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G4 Desktops

Two complaints have shadowed Apple's Power Mac G4 desktops. First, the computers have topped out with PowerPC processor speeds of 500MHz, while rival chips have soared above 1GHz. Second, unlike most PCs, desktop Macs don't ship with built-in CD-RW drives.

So how did Apple answer these criticisms? By unveiling a new line of desktops with clock speeds as fast as 733MHz and drives that can write to CDs - and, in one special case, to DVDs.

The new G4s feature processor speeds of 466MHz, 533MHz, 667MHz, and 733MHz. The first two models began shipping in early January; the latter two may be available by the time you read this. "You know as well as I do that we've been coasting along at 500MHz for 18 months," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "That's way too long." (See "Waiting for Motorola," Buzz, elsewhere in this issue.)

But the speed boost comes with an apparent step backward -- no dual-processor machines like the one introduced by Apple last summer. Apple says there aren't enough chips to make multiprocessor 733MHz G4s in a timely fashion. It plans to make a dual-533MHz configuration available soon as a build to order option.

All of the new desktop machines will come standard with CD-RW drives. "We're late to this party, but we're here," Jobs said. The 733MHz G4 comes with a different attraction - something Apple has dubbed "SuperDrive." It lets users write CDs and write DVDs that can be played back in consumer DVD players.

With the new CD RW drives, Mac OS 9 formats blank CDs automatically. Users can drag and drop files onto the disk, writing them onto the CD either by selecting Burn Disk from the menu bar or by ejecting the CD from the drive.

"You shouldn't be applauding," Jobs told the Macworld Expo crowd as it cheered the simplicity of the drive. "This is how it ought to work."

Nvidia graphics processors will be included in the three fastest G4s (see "Four of a Kind" for more information on configurations). Each machine also adds a fourth PCI card slot to go with its AGP 4x graphics slot.

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