All Macs In-Depth Tests
The Performance Edge: Let The Games Begin! PowerBook G4/550 vs PowerBook G4/500 Under OS 9 - In Some Tasks The New PowerBook Shines and In Many It Doesn't

Additional Related Resources

Friday, December 28, 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.

Again the newer PowerBook turned in mixed results when tested under OS 9. Some times faster and some times slower. On raw processing power the new 550 MHz PowerBook lagged against the slower 500 MHz PowerBook (largely we believe because the newer Book lacks a large level two cache). However, overall, mainly because of its faster graphics system, the newer PowerBook pulled about even in performance, when compared to the older machine.

Where did the new PowerBook lag behind? Most significantly in our Folder Copy test and our AppleWorks Search and Replace test. Here the 550 MHz machine turned in 21% and 46% poorer performance respectively. It is interesting to note that in similar tests under OS 10.1 the newer PowerBook did not show this kind of performance lag. In the Search and Replace test under OS 10 the 550 MHz machine pulled 7% ahead of the 500 MHz machine. And in our Folder Copy test the 550 MHz PowerBook was a whopping 47% faster. Obviously there is something under the hood of Mac OS X that takes better advantage of the processor memory system or drive activity, when cmpared to similar activity under OS 9.

If you are a hard core gamer, and looking for a PowerBook, then the newer one is what you want to get. The ATI Mobility Radeon graphics card in the 4x AGP slot with 16MB of DDR graphics memory blows the previous, top of the line PowerBook out of the water, turning in a 130% performance improvement.

"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 PowerBook G4/500, 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. Because the 550 MHz PowerBook did so poorly on the Search and Replace test, and mediocre on several of the other tests that comprise the ZoneBench Processor Suite, this brought its score down

This is an average of all the test results below. The results of the Quake III scores brings the overall rating of the newer PowerBook up to about par.

Finder Tests

This same test is the exact opposite when done under Mac OS X ... the new PowerBook is faster

This test result is exactly the same under either OS


AppleWorks 6 Tests

In 2D graphics, both machines are about the same

Ouch! This is where the PowerBook G4/550 with its small (but fast) L2 Cache falls flat ... at least under OS 9. Under OS X it is a different story. There the new PowerBook pulled slightly ahead of the older PowerBook

Quake III Tests

When Quake is on the fastest setting the processor is doing most of the work, hence the PowerBook 550 , with its much better graphics system does not have a great advantage in this mode. In fact, is seems like its small cache is also a factor here.

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 PowerBook 500 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 550's drive performed better in the copy test above



Again in the above three test you see the larger cache at work

In this rendering test the two machines seem pretty evenly matched

This is a combination of both processor and graphics card performance

Encoding/Decoding Tests

Pretty evenly matched, but because the 550 does not have a higher score, given its higher clock speed, the slower clocked PowerBook is the real winner

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