G4s Go Back To The Future

Take a stab at this riddle: When is a new product upgrade not really all that new? When it was first announced last fall.

Apple (800/767-2775, www.apple.com ) has boosted the processor speeds on its Power Mac G4 product line, with the fastest G4 now clocking in at 500MHz. Apple claims the high-speed processor can run applications like Adobe Photoshop 50 percent faster than Intel's 800MHz Pentium III chip. The G4 systems also come in 400MHz and 450MHz versions.

Don't be alarmed if that news sounds like déjà vu. Apple first introduced its souped-up desktops in the fall (see "Fantastic Four," November 1999).

Why the six-month delay? Chip supplier Motorola couldn't deliver enough 500MHz G4 processors. A chagrined Apple had to reconfigure the G4 line with lower-speed processors (see "Vision Thing: Shell Game" ), but sold the slower machines at the same prices it had announced for the faster models. Adding to Apple's public relations woes, the company gave conflicting information on which G4 orders would be honored and which would be canceled.

With IBM joining Motorola to supply PowerPC processors, Apple now has enough 500MHz G4s on hand to bump up the processor speed. The company will sell the faster machines at the same prices it announced last fall: $3,499 for the 500MHz G4, $2,499 for the 450MHz model, and $1,599 for the 400MHz version.

The G4 comes with a subprocessor dubbed Velocity Engine, which process data with an expanded instruction set. As a result, a G4 processor can render graphics, encode sound and perform calculations faster than can a G3.

The catch? Developers have to modify their applications to take advantage of Velocity Engine features. For example, Adobe has put out Velocity Engine plug-ins for Photoshop 5.5 and After Effects 4.1, and other Mac developers have followed suit with new versions of software. Velocity-Engine friendly products include Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP, Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro, Linker's Animation Stand 4.1, Heuris' MPEG Power Professional, Play's Amorphium, Sonic Solutions' DVD Fusion, and Puffin Designs' Commotion 2.2.

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