Price: £2,499 plus VAT
Ever since Apple launched the G3 three years ago, higher-end users have been bemoaning the lack of multi-processor support. In the single processor stakes, it’s generally acknowledged that Macs are more powerful and faster than their Wintel counterparts. However, bench the most powerful single chip G4 against a dual-processor Windows workstation and it’s going to come a very poor second.
Apple has answered this criticism by jumping back on the multi-processor wagon with the launch of two dual-processor Macs, one with two 450MHz chips and the other with two 500MHz ones.
The main problem with this set up is that until the launch of the Unix-based OS X next year, the Mac OS is not inherently multi-threaded. This means that the general OS is not going to benefit from the dual-processor set up. However, the OS doesn’t really need the boost. It’s your 3D, editing, effects and graphics applications that require the speed upgrade that only dual-processors can deliver – and this is where support for multiple processors counts.
As the Mac’s multi-processor ability died with the third-party developer Daystar a few years ago, few applications still support such machines. So, it’s to Apple’s credit then that it has managed to get a number of mainstream application developers to add multi-processor support to their Mac products in time for, or shortly after, the launch.
So far the list includes Adobe Photoshop, NewTek LightWave, Maxon Cinema 4D XL, Terran Media Cleaner Pro and a number of less well-known others – as well as Apple’s own Final Cut Pro. You will need to download updates to get them to work with both processors. Even the few apps that have kept multi-processor support over the years need an update to deal with the differences between the old and new multiprocessor systems.
The reliance on app-based support for multiple processors makes quantifiably testing the Power Mac G4 500 DP a problem. Conventional Mac benchmarking software doesn’t allow for two processors, so testing was performed using a series of 20 filters in Adobe Photoshop 5.5, which supports the G4 500 DP through an update released in July.
The Power Mac G4 500 DP performed very well in the Photoshop test. It blasted through the series of filters in 317 seconds, almost 50 per cent faster than the single processor Power Mac G4 500. It was also over 75 per cent faster than the single processor G4 450. Working with these figures, if the G4 500 DP was a single processor machine, it would be approaching a G4 650. Whew.
However these figures can be misleading. The 450 and 500 single processor machines both contained 128MB of RAM – while the 500 DP has 256MB as standard. Even taking this into consideration, the Power Mac G4 500 MP equals around a G4 600 for multiprocessor-capable applications.
The dual processor is not the only new feature in the latest G4. The entire range contains something users have been asking for even more than multiple processors – a decent keyboard and mouse. The Power Mac G4 500 MP is the first new machine since before the iMac to come with a full-sized keyboard. The new optical mouse is a definite improvement. The old digestive-shaped oddities from the old G3s and G4s are gone – hopefully forever. The optical mouse has an obvious bonus – so there’s no more problems of dirty balls. It’s also bigger and fits in your hand well.
Much has been made about the style of the mouse. The lack of button – you just slap the top to make it click – was also shown off as a style point. Whatever you think of this, it won’t make much difference to your day-to-day work. My hand didn’t register any difference when using it. However, it does suffer from not having a scroll wheel. Add to this set up an ATI 128 Pro graphics card with 16MB of graphics RAM and the rest of the usual G4 accessories. Looking to the future, the G4 500 DP also has a Gigabit-capable ethernet card – although it will only work on a network of machines with other Gigabit ethernet cards and hubs.
The G4 500 DP is a powerhouse of a machine that answers many a Macintosh user’s criticisms. The headline should read ‘IT company in listening-to-its customers shock’.