When Apple brings out a new Mac model, it typically offers three standard configurations: “good,” “better,” and “best.” In the case of the first Power Mac G5s, the “best” model — the configuration with dual-2GHz processors — was clearly the standout: the performance boost that the second G5 chip provided easily justified the price premium, at least for the professionals the Power Mac line is designed for (see
Reviews, November 2003).
It didn’t take buyers long to figure that out, and the high-end configuration sold quickly, while sales of its single-CPU siblings lagged. The company’s marketing strategists quickly jumped into action, and in less than three months they announced what Apple’s chief financial officer Fred Anderson called “an unplanned product transition on the Power Mac G5”: a $200 price cut on the “good” configuration (with one 1.6GHz G5) and the addition of a second 1.8GHz processor to the “better” model.
Of course, that second CPU isn’t free: at $2,499, the dual-1.8GHz configuration costs $100 more than its single-chip predecessor. But after putting the new model through its paces, we’re sold: in terms of value, the dual-1.8GHz G5 is now the pick of the Power Mac litter.
Aside from the second CPU and the price change, the new 1.8GHz configuration is identical to the old one: it still comes with 512MB of DDR (double data rate) memory (8GB maximum); a 160GB, 7,200-rpm serial ATA hard drive; a SuperDrive CD and DVD burner; an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra video card in an 8X AGP slot; three free PCI-X slots; Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 400 and 800, and USB 2.0 ports; and internal slots for optional AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth wireless-connectivity cards.
Compared with the dual-2GHz model, the only difference (aside from the obvious one in processor clock speed and a corresponding 10 percent difference in the speed of the bus that connects the CPU to memory) is the video card. The top-of-the-line configuration comes with ATI’s Radeon 9600 Pro instead of the Nvidia card that’s standard in the other two Power Macs.
For hard-core gamers, that difference may matter: in our Unreal Tournament test, the dual-1.8GHz configuration delivered significantly fewer frames per second than the dual-2GHz system with the Radeon card; in fact, the dual-1.8GHz model barely edged out the single-processor 1.6GHz model on this test (see the benchmark chart).
But on the rest of our performance tests, the dual-1.8GHz configuration came in just a shade behind the blazing dual-2GHz model. On version 3.3 of Macworld’s Speedmark tests, the new model racked up a score of 199, only a few points below the dual-2GHz model (204) and way above the single-processor 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz systems (154 and 168, respectively).
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The dual-1.8GHz Power Mac G5 delivers 97.5 percent of the performance of the top-of-the-line Power Mac for less than 85 percent of the latter’s $2,999 price. Any way you slice it, that’s a bargain.
Of course, graphics pros and others who can afford to pay for every ounce of performance available will still opt for the dual-2GHz configuration. And at its new price of $1,799, the 1.6GHz single-CPU model is a better deal than it used to be. But in terms of price/performance ratio, the dual-1.8GHz Power Mac G5 is now the best deal in town.