Good-bye, Megahertz Gap

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With the keynote showmanship that has become his trademark, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled a new line of Power Mac G4s at Macworld Expo San Francisco that have the ability to write both CDs and DVDs, running at clock speeds of up to 733MHz.

"You know as well as I do that we've been coasting along at 500MHz for almost 18 months," said Jobs. "Today we're taking it up to 733." Jobs then launched four new Power Mac G4s, with a theme he called "power to burn."

The new line is based on 133MHz system and memory buses -- souped up from the previous 100MHz bus--and features processor speeds at 466MHz, 533MHz, 667MHz, and 733MHz. In a strategy shift from Apple's most recent G4 tower introduction, all are single-processor machines -- although a dual 533MHz configuration will also be available as a build-to-order option. The two slowest machines are shipping today, while the upper-end models will ship in February.

After introducing the new machines, Jobs put a 733MHz PowerMac in Apple's usual head-to-head Photoshop shootout, this time with a 1.5GHz Pentium 4 machine. In rendering a movie poster for The Emperor's New Groove , the Mac -- to no one's surprise -- beat out the Pentium by a few seconds. Jobs claims that the 733MHz machine is actually 33 percent faster than the fastest Pentiums. "You can see this megahertz thing has gotten out of hand," said Jobs. "What matters is how fast the machine is."

Picking up a ball that many of Apple's critics had accused the company of dropping, all of the new desktop machines will come standard with CD-RW/DVD drives. "We're late to the party, but we're here," said Jobs.

To go with the new CD-RW drives in all the new systems, Jobs demonstrated Apple's new method of burning CDs. He inserted a blank CD, which Mac OS 9 recognized automatically. He then demonstrated how users can drag and drop files onto the CD icon and write the files either by choosing Burn Disk from the menu bar or by opting to write them when ejecting the disc. When the crowd began to cheer the new burning software, Jobs chastised them, saying "you shouldn't be applauding because this is how it ought to work."

But the 733MHz machine won't come with the standard CD-RW drive. Instead, the top-end Power Mac will sport something a little meatier: a so-called "SuperDrive." The SuperDrive allows users to write DVDs that can then be played back in consumer DVD drives, an option that previously would have set you back thousands of dollars.

In addition, each machine will feature an AGP 4X slot (and nVidia graphics cards in the top three models), new audio with a 10w digital amplifier, gigabit Ethernet, and four PCI slots.

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