Apple updates Power Macs, releases 20-inch display

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Apple on Tuesday updated its desktop Power Mac G4 computers incorporating technologies first introduced during Macworld Conference & Expo earlier this month. The Power Mac got a slight speed increase, with the high-end system running at 1.42GHz. Apple also introduced a new 20.1-inch wide-screen flat panel display that replaces the company's 22-inch Cinema Display.

Apple revved the high-end Power Mac to 1.42GHz, while adding FireWire 800 and internal support for 54Mbps AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless networking. The Power Mac G4 line now features a single 1GHz, dual 1.25GHz and dual 1.42GHz processors with prices ranging from US$1,499 to $3,799.

"Even more important than the technology advances in the Power Mac is that this is an entirely new economic model -- the cost of getting a new Power Mac has gone down 40 percent," Greg Joswiak, vice president of Hardware Product Marketing told MacCentral.

One analyst thinks that the combination of features and price point of the new desktop systems could be enough to push some people that were sitting on the fence over to the Macintosh platform.

"This was a really great move on Apple's part," Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg told MacCentral. "What they were able to do with this announcement is add some of the leading technology they announced with the PowerBooks into the desktop line-up and keep the desktops price at a minimum."

The new low-end model comes with a 1GHz PowerPC G4, 1MB L3 cache 256MB DDR266 SDRAM, a 60GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, a Combo drive, an NVIDIA GeForce4 MX-based graphics card equipped 64MB DDR video memory, FireWire 800, a 56K internal modem and is Bluetooth ready.

The "Faster" model has a Dual 1.25GHz PowerPC G4, 1MB L3 cache, 256MB DDR333 SDRAM 80GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, a Combo Drive, ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 64MB DDR video memory, FireWire 800, a 56K internal modem and is Bluetooth ready.

The "Fastest" and "Ultimate" machines have the faster 1.42GHz processor, 2MB L3 cache, 120GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, SuperDrive, FireWire 800, a 56K internal modem and is Bluetooth ready. The higher-end model comes with 2.0GB DDR333 SDRAM, 120GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce4 Titanium 128MB DDR video memory, while the other has 512MB DDR333 SDRAM and an ATI Radeon 9000 Pro with 64MB DDR video memory.

The systems that include a SuperDrive will get the newer, faster 4x burning drive.

The noise level was one of the biggest complaints many customers had with the previous generation Power Macs. According to Apple, this problem has been fixed and customers will be happy with the results of the work put into correcting this issue.

"We worked really hard and went over the systems to find every possible way to make the system quieter," said Tom Boger, Director, Power Mac Product Marketing. "I'm happy to tell you that we've done that -- when the systems get out in the marketplace, I'm sure our customers are going to be delighted at how quiet these systems are."

"They are significantly quieter -- these will answer the critics," added Joswiak.

Apple's 20-inch display will sell for $1,299 and is capable of 1680 x 1050 resolution. Apple also reduced the price of its 23-inch Cinema HD Display, with 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution from $3,499 to $1,999. The 17-inch Studio Display, providing 1280 x 1024 pixels, has been dropped from $999 to $699. Apple has done away with the 22-inch Cinema Display all together.

"While being slightly smaller in the diagonal dimensions, the 20.1-inch display provides even more workspace -- it has a resolution of 1680 x 1050, where the 22-inch had a resolution of 1600 x 1024," said Scott Brodrick, Product Line Manager for Displays at Apple. "More dramatically the price has gone from $2,499 for the 22-inch to $1,299 for the 20.1-inch display, which will make it available to more customers."

"We have been the leaders in the flat panel transition and we want to continue to push that. Making the 23-inch flat panel display available to the public at $1,999 is a huge step -- it is no longer just the display of the elite," said Joswiak.

The price cuts on Apple's pro desktops and displays, and the inclusion of the newest technologies puts Apple in a technology lead with its PC counterparts, but what may make the biggest difference is the more aggressive pricing model the company adopted with the latest round of updates.

"This is one part in Apple's strategy to grow the installed base. If you look at their product line, they have some very attractive technology -- in many cases technology that you are not going to find in an Intel machine -- at very aggressive pricing," said Gartenberg.

Compared to old models

Apple's previous line of Power Mac G4s ranged in price from $1,699 to $4,599 for the high-end "Ultimate" system.

The low-end desktop machine had a dual 867MHz processor with 256K L2 Cache and a 1MB L3 cache. This model also had the slowest system bus in the desktop line, clocking in at 133MHz. The low-end model was also the only Power Mac that didn't include Apple's DVD burning SuperDrive, although it did come equipped with a DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive. A 60GB Ultra ATA hard drive, 256MB RAM and an Nvidia GeForce4 MX rounded out the equipment for this model.

The two mid-range Power Macs had many of the same features, but differed in some important ways. One system came with a dual 1GHz processor, 167MHz System Bus, 256MB RAM, an 80GB Ultra ATA hard drive, a SuperDrive, an ATI Radeon 9000 Pro, and 256K L2 cache and 1MB L3 cache. The other was equipped with the faster 1.25GHz processor, 167MHz System Bus, 512MB RAM, 120GB Ultra ATA hard drive, a SuperDrive, an ATI Radeon 9000 Pro, and 256K L2 cache and 2MB L3 cache.

The "Ultimate" Power Mac system added RAM, an extra optical drive and switched the ATI video card for an Nvidia card. The Ultimate machine came equipped with a 1.25GHz processor, 167MHz System Bus, 2GB RAM, 120GB Ultra ATA hard drive, a SuperDrive & Combo drive, the Nvidia GeForce4 Titanium, and 256K L2 cache and 2MB L3 cache.

Apple's flat panel displays came in three models -- the high-end 23-inch Cinema HD; the 22-inch Cinema; and the 17-inch Studio Display. The displays ranged in price from $999 for the 17-inch model to $3,499 for the high-end 23-inch Cinema.

"Apple is on the leading edge again, but this isn't the Apple of the mid-nineties that was out there with proprietary technology that would only work with Apple products," said Gartenberg. "This is Apple looking at the leading technology for the next several years and getting ahead of that curve."

Updated: Added comments from an interview with Apple executives and industry analysts.

This story, "Apple updates Power Macs, releases 20-inch display" was originally published by PCWorld.

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