Benchmark Duel: Mac vs. PC, Round II
Dell 2.53GHz Pentium 4 Runs Circles Around Fastest Mac G4

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Mac vs. PC, Round 2In our first round of head-to-head Mac vs. PC testing, we pitted a dual Athlon 1800+MP machine against a Mac dual 1GHz G4 using six Adobe After Effects benchmarks that tested all kinds of capabilities. For round two, by popular demand, we now compare a single-processor Dell Precision Workstation 320 with a 2.53GHz chip to the Dual 1GHz Mac, and also to the fastest machine we've tested here so far, a dual Athlon 2000+MP machine by BOXX. And we'll be testing all three machines using not only After Effects 5.5 benchmarks, but Adobe Photoshop 7.0 benchmarks as well. So which machine came out ahead?

First, we'd like to settle a few arguments up front by letting you know that we've used the same codec on all the machines for rendering After Effects 5.5 files. Some readers complained that the prior test was rigged because we used a QuickTime codec on the Mac but a Video For Windows codec on the PC, so this time, even though it truly doesn't make even a quarter-second's difference in the render times, we've employed the QuickTime Graphics codec on both PCs and the Mac, even though QuickTime is not considered to be the PC platform's native codec. We've also used exactly the same amount of RAM in each machine, 512MB, because that's how the manufacturers decided to send the machines to us, and we've used the latest operating systems on each platform: OS X 10.1.5 on the Mac and Windows XP version 2002 on each PC. And, contrary to popular belief, there is no special dual-processor version of After Effects 5.5 for the Mac -- the only available version uses both G4 processors. Nor does it make a statistically significant difference to run these benchmarks on OS 9. Also, none of the After Effects benchmarks we used utilize anywhere near the full amount of RAM installed in our test machine, even when accounting for OS X's considerable overhead.

For the Photoshop tests, we used the shipping version of Adobe Photoshop 7.0 on both the Mac and the PC, and used an identical graphic for all the testing, along with the same actions scripts on both platforms. We also used exactly the same graphics card on the PCs and a similar card on the Mac. Finally, the Dell Precision Workstation 340 as tested currently retails for $2875, the Mac dual G4 for $3000, and the BOXX dual Athlon 2000+MP for $4000, including a full complement of Sonic Foundry content creation software. Special thanks to all the manufacturers for providing equipment for our testing.
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If you'd like to see my full review of the Dell Precision Workstation 340, please click here. For my glowingly positive review of the Mac dual G4, click here. And, for my decidedly upbeat take on the BOXX dual Athlon 2000+MP workstation, click here. Hey, what can I say? I really liked them all.

So, here are the results of our benchmark testing, along with a brief description of each benchmark underneath each graphic. Let the competition begin! First, we did a series of six After Effects composites. If you'd like to see the QuickTime movies of these benchmarks, please click here.

1. Simple Animation
The first test involves a simple cel-style animation. It consists of a pict file created in Photoshop that was used as a background for tracing paths, which were then animated and filled with another pict file making the pink color of the face. It's a goofy, simple animation, but it shows how well the processors can calculate the paths and render the final composite.

2. Video Composite
Here's a project that's commonplace for After Effects users. It's a composite that uses a number of effects in one shot. This comp uses a green screen layer, a CGI layer and then an element that was shot on film. The background layer is the castle hall behind the actors. The two men were shot against a green screen, and a QuickTime movie of moving smoke was also layered into the shot. All three layers are combined to result in a realistic final composite.

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