Lab Test: Dual-Processor Power Macs

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Macworld Lab's first results in testing Apple's new dual-processor Power Macs are in. This first set of data proves that two 450MHz processors do excel at tasks in applications designed to take advantage of the second processor -- but in terms of general Mac use as measured by our Speedmark 2 test, the new system is slightly slower than a single-processor 500MHz Power Mac.

Speedmark 2.0 is Macworld Lab's new standard test tool for benchmarking new and upgraded systems. It uses real-world applications and everyday tasks. It is a general purpose suite which includes tasks high-end users and new users perform everyday, including starting up, downloading e-mail and unstuffing a file.

Because some of the Speedmark tests involve applications that take advantage of multiprocessor systems, the dual 450MHz scored faster than a single-chip 450MHz G4 but couldn't quite match the score of a Mac powered by a single 500MHz chip. That's because many of Speedmark's tests involve applications -- including the Finder -- that can't take advantage of the second processor.

In our application-specific testing, we found the dual-chip Power Mac bested a 500MHz in all but one test -- a conversion of an image from RGB to CMYK in Photoshop. The most impressive boost was in Cinema 4D XL 6.1, where the rendering of a 640 x 480 model took almost eight minutes on the dual-processor Mac, but nearly 14 minutes on a 500MHz single-processor G4.

This proves that the new dual-processor Macs are speed demons -- but only if you're using an application that can take advantage of them.

Speedmark 2

Power Mac G4 450MHz (Dual Processor)

Best results in red.
Reference systems in italics.
Photoshop 5.5 Cinema 4D XL 6.1 SoundJam 2.1.1
  Speedmark 2 Gaussian Blur 10 Unsharp Mask 2.3 Resize 50% RGB to CMYK Arbitrary Rotate .3 Lighting Effects Model Render 640x480 MP3 Encode
Power Macintosh G4 450 (Dual Processor) 158 11.9 11.1 6.0 22.7 13.2 11.7 7:54 1:14
Power Macintosh G4 450 146 18.9 17.4 9.5 25.2 21.4 18.5 15:43 2:10
Power Macintosh G4 500 159 16.0 15.4 8.4 22.3 18.2 16.0 13:46 1:38

We tested each system with Mac OS 9.04, 128MB of RAM, a default system disk cache of 4MB, and Virtual Memory disabled for applications tests. Displays were set to 1024 x 768 @ 24 bit color. Speedmark 2 is a suite of common tasks -- for more information, see Macworld's Speedmark page. Photoshop tasks used a 50MB file. Photoshop's memory partition was set to 80MB, and Photoshop History was set to minumum. 80MB of memory was allocated to Cinema 4D XL. We rendered a model at 680 x 480. A 9:25-minute track from an audio CD was used for our MP3 encoding test. It was converted using default settings of 128Kbps in SoundJam 2.1.1. --Macworld Lab testing supervised by Gil Loyola

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