All Macs In-Depth Tests
The Performance Edge: PowerBook G4/550 vs iBook G3/600 And OS 9 - The G4 Advantage Is More Specialized - A Performance Comparison Under OS 9.2.1

Additional Related Resources

PowerBook Buyer's Guide
iBook Buyer's Guide
PowerBook G4/550 info page
iBook G3/600 info page
iBook G3/600 vs iBook G3/500
OS 9.2.1 vs 9.2.1 Classic vs 10.1


Friday, December 21, 2001

The test below were done when running under Mac OS 9.2.1. If you are interested in how these machines would perform under OS X be sure to check out the page detailing those test results. Like most Mac users we are in a transition period between the two Operating Systems, and so do dual testing under each OS. The advantage of the PowerBook's G4 processor under OS 9 is less consistent than it is under OS X. However, as you'll see from the results below, in certain applications the performance of the G4 will run rings around the G3, even when that G3 has a higher clock speed.

"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 the iBook G3/600, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Overall Scores

The ZoneBench Processor result is an average of some of the processor intensive results below. Tests that utilize the hard drive or graphics system are not included. The PowerBook doesn't perform better here because the average includes many tests that do not take advantage of the G4's unique performance capabilities. See individual results below for an more in-depth look at those types of functions at which the G4 excels.

This is an average of all the test results below. Adjusted for clock-speed the PowerBook would be 24% faster (in other words if the PowerBook ran at 600 MHz rather than 550 MHz)

Finder Tests



It is always interesting to check out the two different drive scores above. Quite often one computer is faster in one test and slower in the other. Our feeling is that the Copy Folder test requires much more calculating than the second test, the single file copy. Thus the higher clocked iBook has an advantage over the inconsequential G4. Be sure to check out the results for these two test when the machines are running OS 10.1 ... you'll be surprised.

AppleWorks 6 Tests

Probably the graphics chip is giving the PowerBook the advantage here

This test result was a bit of a surprise because both processors have a similar memory structures. For example both lack a backside cache and both have 256K of 'on chip' L2 cache running at full processor speed. Perhaps AppleWorks has been tuned in some way to take advantage of the G4.

Quake III Tests

When Quake is on the fastest setting the processor is doing most of the work, hence the PowerBook, with its much better graphics system does not have a great advantage in this mode.

However set Quake to a higher setting and it is a another ball game. At 'High-Quality' setting the graphics system is doing most of the heavy lifting. So here the PowerBook with its ATI Mobility Radeon card in a 4x AGP slot, with 16 MB of memory, trounces the iBook with the ATI Rage Mobility 128 graphics card in a 2x AGP slot and only 8 MB of memory

Photoshop 6 & Other Data Crunching Tests

There is a certain amount of calculating that goes on when a program is launched, although the main determinant in this case is drive performance. We use a single large file to open Photoshop ... in single file reading/writing, the PowerBook's drive performed better in the copy test above

Ok this is the type of work that the G4 was designed to handle efficiently

This wasn't! If you are not running certain Filters or other Photoshop operations that take advantage of the G4, a faster clocked G3 will get the work done faster .... even in Photoshop

This is a raw processing test


This is also a processor intensive test that can take advantage of dual processors (which neither of the two machines above have). However it is not G4 savvy, and takes no advantage of the G4's performance enhancements

This is a combination of both processor and graphics card performance

Encoding/Decoding Tests

QucikTime encoding is another application that makes good utilization of the G4. Since it is an Apple created piece of software, they have tailored it to the hilt for the G4

iTunes also can take advantage of the G4, but more modestly so. Performance is probably hurt or improved depending on how fast your CD drive is, if you are ripping MP3s from a CD, which we are doing here

This is a processing intensive function, but one that does not take advantage of the G4, though it could probably be written to do so?