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The SpeedZone: 667 MHz vs 700 MHz, G4 vs G3, PowerBook vs iBook - A Performance Report
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Monday, August 26, 2002

by David Engstrom

The areas where the PowerBook pulls ahead of the faster clocked iBook fall in to three categories;

  • On-Screen and gaming graphics performance
  • In multimedia applications that have been tuned for the G4
  • Work in large documents

This is explained by the PowerBook's faster graphics card, G4 processor and the fact that the PowerBook has a level 3 cache, and the iBook does not.

From a purely performance perspective does it make sense to choose the PowerBook over the iBook? If you work often with applications that take advantage of the G4 processor it's a no-brainer ... pick the PowerBook. It will pay for itself in time saved.

If your processing requirements are more modest, and you use your portable for light duty when on the road, from a performance perspective the iBook will be enough for you.

The PowerBook though, because of its better graphics performance, will seem snappier and more responsive than the iBook ... even when doing more casual chores.

Beyond the performance question, the PowerBook is much more feature rich than the iBook. At a $700 premium it is well worth the price, and will hold up its value better when you are in a position to let it go, and upgrade to something new.

Difference and similarities in processor, and memory & graphics systems of each machine

  PowerBook G4/667 (4/02) iBook G3/700

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Processors G4/667 G3/700
L2 Cache 256k @ 667 MHz 5121k @ 700 MHz
L3 Cache 1 MB DDR @ 167 MHz None
Bus Speed 133 MHz 100 MHz
Memory 768 MB PC 133 640 MB PC 133
Graphics Card 32 MB DDR ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 4x AGP 16 MB ATI Mobility Radeon 2x AGP
Drive 30GB Ultra ATA/66 (4200 rpm) 30 GB Ultra ATA
CD Drive 8x 8x 24x 8x 8x 24x
Operating System 10.1.4 10.1.4
Price $2,499 $1,799

"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 PowerBook G4/667, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Desktop Tests





The slightly faster iBook processor appears to trump the PowerBook above

The PowerBook's better graphics card stomps all over the iBook in this on screen graphics test. 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

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. The fact that the PowerBook has a L3 cache and the iBook does not helps the PowerBook here

Large folder is indexed by Apple's search application

Number Crunching & Rendering Tests

A Ripple Effect is applied to an iMovie. Another test that responds well to the PowerBook's G4 processor

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 power of each machine

Encoding/Decoding Tests

A Sorenson encode compresses a QuickTime movie for streaming on the Web

Converting QuickTime movies to DV allows you to import them into iMovie


Multitasking - some of the tests below take special advantage of the PowerBook's G4 processor

An MP3 encode, Search & Replace in AppleWorks and Folder Copy are all carried out at the same time

A Sorenson encode and fractal render are performed at the same time

A QuickTime DV conversion and MP3 encode are carried out at the same time


Aside from the graphics card, Giants is also tuned to take advantage of the processor as well. Indeed, when run on a dual processor machine, you will see Giants fly ahead of the same game running on a single processor machine. Frame rates here are 13.3 for the iBook and 25.8 for the PowerBook.

To see the performance of these machines compared to many others click here

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Copyright 1996-2003 by Cider Press Publishing LLC all rights reserved. MacSpeedZone is not authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Computer. Apple, the Apple logo, Macintosh, iPod, iBook, iMac, eMac, and PowerBook are registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc. Additional company and product names may be trademarks or registered trademarks and are hereby acknowledged.