Dual 1.25 GHz Power Mac G4
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On the positive side, further updating the erstwhile shopworn Apple hardware tech milieu is a faster 167MHz system bus and an L3 cache of 2MB DDR SDRAM per processor, totaling 4MB of L3 cache. Adding to the festivities inside is an IBM Deskstar 120GB 7200 RPM ATA/100 disk. As an aside, do you find this as ironic as I do? Remember how everyone used to say the opposite of Apple was IBM? Not any more. So there sits an ATA/100 hard disk, with room for another one, as well as room for two ATA/66 drives. Although this is still not equaling the state-of-the-art in ATA technology, it beats the ATA/66 bus that was the best the 1GHz G4 could do before. Anyway, all this new hardware -- a lot of it borrowed from Apple's new XServe boxes that have debuted to modest success in the corporate server/blade market -- adds up to a technology package that is a bit more competitive than just a few months ago. I like it. Hey, now, this is going to be faster.

Mac OS X 10.2 -- otherwise known as JaguarDigging deeper into this new system, we behold the glorious new OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), which I must say is at a point in its development where we all wished Apple's new baby had been back when it was promised to us about two years ago. I mean, c'mon guys, why did it take this long to finally bring us a multithreaded finder? That said, overall I've noticed this new point-release is snappier than its predecessor. But I must say I think it's pretty nervy for Apple to charge everybody an arm and a leg ($129) for what amounts to an OS service pack. If Apple keeps this up, people are going to start getting mad, if they haven't already.

But the new OS brings many niceties to the table, like easier networking, which sees every PC in our plant with the greatest of ease. Oddly, its new "Rendezvous" feature had more trouble seeing its Mac brethren on our network here than it did the flock of its PeeCee counterparts. Perhaps the other Macs here don't speak French. And I could certainly live without OS X's complete inability to connect to the only printer we have on the network, which is Windows-compatible. But I see this new easy-Windows networking as a great improvement, nonetheless.
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Another great addition is what Apple calls Quartz Extreme. Working with the RAM in the graphics card, it uses OpenGL to display 3D rendering, compositing and transparency. This hyperbolically-named yet still enhanced graphics routine runs noticeably faster than the Quartz of days gone by. Just make sure your graphics card has at least 16MB of VRAM to take full advantage of it. Too bad for us that we have an "older" TiBook G4, on which we've also installed OS X 10.2, that can't quite keep up with the new Extremities. Even so, I still saw a speedup of all graphics on the old TiBook (it's positively ancient, bought in April 2002). And, on this new G4, the graphics were stellar.

Then, there's the usual complement of exceptional Mac-made software. You're probably familiar with iTunes, iMovie, and iWhatever else. For DVD authoring, it's hard to beat the DVD-R/CD-RW "Super" drive along with the easiest DVD authoring software I've seen yet, iDVD 2.1. It's fun to just drag and drop a movie into iDVD, click "burn," and the software and "SuperDrive" take it from there. And then, well, let's not forget the jewel in Apple's crown, Final Cut Pro 3, which, of course, is not included with this workstation. But as Apple is well aware, if you want to use Final Cut Pro, you will be needing one of their computers. "Whatever sells the hardware," glamorous Apple reps have been heard to whisper to us on numerous occasions.

So, let's see how much faster this newest Mac is, compared to the ones that were king of the hill not too long ago. We'll run our set of benchmarks, concentrating on Adobe After Effects 5.5 with a little Photoshop 7 thrown in for good measure. Our benchmark routines are selected for their relevance to the digital video editing and compositing community, so if you're using one of these new Macs for pre-press, these tests might not represent your real world. But for those of us using After Effects and waiting for comps to render day in and day out, these benchmarks are what the doctor ordered. Along with the AE stuff, there are three Photoshop routines, none of which will approximate gigantic images needed for billboard-size graphics, but then, what video editor ever created stills that big, anyway? Not in my real world, you don't.

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