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The Performance Edge: Now That Is More Like It - What A Difference A Little Backside Cache Makes - A Performance Comparison Of The Quicksilver G4/733 And G4/867
Monday, August 20, 2001

Last week we looked at the performance of the new Quicksilver G4/733 and compared it to numerous other Macs, but in particular to the last generation Power Mac single processor G4/533. In that showdown we found that in many of the tests the 533 was just as fast as the 733. And in the other tests the 533 bested the 733, sometimes by a significant margin. We explained this away by claiming that the lack of a backside cache in the 733 hampered its performance. In most tests this cost the 733 a modest hit on the performance meter, but on other tests the hit was significant.

Since then we have got our hands on a Quicksilver 867. Where the 733 has only a on chip cache running at full processor speed, the 867 not only has a faster clock-speed but also has the same 256K on chip cache (again at full processor speed) plus 2 full MB of backside cache running at one fourth the processor speed. On a purely MHz basis the 867 is only 18% faster. Yet in many of the tests it turned in anywhere between a 24% - 145% speed improvement over its younger sibling. However, there were some tests in which the 867 flunked out - namely in tests involving the optical drive.

Anyway take a look at the results below. We have included our best guess about what is going-on to generate these differences. If you have a better explanation, or a different opinion, please let us know. Either e-mail us a message for us to post or use this link to post your ideas on our bulletin board

Both machines were configured similarly and running OS 9.2

Note: This is our initial look at the performance of the new Quicksilver towers. We will be running more tests and hope to have a full review of all the new Power Macs in the next few weeks.

Additional resources:

"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 slower machine which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Finder Tests

In rotational speed the 733 is slower than the 867. So why is the 733 faster in this test. Different drives handle data differently. One drive may be faster at reading data, one drive may be faster at writing data. One may have an easier time with large single files and another may be faster reading and writing small bites of data. The test above copies a folder containing thousands of files.

Reading and writing a single, large data the 867 is a clear winner here. Perhaps also the existence of the backside cache is a factor.

AppleWorks 6 Tests

The additional speed of the 867's processor and and the backside cache account for the increased performance here - the drive is not a factor.

OK, here is where the machine with the backside cache comes into its own. The document we use is 1.5 MB ... theoretically it could all fit completely into the 2 MB backside cache of the 867. On the 733 without any kind of backside cache the processor must trudge all the way to main memory to get much of the information it need. So if a lot of your work involves large databases, spreadsheets or document you will want to be sure to consider one of the machines with a backside cache. On small documents (under 256K). The performance difference will not be that great.

Quake III Tests
These scores are relative.

Here again the processor speed and improved memory subsystem gives the 867 its disproportional advantage

Why nearly identical results here? Both machines have the same graphics card and at high-quality setting it appears the Quake is running exclusively off the card ... using the other subsystems little if at all.

Photoshop 6 & Other Data Crunching Tests

We use an 20 MB image to launch Photoshop. Here the drive plays a part as does the processor and memory subsystem. A lot of rendering is going on here not just hard drive activity.

These two Photoshop test (above and below) are carried out completely in RAM - there is no drive activity. Again the 867 has a disproportional speed boost.

The effect is even more in evidence here.

The 733 did quite well in this test, though still 10% less than it should when clock-speed is accounted for


This test stresses both the processor and its subsystems and the graphics card

Encoding/Decoding Tests

Again we see a similar pattern. The hard drive is accessed here but is not much of a performance factor as it can deliver data much faster than it can be processed.

Good for you 733! The 733 has a 32X CD drive and the 867 has a 24X CD drive. The file being converted is coming off a CD.

Hard drive is a partial factor here.

The 733 writes CD-Rs at 12X and the 867 at 4X

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