Dual 1GHz Power Mac G4: Apple Breaks the Gig-Barrier
Here's a review of Apple's most powerful Mac G4 workstation to date, the Dual 1GHz Power Mac G4. We've had it in our Midwest Test Facility for the past month, putting it through its paces and experimenting with all aspects of it. We love Macs around here, and this new G4 machine didn't disappoint us at all. That's not to say we didn't find anything wrong with it, though. It's fast, but not as fast as Apple would like you to think it is. And oh, that 22" Apple Cinema display? Nothing short of absolutely beautiful, even though it will run you an extra $2500. Here's our clear-eyed, unbiased, straight talkin' review.
First, let's talk price. Although the $2870 Dual G4 we tested is still a bit pricey, I'm impressed that it costs about $500 less than its 800MHz predecessor did, and boasts an on-paper 25% speed bump. Better still, it offers a 35 percent speed increase in real-world tests, according to Macworld magazine. Even though these prices are still higher than those of comparably-equipped PCs, they still represent a good value, especially if you're one who is Mac software-equipped and don't care what's going on in the PC ("dark side") world. Our test machine came with 512 MB of RAM (it's SDRAM, and we can only hope that someday Apple will discover the virtues of faster DDR memory), an 80GB Ultra ATA/100 Seagate Barracuda hard disk (too bad the motherboard only supports ATA/66), an ATI Radeon 7500 graphics card, a DVD-R/CD-RW drive, keyboard, mouse, OS X and OS 9.2, along with Apple's software suite of iPhoto, iTunes and others.
What's not often written about when it comes to Apple products is its delightful OOBE (Out-Of-Box-Experience), that is, how easy and pleasant the machines are to set up. When it comes to Macs, you can just feel it -- every tiny detail has been carefully thought about at great length, and no nicety has been left out. Each box is easy to open and unpack. Each package is wrapped in what feels and sounds like what would be wrapped around a piece of hard candy, and then when you see the components inside, they, too, resemble pieces of hard candy. The keyboard, for example, feels smooth in your hands, but it feels like it would taste good if you just bit into it. The whole experience is tactile and, well, welcoming. After you've taken the computer and its Cinema Display out of their boxes, it takes about a minute to plug everything in. That's because, unlike PCs, all you have to do is plug the monitor into the back of the computer (it draws power from the computer) and then plug the computer into the power strip. Then, your keyboard can be plugged into the back of the monitor and the mouse into the end of the keyboard. I also plugged a pair of good-quality speakers, and then, it was time to fire it up. Blong! The rich, opening chord had me under its spell as the Happy Mac face led me into the first boot of OS X, now the default.
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While I'm talking about the hardware, let me mention this one thing: The Mac "Pro" mouse is just laughable. Anyone who actually decides to use this awful thing is going to suffer. Who thought of this goofy idea? The thing is awkward, and way too slow unless you get in there and hack up its speed, and obviously, has only one button (actually, it has no buttons, but just clicks when you push down on the whole thing). It's about as beautiful as a mouse can be, but I hate to say it, it's as dopey to use as it is beautiful. This stupid mouse exemplifies what many PC users think describes the entire Mac platform: A clueless bimbo who's great-looking but a bit slow. But not me, oh, no. I like this machine. I really, truly like it. Anyway, like almost all Mac users, I chucked that mouse about a minute later. I plugged in a USB mouse we had lying around here, and it immediately sprung into action -- there's that legendary Mac plug-and-play at work. And, delightfully, OS X supports the mouse wheel, and right-click menus. Now, these menus are not as extensive or contextual as they are on the PC side, but it's a great start. For example, in Photoshop on the PC, you can right-click on a menu bar, and you can choose Image Size. Not so on the Mac, and there are many more examples of this deficiency, but I'm not complaining too much, because finally -- even though third parties have known this for years -- Apple has recognized that mice can have more than one button and can have, of all things, a scroll wheel. Glory be.
Which brings up the reason I'm a bigger Mac fan than ever before: OS X. It's built like a truck. No matter what I did to it, I couldn't get it to crash. And I did a lot of stuff to it, too, like rendering tons of After Effects comps, writing all kinds of documents while rendering AE files and making graphics in Photoshop 7 (itself a great reason to migrate to OS X), editing segments with Final Cut Pro (another great reason to get a Mac, in my opinion), and generally doing as many things as I could stack up at once. Gone is the lame-ass inability to play an MP3 without skipping while doing anything else. Gone are the requirements to manually assign how much memory each app will use. Bye-bye to rebooting the entire machine when one errant application has a temper tantrum. To paraphrase Dr. King, "I've been to the mountaintop, and I've seen ... the promised land." -- and it is OS X!
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