFeats | Macworld |

    Additional Info: | Register | Observer | LowEndMac | LowEndMac | | MBG | Wired | Applelinks | | IGM | CreativeMac | MacObserver | LowEndMac | Applelinks | MacObserver | LowEndMac | CreativeMac | MacObserver | LowEndMac | Applelinks | Macworld UK | |


    iMac G3/400/160/512K

    (February, 2001)

    Reviews: | Macworld UK |

    Additional Info: | MacSpeedZone | Register | Observer | LowEndMac | LowEndMac | | MBG | Wired | Applelinks | | IGM | CreativeMac | MacObserver | LowEndMac | Applelinks | LowEndMac | Macworld UK |


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