New G5s announced; no 3GHz or G5 laptops 'any time soon'

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Apple Computer Inc. on Wednesday announced three new dual-processor Power Mac G5 configurations, with the fastest model topping out at 2.5GHz. The new high-end systems miss the 3GHz mark that Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company would achieve at last year's Worldwide Developers Conference, but Tom Boger, Apple's Director of Power Mac Product Marketing said it came down to a technology challenge that was bigger than they expected. Boger also said today that users shouldn't expect to see a PowerBook G5 before the end of the year because of the challenges of putting the G5 in a small enclosure.

PowerBook G5 & iMac

Anyone that has seen the heatsink from a Power Mac G5 knows that it would not fit in a portable computer. This is the challenge that faces Apple as it tries to move its pro product line to the new fast processor technology.

"I think it's important to realize that the technical challenges are not trivial putting that G5 in a PowerBook or anything else and not to expect a G5 anytime soon in a PowerBook -- certainly not before the end of the year," said Boger.

While Boger didn't give a timeframe for an iMac G5, he did say the company faced similar challenges getting a G5 to work with their consumer desktop.

"It's the same story -- the challenges are obvious when you look at the G5 and the size of the heatsinks and the enclosure; that would be a heck of a challenge as well."

No 3GHz G5 anytime soon

When Apple CEO took the stage at last year's Worldwide Developer's Conference, he wowed the attendees with the new Power Mac G5 dual 2GHz design and technology. Jobs further excited the crowd when he said that Apple would release a 3GHz model within a year -- with two weeks to go before that deadline, Boger said Apple will not meet the 3GHz promise.

"It's actually quite simple," said Boger. "When we made that prediction, we just didn't realize the challenges moving to 90 nanometer would present. It turned out to be a much bigger challenge than anyone expected."

"All-in-all, no we are not getting to 3GHz anytime soon, but what we are announcing today is a very significant upgrade in performance and it's something that our customers will be very happy with."

The new Power Mac G5s at a glance

  Power Mac G5 Dual 1.8GHz Power Mac G5 Dual 2.0GHz Power Mac G5 Dual 2.5GHz
G5 Processor Dual 1.8GHz PowerPC G5 Dual 2GHz PowerPC G5 Dual 2.5GHz PowerPC G5
Frontside bus 900MHz per processor 1GHz per processor 1.25GHz per processor
8X AGP Pro graphics NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra with 64MB DDR SDRAM ATI RADEON 9600 XT with 128MB DDR SDRAM
Hard drive 80GB Serial ATA; 7200 rpm
160GB Serial ATA; 7200 rpm
Optical drive
SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW)
PCI slots Three open full-length 33MHz, 64-bit PCI slots Three open full-length PCI-X slots: one 133MHz, 64-bit slot and two 100MHz, 64-bit slots
DDR SDRAM main memory 256MB PC3200 (400MHz)
Supports up to 4GB
512MB PC3200 (400MHz) Supports up to 8GB
Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet and 56K V.92 modem (5)
AirPort Extreme ready (based on 802.11g specification; IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi certified); Bluetooth option

How the new units stack up

All systems share some common traits: an 8x speed DVD-R/CD-RW "SuperDrive," a single Firewire 800 port, two FireWire 400 ports (one in back, one in front), three USB 2.0 ports (two in back, one in front), Gigabit Ethernet and 56K modem, AGP 8x Pro graphics card slot, ADC and DVI video interfaces. They're ready for AirPort Extreme wireless networking cards and can be ordered with internal Bluetooth support as well. Analog and optical digital audio inputs and outputs are supported as well.

The low-end Power Mac G5 sports dual 1.8GHz processors and a frontside bus clocked at 900MHz per processor. The system comes equipped with 256MB of DDR SDRAM memory expandable to 4GB, and an 80GB Serial ATA hard drive. It ships with an Nvidia GeForceFX 5200 Ultra graphics card equipped with 64MB of memory, and it's also equipped with three full-length 33MHz 64-it PCI slots for further expansion. It costs US$1,999 -- $200 higher than the previous low-end model, which features a single processor configuration.

The mid-range model ships with dual 2.0GHz processors and a 1GHz frontside bus. It ships with 512MB of DDR SDRAM memory, expandable to 8GB, and a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive. The system also ships with a GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics card, and features three 64-bit PCI-X expansion slots (one clocked at 133MHz, the other two at 100MHz). It costs US$2,499.

The forthcoming high-end model will feature dual 2.5GHz processors operating on 1.25GHz frontside buses, 512MB DDR SDRAM, and a 160GB Serial ATA hard drive. Like its mid-range sibling, the top model will feature three PCI-X slots, one at 133MHz and two at 100MHz. It uses a ATI Radeon 9600 XT graphics card with 128MB of memory. The 2.5GHz system also features a liquid cooling system that Apple says helps reduce temperature without increasing fan noise. The 2.5GHz model will cost $2,999 when it's released in July.

"The top of the line model uses a new cooling system -- it's a state-of-the-art liquid cooling system that's only available on the high-end model. It's a closed loop system and basically liquid runs by each processor, pulling heat away from the processor and it's returned back to a grill that fans are blowing air over, returning the liquid to its original temperature. It's completely maintenance free and is very quiet, which is important for this product line," said Boger.

All systems come equipped with Mac OS X v10.3 and a suite of software including Apple's iLife applications, Art Directors Toolkit, EarthLink TotalAccess 2004, GraphicConverter, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, Zinio Reader, Mail, iChat AV, Safari, Sherlock, Address Book, QuickTime, iSync, iCal, DVD Player, Classic environment and Xcode Developer Tools.

The new 1.8 and 2.0GHz models are available now, and Apple expects the 2.5GHz model to ship in July. Prices range from $1,999 to $2,999. All systems now come equipped with 8x SuperDrives; the high-end system's frontside bus speed has been upped to 1.25GHz.

The new product line does include some new technology in the processor. First introduced in the Xserve, the 2.5GHz G5 now uses the new 90-nanometer processor technology.

Compared to older models

Apple's previous Power Macs came in three configurations, with the top two models having dual processors.

The low-end US$1,799 1.6GHz Power Mac had an 800MHz frontside bus; 512K L2 cache; 256MB DDR333 128-bit SDRAM, expandable to 4GB SDRAM; 80GB Serial ATA; SuperDrive; three PCI Slots; NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra; 64MB DDR video memory; and a 56K internal modem.

The mid-range dual 1.8GHz Power Mac was the first of two dual processor models in Apple's line-up and came with Dual 1.8GHz PowerPC G5; 900MHz frontside bus/processor; 512K L2 cache/processor; 512MB DDR400 128-bit SDRAM, expandable to 8GB SDRAM; 160GB Serial ATA; SuperDrive; three PCI-X Slots; NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra; 64MB DDR video memory; and a 56K internal modem. The 1.8 GHz model sold for $2,499.

The high-end, $2,999 dual 2GHz Power Mac had a 1GHz frontside bus/processor; 512K L2 cache/processor; 512MB DDR400 128-bit SDRAM, expandable to 8GB SDRAM; 160GB Serial ATA; SuperDrive; Three PCI-X Slots; ATI Radeon 9600 Pro; 64MB DDR video memory; and a 56K internal modem.

Power Mac G4s discontinued

In announcing the new Power Mac G5s, Apple also indicated that its Power Mac G4 has been taken out of production. Up until now, Apple has continued to manufacture 1.25GHz Power Mac G4 systems; single processor versions have been available at Apple retailers while the Apple Store has continued to make a dual-processor version available as a build-to-order option. Apple said the Power Mac G4 "will no longer be in production and is available for purchase while supplies last." MacCentral confirmed that this applies to all Power Mac G4 models.

Update: Wednesday, June 9, 2004 1:30 pm -- Added clarification about the Power Mac G4's discontinuation.

Update: Wednesday, June 9, 2004 10:03 am -- Added information from an interview with Tom Boger, Apple's Director of Power Mac Product Marketing.

Update: Wednesday, June 9, 2004 9:00 am -- Added specifications for new Power Macs.

Preview Mac OS X "Tiger" at WWDC

This story, "New G5s announced; no 3GHz or G5 laptops 'any time soon'" was originally published by PCWorld.

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