All Macs In-Depth Tests
Deep In The Zone: PowerBook vs PowerBook, How Much Faster Is The GHz PowerBook - A Performance Report
12/20/02

by David Engstrom

Have questions? Comments?
The PowerBooks are Apple's Class Act. They are elegant in a very understated way. Apple has bumped up the speed of these machines by 200MHz on each model. The last generation sported a G4/800 MHz processor at the high-end, and 667 MHz on the low. This generation has a G4 processor clocked at either 1 GHz or 867 MHz.

Before we get to the speed numbers, lets first note some of the feature differences between the two current PowerBooks. In other  words what are you getting, besides a speed boost, for the extra $700 you'll spend if you opt for the high-end PowerBook.

First off you get double the RAM. However the GHz machine ships with two 256 MB chips, rather than one 512 MB module. Since there are only two RAM slots on the PowerBook, if you upgrade your RAM using a 512 MB chip, you will be wasting one of your 256 chips. Still more RAM is better. Unless you are doing high level work with your PowerBook, 512 MB, in any configuration, should be sufficient for the moment. 256 MB of RAM for the PowerBook is currently running $70 to $100 if bought separately.

On the graphics card front, though each PowerBook has the same graphics card, the GHz one comes with 64 MB of graphics memory .. twice the amount of the low-end PowerBook. In our testing, when running the games we use at their highest settings, this made a significant performance difference.

Third up is the hard drive. Not only do you get 50% more capacity on the GHz Book, but our results show the machine is  significantly faster when carrying out certain hard drive operations.

Finally, the high-end machine comes with the SuperDrive which allows you to write DVDs. The 867 MHz PowerBook has the Combo Drive which can write and re-write CDs but can only read DVDs. The SuperDrive is a $200 add on at the AppleStore, for PowerBooks that don't have one as a default feature.

On the performance front, the GHz PowerBook clocks in a about 15% faster than its brother. Does this translate into a 15% speed boost when running actual applications? More or less, that is what we found when running processor intensive tasks. There was some variation, but for tasks that rely almost exclusively on the processor, the top-of-the-line machine was in the ballpark of around 15%.

Even better performance was seen in typical drive activity, and in application scrolling speed. One of our drive tests showed a 30% performance improvement, and the scrolling speed test showed a whopping 43% increase for the GHz machine. It seems like that extra graphics RAM has given the GHz PowerBook a nice bounce. Both drive performance and on screen graphics are two of the things that effect the performance 'feel' of the machine. The increases on the GHz PowerBook will be most welcome.

On to the raw performance numbers below ..
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What's The Difference?

Feature November 2002 PowerBook G4/867 November 2002 PowerBook G4/1GHz
MSRP $2,299 $2,999
Processor speed 867 MHz G4 1 GHz
L2 cache size and speed ratio 256K 1:1 256K 1:1
L3 cache size and speed ratio 1 MB DDR 1 MB DDR
System bus speed 133 MHz 133 MHz
RAM 1 GB (Stock 256 MB) 1 GB (Stock 512 MB)
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32 MB DDR 4x AGP ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 64 MB DDR 4x AGP
Hard disk drive 40GB Ultra ATA/66
(4200 rpm)
60GB Ultra ATA/66
(4200 rpm)
Optical drive "Combination drive"
CD read - 24x
DVD read - 8x
CD R & RW write - 8x
"SuperDrive"
CD read - 24x
DVD read - 6x
DVD write 1x
CD-R write - 8x
CD-RW write - 4x

"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 for the game tests, were timed with a stopwatch. The times were then converted to percentages, relative to the new G3/700 iBook, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Test PowerBook G4/867 PowerBook G4/1GHz How Much Faster?
QuickTime Sorenson Encode
212.80
187
14%
A Sorenson Encode squeezes down a movie file to get it ready for steaming on the Web. It is a very processor intensive activity. The difference in the scores between the two PowerBooks is just what you would expect, given their relative processor clock speeds.
QuickTime DV Stream
184.64
168.88
9%
The same movie used in the Sorenson test above, is this time exported as a DV file, suitable for importing into iMovie. Again this is a processor intensive task.
Import Movie Into iMovie
23.66
21.04
12%
You would not think that importing a file into iMovie would take much processor strength .. you would be wrong. When carrying out this function, both machines processor's were saturated with data. The import itself took very little time.
Render In iMovie
190.06
172.42
10%
Processor intensive task. In this test a Ripple effect was run on our movie file.
ITunes MP3 Encode
138.11
129.37
7%
Since an MP3 encode is a processor hungry, and that the processors on each machine were maxed out, we are not sure why the GHz PowerBook did not do better in this test. Perhaps the CD drive speed is a bottleneck
Scroll In Classic
18.32
17.53
5%
A Photoshop file is scrolled in the Classic OS 9 layer when booted into 10.2. Only 25% to 30% of the processor was being utilized during this test
AppleWorks Search & Replace In Large Document
24.95
21.51
16%
Processor's were maxed out during this test. A 16% performance increase is just what you would expect from two machines that have the same amount of L2 and L3 Cache
Finder File Index
41.49
38.01
9%
Two large folders with thousands of files are searched in the Finder. This is not a processor intensive task. Drive performance is also a factor
AltiVec Fractal
61.01
52
17%
This test is all processor all the time. This test also takes special advantage of the G4 processor and dual processors if they are present
Let1KWindowsBloom
38.06
34.21
11%
This test creates and closes 1000 windows as  fast as it can. Nearly 100% of the processor was used during this test
Copy Folder
18.62
14.32
30%
Hard drive performance and caches are important to the outcome of this test. The GHz PowerBook stomps its brother in one of the most common types of activity you carry out on your machine, copying files. This test only used 15% of the processor's capacity
Copy File
15.2
13.16
12%
Large single file is copied.  Processor usage, 15%
StuffIt Decode
11.19
9.45
18%
A processor intensive task. Drive performance is also a factor. Large file is unstuffed.
Reboot Time
51.31
51.77
 - 1%
Basically the same score for each machine
Test PowerBook G4/867 PowerBook G4/1GHz Performance Differential
Boot Classic
22.04
19.48
13%
The speed at which Classic boots is determined both by the processor and hard drive
Burn CD
116.13
110.92
5%
Both machines burn CD-R's at 8X
MultiTasking Sorenson Encode & AltiVec Fractal
451.31
399.40
13%
A Sorenson Encode and Fractal test are both carried out at the same time
MultiTasking MP3 Encode, AppleWorks Search & Replace and Folder Copy
82.90
69.19
20%
Three differing functions are all carried out at the same time. The GHz machine gets an extra lift because of the faster drive performance, in addition to its faster processing speed
MultiTasking DV Stream & iMovie Render
388.56
345.31
13%
Straight processing prowess
Excel Macro
52.63
48
10%
A complex Macro (automated series of actions) is carried out in Microsoft Excel
Word Macro
89.09
77.14
15%
A complex Macro (automated series of actions) is carried out in Microsoft Word
Giants Lowest Frame Rates (Game)
11 fps
13.5 fps
23%
Frame rates from the game Giants, when left at the default settings. This result is taken during the most demanding section of the game. Though both machines have the same graphic's cards, the GHz machine has twice the Video memory
Giants Average Frame Rates (Game)
21.6 fps
24.8 fps
15%
Frame rates from the game Giants, when left at the default settings This result is taken during moderate activity of the game
Giants Highest Frame Rates (Game)
55 fps
61 fps
11%
Frame rates from the game Giants, when left at the default settings This result is taken during the least demanding part of the game
EVO2 4x4 High Quality Setting Average Frame Rates
16.5 fps
20 fps
21%
These are the frame rates we got when every demanding doodad was turned on. It appears that the extra graphics memory really helps out
EVO2 4x4 Medium Quality Setting Average Frame Rates
27 fps
29 fps
7%
About half the settings were set to faster and the rest set to high-quality.
EVO2 4x4 Low Quality Setting Average Frame Rates
38 fps
41 fps
8%
Everything was turned off. The game looks horrible but you can really get those frame rates up
Photoshop Launch
20
16.91
18%
Large file is used to launch Photoshop. The performance difference here is mainly due to the GHz's faster hard drive
Photoshop AltiVec Functions
26.85
24.27
11%
Large file is run through a series of Photoshop actions that take special advantage of the G4 processor
Photoshop Non-AltiVec Functions
126.08
111.43
13%
Large file is run through a series of Photoshop actions that do not take special advantage of the G4 processor
Photoshop BareFeat's Test
58.24
51.63
13%
Typical photoshop workflow of mixed actions
Photoshop Scroll
39.34
27.53
43%
Large file is opened in Photoshop running natively in OS X and is scrolled from one end to the other. Unlike when running in Classic, a significant amount of the processing capability of the machine was used
MultiTasking: MP3, Photoshop & Word Macro
342.87
289.84
18%
MP3 encode, Photoshop render and Word Macro test are all carried out at the same time. It took about 10 seconds less running these processes at the same time than running them one after another. The difference would be much greater on a dual processor machine, where you have much more bandwidth to play with
iDVD Import
NA
81.59
-
Using Apple's iDVD program, a movie is prepped for burning to disk