• Price When Reviewed: 1956.60

  • Pros: Much more powerful than single-core predecessors. Great value compared to DDC AMD-based workstations.

  • Cons: Few 3D graphics options. Lacks support for SLI and CrossFire.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Apple’s first dual-processor, dual-core (DDC) Mac workstation offers many architecture improvements over its predecessor, and delivers huge leaps in performance. The G5 Quad matches its DDC AMD Opteron-based PC rivals, and in many cases the Mac costs less. Dual-core Intel Xeons haven’t shipped yet.

The dual-core technology now used in this top-end Power Mac G5 puts two processors on one silicon wafer, with each processor allocated 1MB of L2 cache. The result is almost twice the computing power in the same space.

In a DDC machine – which Apple refers to as a quad-processor machine – you’ve got four processors, four 128-bit velocity engines, and eight graphics processing units. The speed increase on any computing work that can be broken up into parallel processing is exponential.

Real-world performance throttles back a bit due to disk I/O, but the increase in speed is immediately noticeable. For example, Final Cut Pro effects applied in real-time to eight video streams barely affects performance. It must have something to do with the total RAM throughput being 8.5Gbps, with the motherboard supporting up to 16GB.

The Power Mac G5 now supports PCI Express, for faster I/O to the graphics card – and other types of cards such as video capture and effects from Blackmagic Design and AJA Video.

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The dual-processor series of Macs is the first to offer a true workstation-class graphics card for the 3D crowd. The NVidia Quadro FX 4500 is amazingly fast, sporting 512MB of RAM and a piping array that gives it a look reminiscent of a Harley. While a good start though, the Mac’s 3D graphics options are still are lot less flexible than your average PC, due to a lack of both a choice of boards and modern technologies such as NVidia’s SLI and ATI’s CrossFire for multi-card setups. 
The improvements in speed in the new hardware are dramatic. After Effects projects ran more than 60 per cent faster compared with a Power Mac G5 with dual 2.5GHz chips. Final Cut Pro standard-definition rendering yielded results that were 50 per cent faster compared to the dual 2.5GHz machine. 
The pricing on this machine is up from the previous dual 2.7GHz models, but it’s less than you’d expect from a DDC workstation. The price listed by Apple is almost disingenuous, as that configuration only offers 512MB of RAM and a NVidia GeForce 6600 graphics chip. Increasing the RAM to a necessary 2GB takes the price up to £2,135, which is still a great price for a 2D design machine. Video editors will probably want a GeForce 7800 GT graphics card, increasing the price to £2,339 – while 3D heads will want ECC RAM and the Quadro FX 4500 card, taking pricing to £3,199 and beyond.
These prices offer great value-for-money for the power on offer, though the lack of options between the base-plus-£240 7800 GT and the base-plus-£1,100 Quadro FX 4500 is irksome.
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