G3 First Look (continued)

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Since much has been said about how easy these new Macs are to open, we naturally couldn't wait to try it out for ourselves. We weren't disappointed. The side door flips easily open and provides ready access to every component you're likely to touch–the G3 processor, the four SDRAM slots, four PCI slots (one–a faster 64-bit PCI slot–occupied by the ATI RAGE 128), modem connector, and internal battery are attached to the door and lie flat when the case is open. Apple even went to the extent of placing reinforcing plastic beneath pressure points on the motherboard–areas where you're likely to exert force–such as under the RAM and PCI slots. Very nice.

Although not played up by Apple in its demonstrations of the new machines, we were particularly pleased with the layout for the internal drives. At the bottom of the Power Mac's case is a metal tray that holds the ATA drive and offers space for two additional internal storage devices. To mount a new device, simply unscrew a single screw, disconnect the data and power cables to the ATA drive, and slide out the metal tray. Just place additional drives in any of the free numbered spaces, screw them in, put the tray back, and plug in the drive. Two additional power connectors are included, although you must provide your own data cables.

Although we are happy that the internal workings of the new Power Macs are so easily accessible, we're sorry that there are so few PCI slots. Because there are virtually no available FireWire peripherals available at this time, users who need fast external storage devices must rely on SCSI–an option not included with the new G3s. To gain SCSI you must add a SCSI PCI card, thus giving up one of the three precious PCI slots. Users who require SCSI and more than two PCI slots will have to resort to an external PCI cage. Granted, those users are likely to deal in high-end video and digital audio–areas that will shortly benefit from FireWire devices. However, in the interim, we wish that Apple had provided us with a six-slot Power Mac.

We haven't yet had the opportunity to throw a lot of applications at the new Macs, but those we did try zipped along quite nicely. Launching and scrolling were crisp and menus appeared in a flash. QuickTime movies played back smoothly at large screen sizes and MacSoft's Unreal–though desirous of more RAM than the 64MB on-board–played with nary a hiccup.

Bottom line: The beauty of these new Macs goes much deeper than just their striking new exteriors. While we don't yet have final performance scores, they're clearly the fastest Macs–by a significant margin on the top end–that have ever existed. They're also solidly built, and easy to upgrade. Most importantly, however, these new Macs introduce Firewire and USB to the desktop technologies that will be a staple of 21st-century computing.

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