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Apple may be losing the MHz war, what with both Intel and AMD releasing 1GHz processors, but it still makes a mean workstation. And while its top-of-the-line 500MHz version reviewed here may sound half the spec of a recent Gateway or Dell Wintel box, the technology buried in the G4 500 makes it faster of the block than Linford and his speedy lunchbox.
Sporting a PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine, 1MB of backside Level-2 cache and 100MHz system bus with 800MB per-second throughput, the G4 500 will set fire to any creative work you throw at it. The Velocity Engine (Apple’s name for the Altivec chip) accelerates compliant applications, such as Adobe Photoshop 5.5, boosting performance thanks to its 162 integrated Single Instruction Multiple Data instructions.
The review unit sported 256MB of RAM and a respectable 27GB ATA/66 hard drive spinning along at 7,200rpm. A DVD-ROM drive with DVD Video playback and an Iomega 100MB Zip drive feature on the front of the G4 – and you can get an optional DVD-RAM drive for burning your own DVDs. It’s a shame that the newer 250MB Zip drive isn’t an option, and just two media bays at the front don’t allow much room for expansion.
A peek around the back shows a much healthier story. Three 400Mbps FireWire (IEEE 1394) and two USB ports feature, with the FireWire ports a real boon for digital video users. That said, most pre-press peripherals, such as scanners and printers, have yet to blaze a FireWire trail, so you’ll need to buy an optional SCSI card. The G4 is also AirPort ready, letting you wirelessly link other G4s together at 11Mbps.
Other expansion options abound. You can add three full-length 64-bit, 33MHz PCI cards, and there’s one AGP 2X slot for housing 2D/3D graphics cards. You’ll probably not use this though, as the G4 already comes with a staggeringly good accelerator card in the shape of the ATI Rage 128, complete with 16MB of VRAM. This swift pixel pusher sports support for up to 1,920-x-1,200 pixels with 32 bit colour.
In testing, the G4 is a speed demon, especially in graphics-based tests. Adobe Photoshop testing saw it perform 443 per cent faster than our benchmark 300MHz G3, while over all CPU was 161 per cent faster and Floating Point tests showed a speed gain of 189 per cent. However, the CD speed was slower (DVD generally is), with it weighing it at 75 per cent the speed of the G3.
For 2D, video and graphics work, the 500MHz G4 is a gem, and includes forward-looking features such as AirPort and FireWire. However, 3D users may want to look elsewhere, as 16MB of VRAM is a little shabby. Also, you’ll want to dash out and get a third-party keyboard and mouse – the burger-shaped one that ships with the G4 is rubbish. That said, it’s a cracking machine that deserves a look.
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