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The SpeedZone: Original G3/233 Bondi Blue iMac vs Flat Panel G4/800! Would You Believe That In Some Cases The G4 Is 33 Times As Fast- A Detailed Performance Report

Friday, September 27, 2002

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by David Engstrom

Apple gave birth to the bouncing Bondi iMac in the summer of 1998 ... just about 4 years ago. At the time it was very fast, with its G3 processor running at 233 MHz, and had an innovative design that spoke to a new generation of Mac users. It was also economical to purchase, weighing in at $1,299. The Bondi bombshell held both the high and low-end places in Apple's consumer line-up .... there was only one model.

Fast forward four years from it's inception and you will now be lucky to get a few hundred dollars for your aging gumdrop, and the current iMac has undergone a radical redesign both inside and out.

The high-end G4 iMac of today tops out at 800 MHz and sports a 17 inch flat panel display. It comes loaded with Apple branded software and has a drive capable of burning DVDs. It also costs $700 more than the original iMac. (the low-end model is still available for $1,299).

So how have things progressed on the performance front?

The '33 times as fast' in the title of this piece, refers to game performance. Running Quake III in high-quality mode on the Original iMac was a little like watching paint peel. I think my beard grew and inch while I was waiting for the demo to finish. We were basically getting 2.1 frames per second ... ok stop laughing, this was only for testing purposes. The new G4 iMac turned in over 64 fps in the same test ... Pretty impressive.

How about in basic processor performance?

As you might expect from a machine that is clocked a little over 3 times as fast, the G4 iMac turned in a little over 3 time the performance of the G3 machine in some tests. But that is only part of the story. Because the G4 processor has some special features that allow it to perform above what you would expect from raw clock speed, some of the tests below show a 5 or 6 times the performance of the G3/233. And in one of our G4 tuned test the G4 machine outperformed the G3 one by over 22 times.

Clearly we have come a long way in the last 4 years ...

Difference and similarities of each machine
  Original iMac G3/233 iMac G4/800

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Processors G3/233 G4/800
L2 Cache 512K @ 117 MHz 256k @ 800 MHz
L3 Cache none none
Bus Speed 66 MHz 100 MHz
Memory 256 MB SDRAM 768 MB SDRAM
Graphics Card

ATI Rage IIc accelerated 2D/3D graphics controller


NVIDIA GeForce4 MX with 32 MB of DDR SDRAM
Drive 4 GB IDE 80GB Ultra ATA
CD Drive 24x CD-ROM SuperDrive
Operating System 10.2 10.2
Price $1299 $1,999

"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, (except the game tests), were timed with a stopwatch. The times were then converted to percentages, relative to the iMac G3/233, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Desktop Tests




The two test results above show a significant improvement in hard drive performance

A better graphics card translates into better performance marks. . Let 1K Windows Bloom is a simple carbon application that opens and closes 1,000 windows.

Large document is scrolled from one end to the other using Classic OS 9.2.2 when booted in OS 10. Test shows the performance of on-screen graphics. The gap in performance here should have been wider. Perhaps the fact that the original 233 iMac has 512K of L2 cache. and the G4 iMac only 256K, keeps it from being a runaway for the G4.

Two folders with many items are searched using OS X new search function. The faster processor is not much of an advantage here. To carry out this function only a small portion of the G4's processing power was utilized, whereas the processor on the G3 iMac was nearly saturated with data. So the bottle neck is not at the processor level on the G4

Large Document & Database Type Tests

A Macro (series of complex actions) was run in Microsoft's Word program, which is part of Office X

A Macro (series of complex actions) was run in Microsoft's Excel program, which is part of Office X

Stresses the processing & memory systems of the machine. This test takes place in a large AppleWorks document. This is a raw processing power test.

Number Crunching & Rendering Tests

The Fractal program has been highly tuned to take advantage of the G4 and is precisely the type of work that the G4 was made for. It will also gobble up whatever processing capability is present. This is a good test for assessing the fundamental processing potential of each machine. Obviously you would need to have an application finely tuned to take advantage of the G4 to see these kind of results ... and not all applications, or parts of applications can be.

A Ripple Effect is applied to an iMovie

A QuickTime export is imported into iMovie. Drive performance is an important factor

Encoding/Decoding Tests

A Sorenson encode compresses a QuickTime movie for streaming on the Web. This type of encode takes advantage of the G4 processor, hence the out of proportion, better performance of the current iMac

Another application tuned for the G4 processor

Preps QuickTime Movie for import into iMovie

This is just straight processing ... no advantage to having a G4, but higher clock speeds matter.


MP3 Encode, AppleWorks search & replace and folder copy are all carried out at the same time. The machines are asked to carry out a variety of different types of functions. Depending on what you put into the mix, you may see differences in relative performance

Game Performance
Tested under OS 9.2.2

At 'fastest' setting the processor plays a bigger role (the G4 iMac achieved 72.3 fps)

Most, if not all, the processing is being done by the graphics card in this test. . (the G4 achieved 64.8 fps, the G3 iMac 2.1 fps)

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