Lab Report: Power Mac G4 Cube

Macworld Lab has finished its tests of Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube, and here are the results -- along with our testing notes. A full, mouse-rated review is forthcoming and will arrive on Macworld.com in a few days.

Perhaps most noticeable about our tests is that the Cube scored a surprisingly low 139 in our Speedmark suite of real-world tests. This may be largely caused by the relatively slow 5,400 rpm Western Digital IDE drive included in the Cube. When we swapped out that drive and replaced it with a 7,200 rpm IBM drive, the Speedmark score shot to 145 -- only one point less than a Power Mac G4 with a single 450MHz processor.

On Apple's site, there are QuickTime movies showing how to install items such as RAM and new hard drives. But we found that Apple's movie on replacing the hard drive to be misleading. It shows that only three "easily accessible" screws have to be loosened -- but in reality, only two of the screws are easily accessible. To get to the third, you need to remove a section of the Cube's metal frame. You might be able to loosen that third screw with an L-shaped torx wrench, but the movie doesn't show it that way.

Our first few days with the Cube pointed out some other quirks, too. Its power button -- which is located on top and is touch-sensitive, not a physical button to be pushed -- is very sensitive. Almost every visitor to our Lab has inadvertently put it to sleep just by placing their hand on it. When the system was awake, we found that its DVD playback was quite disappointing, with visible artifacts and graininess.

Stay tuned for a more detailed review in a few days! Until then, here are the numbers from Macworld Lab:

Best results in bold. Reference systems in italics. Speedmark 2.1 scores are relative to an iMac 350MHz which is assigned a score of 100. Photoshop results are in seconds. Cinema 4D XL and SoundJam results are in minutes:seconds.

  Speedmark 2.1 Photoshop 5.5 Cinema 4D XL 6.1 SoundJam 2.1.1
    Gaussian Blur 10 Unsharp Mask 2.3 RGB to CMYK Lighting Effects Model Render 640x480 MP3 Encode
Power Macintosh G4 Cube 139 7.6 8.4 21.7 7.9 15:50 2:21
Power Macintosh G4 450 146 7.1 7.7 21.0 7.8 15:43 2:10
Power Macintosh G4 450 (Dual Processor) 158 4.7 5.1 20.5 5.0 7:54 1:14
Power Macintosh G4 500 159 6.5 7.4 18.9 6.8 13:46 1:38
Power Macintosh G4 500 (Dual Processor) 165 4.1 4.9 18.5 4.7 7:04 1:06
  bigger numbers are better smaller numbers are better

We tested each system with Mac OS 9.04, 128MB of RAM (256MB for Photoshop), a default system disk cache, and Virtual Memory disabled for all applications tests. Displays were set to 1024 x 768 @ 24-bit color. Speedmark 2.1 is a suite of common tasks -- for more information, see Macworld's Speedmark page . We performed Speedmark testing with original memory configurations: 64MB for the Cube, 128MB RAM for the 450MHz systems, and 256MB for the 500MHz systems. Photoshop testing used 256MB in all systems. Photoshop tasks used a 50MB file. Photoshop's memory partition was set to 150MB and History was set to minumum. Cinema 4D XL and SoundJam testing used 128MB of RAM. 80MB of memory was allocated to Cinema 4D XL. We rendered a model at 680 x 480 with oversampling set to 4 x 4. A 9:25-minute track from an audio CD was used for our MP3 encoding test. It was converted using default settings of 128Kbps in SoundJam 2.1.1 --Macworld Lab testing supervised by Gil Loyola

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