Test drivers

With much of the performance testing now completed on Apple’s recent spate of Intel-powered hardware releases, I’ve been using my spare time to tackle another question: Will older peripherals continue to work on an Intel-based Macintosh like my applications using the Rosetta emulation technology do, or will their drivers require an update?

This is not an insignificant issue. Veterans of the OS 9-to-OS X transition will remember plenty of initial headaches in getting printers and scanners to work properly with the new operating system. Would history repeat itself with this latest transition ?

To find the answer, I rounded up a small pile of hardware and plugged them into the 20-inch iMac Core Duo. I’m happy to report that, for the most part, things just work. See for yourself in the chart below:

Driver Performance on Intel Macs

Product Product Type Driver Type Does it work?
Epson Perfection 4870 Photo Scanner PowerPC Yes
Epson C88 Inkjet printer PowerPC Yes
Canon Pixma IP4200 Inkjet printer Universal Yes
Canon Pixma MP950 Inkjet multifunction printer Universal / PowerPC Yes
Griffin PowerMate USB input device PowerPC Yes
HP Color Laserjet 3600n Color laser printer Universal Yes
HP Officejet Pro K550 Inkjet printer PowerPC Yes
M-Audio Ozone USB Midi Keyboard PowerPC Yes
Macally Mouse BT Bluetooth mouse PowerPC Yes

The only two problems I ran into were with devices requiring installation of preference panes in the Mac’s system preferences window. If a peripheral or application requires a preference pane, the software will need to be updated before it will work on the new Macs as it cannot run under Rosetta. The two devices in question—the PowerMate from Griffin, and the Ozone from M-Audio —just wouldn’t work on our new iMac. Phone calls to each company confirmed the problem and I was told they were working on new drivers. True to their word, both companies released software updates that work on Intel Macs early last week.

Other input devices, like the Mouse BT from Macally, worked fine with preferences adjustable via the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane in System Preferences.

Canon was the first printer company I found to have Universal drivers available to download, but not all of their apps have been updated. For example, Canon’s Pixma MP950, an inkjet multifunction device, has an updated printer driver available from for download, but the scanning software and MP admin application are still PowerPC apps that need to run under Rosetta on Intel-based Macs. Canon’s Web site states that the current PowerPC software works with Intel Macs and therefore new versions of the software will not be offered. And it’s true—I had no problem scanning or using any of the buttons on the multifunction device to interact with an Intel iMac running Photoshop CS2 under Rosetta. Yes, it took awhile for Photoshop to load, but scan and print speeds weren’t painfully sluggish.

HP and Epson included some updated drivers for their printers with Mac OS X 10.4.4, but HP’s Web site has not been updated to include the drivers. Epson’s drivers weren’t online during my first attempts to track them down, but many are available now, and the company now maintains a page listing all supported printers and includes estimated release dates for others.

My tests obviously involve only a small sample of all of the peripheral hardware that folks will want to use on these new Macs, but the good news is that everything I tried worked—eventually. And as evidenced by the quick turnaround by Griffin and M-Audio, Mac peripheral companies are taking this Intel transition seriously and are making real progress toward compatibility.

So, if your specific peripheral isn’t working now, chances are the developer is on the case. If you’ve run into any trouble, let us know in the forum thread below. We’d like to hear about your experiences.

  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon