Power Macintosh G4s

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After some initial confusion, Apple has tidied the Power Mac G4 into a powerful line of systems, all finally with the same architecture. At first, Apple offered high-end systems with the new Sawtooth design and an entry-level system with the older Yikes architecture, based on the blue-and-white Power Mac G3. Now Apple is offering 350MHz, 400MHz, and 450MHz models, all with the Sawtooth design (see Reviews , February 2000, for a look at the Power Mac G4/400).

The standard Power Mac G4/350 ships with a DVD-ROM drive, a skimpy 64MB of RAM, an internal 56-Kbps modem, a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port, and a 10GB hard drive (the system we tested included 128MB of RAM). The standard G4/450 ships with a DVD-RAM drive, 256MB of RAM, a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port, a Zip drive, and a 27GB hard drive–but no modem.

Sawtooth–Apple's internal code name for the design–features faster memory and hard-drive buses; support for up to 1.5GB of RAM; a swift 2X AGP port for the graphics card; an internal FireWire connection and two external ones; and two USB ports, each with a full 12 Mbps of throughput. Sawtooth also includes connections for Apple's AirPort wireless-networking cards.

By comparison, the Yikes architecture supported up to 999MB of RAM; featured a slower, 66MHz PCI slot for the graphics adapter; and drove both USB ports at a combined 12 Mbps, which sometimes caused USB devices to bog down.

Driving the display in Apple's new systems is the ATI Rage 128 Pro video card, an upgrade to the Rage 128 card Apple shipped with previous Power Mac G3 and G4 systems. In addition to offering faster video performance, the card features a Digital Video Interface connector that supports Apple's LCD monitors.

Macworld Lab tests revealed that the new Power Mac G4/350 performs similarly to the Yikes-based G4/350. The biggest improvement is in video performance, no doubt due to the Rage 128 Pro and AGP port. In our Quake II test, the Sawtooth-based G4/350 generated about 55 frames per second (fps), versus 52 for the Yikes-based system.

Not surprisingly, the Power Mac G4/450 proved speedy, especially when running applications optimized to take advantage of the G4's Velocity Engine. For example, the high-end Power Mac ran Adobe Photoshop's Gaussian Blur filter about three times as fast as a G3/400 system and about twice as fast as either G4/350 system. In our Quake II tests, the G4/450 maxed out at 67.4 fps, far outpacing the other systems.

With the upgraded architecture, you can now buy an entry-level Power Mac G4 with the same speedy system components found in Apple's high-end systems, all for just $1,599. However, the system's 64MB of RAM is a bit paltry; to take full advantage of that extra performance, invest in more memory. The G4/450 is Apple's fastest system.

Also see the Benchmark: "A Faster 350?"


4.0 mice
PROS: Strong performance; affordable. CONS: Skimpy RAM allocation. COMPANY: Apple Computer (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $1,599.


4.0 mice
PROS: Excellent performance. CONS: Expensive. COMPANY: Apple Computer (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com ). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $3,499.

April 2000 page: 38

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