Mac vs. PC III: Mac Slaughtered Again
Page 2 of 4

If youíre not familiar with parts 1 and 2 of our Mac vs. PC series, we use nine benchmarks consisting of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop scripts, to get a real-world look at how the fastest machines on each platform compare with each other. In the After Effects tests, we use a variety of effects and source material, including video files, Illustrator files and bitmap graphics. Then we line them all up and render them, uncompressed, using the Best settings on each platform. For the Photoshop benchmarks, we use graphics that would typically be used by a video editor, so this will represent the real world of editing and compositing, not that of pre-press where graphics can often exceed a gigabyte. After all, itís not often a video editor working in standard definition will use a graphic thatís bigger than 720x486. For the machines we used, we asked Apple and Dell to send us their fastest machines with one gig of RAM and the fastest graphics card available, without any other specific requests. Both companies responded quickly, with Apple sending its latest Power Mac Dual G4 1.25GHz machine, equipped with a gig of DDR RAM, a GeForce 4 Ti 4600 graphics card and a 120GB 7200 RPM IBM Deskstar ATA-100 disk, running Mac OS X 10.2.1, whose system retail price is $3,949.00 [Editor's note: this was the price of the machine when we received it a month ago. Since then, Apple has reduced the price by $100 and offered an additional $260 "promotional savings," for a total retail price of $3,589. We have modified the text within this article to reflect those changes]. Dell, for unknown reasons (maybe they were just showing off) sent another single-processor box, this time with a 3.06GHz Intel P4 processor with its new hyperthreading feature turned on. Also aboard that PC was gig of PC1066 RDRAM and a Western Digital 120GB 7200RPM ATA-100 disk with an 8MB cache running Windows XP Professional, with the whole package coming in at $2964.

Results in minutes: seconds, winner in boldface type

Dell Precision Workstation 340
Intel P4 2.53GHz,
512 MB RDRAM

Alienware 2001DV
Intel P4 2.53GHz,
1GB RDRAM

Apple Power Mac G4 Dual 1.25GHz with 1GB DDR RAM
$3,589

Dell Precision Workstation 350
Intel P4 3.06 GHz,
1GB PC1066 RDRAM
$2964

1. After Effects: Simple Animation :10 :09 :14 :07
2. After Effects: Video Composite 1:12 1:21 1:25 :54
3. After Effects: Data Project 3:01 4:06 3:47 2:05
4. After Effects: Gambler :32 :38 :43 :29
5. After Effects: Source Shapes 5:54 8:19 7:06 4:14
6. After Effects: Virtual Set 8:42 9:39 8:15 4:24
1. Photoshop: Layer styles & transformation :06 :05.1 :07.1 :04.5
2. Photoshop: Filter Effects :50 :62.1 :62 35.1
3. Photoshop: Manipulations and adjustments :04 :03.5 :04.5 :03.4


By the way, looking at these test results, you might want to know why Intel didnít introduce this hyperthreading capability earlier. Unfortunately, there were legal reasons for the delay, where Intel was in a court battle with former workstation maker and current high-tech company Intergraph, where both companies claimed to have invented the technique. Intergraph prevailed in court, Intel settled, and now is allowed to use this innovation.

Another important note: If you would like to replicate these After Effects tests for yourself, pick up the book After Effects 5.5 Magic that includes a CD containing these AE project files (and many more) along with all the media you'll need to exactly reproduce our results. Special thanks to After Effects 5.5 Magic's author Mark Christiansen and the book's editor, Nathan Moody, as well as New Riders Publishing for giving us permission to use materials from this outstanding book. Highly recommended.
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So how did this Dell Precision Workstation 350 get to be so fast? Thereís even more whiz-bang newness under the hood, and all of it contributes to the speed bump we experienced with this new workstation. For instance, the memory consists of a gigabyte of PC1066 RDRAM instead of the PC800 RDRAM used before. Originally, Intel did not officially certify PC1066 memory on the 850e chipset until October 7th (2002), so Intelís good buddy Dell has followed suit and offered it with this latest workstation. Thatís good news, too, because now the memoryís bandwidth matches the bandwidth of that 533MHz frontside bus -- 4.2 GB/sec. instead of the 3.2 GB/sec. it was limited to when using the PC800 memory. As a result, this unit has whatís known as balanced architecture, where the increased bandwidth of the frontside bus can actually be used by the memory. If all this sounds like gobbledygook to you, let me just say this -- the thing is a lot faster because of these changes. And I'll tell you something else -- the Mac can't brag about balanced architecture, and that's why it's not able to take full advantage of its new DDR memory.

Further speeding up the Dell entry is new gigabit Ethernet and USB 2.0 support. Also included in our test package is an ATI Fire GL E1 64MB graphics card, an entry-level 3D card that performs similarly to midrange graphics cards of just a few months ago (isnít technology wonderful?). Then thereís our favorite disk drive at the moment, the Western Digital 120GB disk with an 8MB cache. It offers plenty of speed with a 40MB/sec. read and 42MB/sec. write speed according to our testing. Also along for the ride is a DVD-R/+RW drive. As icing on this tasty cake, content creators and gamers will like the quick 3D response of the new ATI graphics card while digital video editors will appreciate its dual monitor support. All these factors add up to the most advanced workstation weíve tested.

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