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For MacUsers upgrading from a non 'G' Mac you will notice a real speed increase, and maybe too for beige G3 owners. But for the later blue and white G3 machines the upgrade is perhaps best left for a G5 as those in the know, - know, the G4 is essentially a tweaked G3 with a 'special instruction set', so any speed gains from this upgrade will not be great, infact speed for speed e.g. G3 400Mhz Vs G4 400Mhz the differential is not that great, the gains perhaps more attributable to the speed tweaks in the motherboard, RAM etc.
Software which takes advantage of this 'special instruction set' the 'velocity engine' part of the G4 chip will show huge gains in speed compared to non velocity engine optimised software. Running Photoshop (which is velocity engine optimised) should make a G4 400Mhz very roughly the same speed as a Pentium III 1.4Ghz! However most software is currently not optimised for velocity engine (seems to be only Photoshop and a handful of others) so in speed terms a 400Mhz G4 is only equalvalent to a PIII 500Mhz running standard software, a PIII computer can be had for around half the price of a G4 computer, PC's come with software, scanner, printer, amplified speakers etc (you've seen those PC deals) and makes a Mac look incredibly poor value for money for the performance.
Contary to popular belief that Macs are fast, PC's are now on zippier 133Mhz RAM, faster motherboards - AMD's use 200Mhz boards and the new Pentium 4 uses an incredibly fast 400 Mhz board, the G4 is still stuck with a 100Mhz board (newer G4's use a 133 Mhz board). While Macs use ATA66 hard disks, PC's utlise the faster ATA100 standard. The G4 has 2X AGP, PC's have 4X AGP. Also PC's are on much faster CPU clock speeds of well over a gigahertz. (Problems stem from production of the G4 processors and reportedly the quick fix solution was to bundle two processors into one machine to make Macs more competitive with their PC counterparts. How many current applications run in dual processor mode? Hardly any except Photoshop. Bottom line if your software isn't velocity engine optimised (should say on the packaging) or designed for dual processors, a 1 gigahertz AMD Athlon machine at about 800 GBP, will blow the poor G4's into the weeds. (Apple's performance figures which toast a PIII's are based on photoshop using the velocity engine NOT standard software).
But having said that, MacUsers will always upgrade to a Mac, another operating system is out of the equation. The tour de force of a Mac is it's styling (- which the rest of the PC industry copy), a more intuitive operating system, hardware reliability, ease of use, and simple to upgrade. Styling of the G4 is 'organic' with sweeping curves, but with a strangely flat front panel. The design always taking your visual and tactile senses for a ride. The play of translucents, semi transparents, plastics and metals, hard and soft, this is not 'just' a computer it has soul. Apple even use holographic stickers for product identification and as warning stickers inside the chassis! Even the power cable is candy coloured and stripped like a rock...and the mouse cables...hmmm tasty. No design aspect has been left, even the back of the machine looks 'handsome' The G4 clearly is a 'designer' machine and has always been, - the main market which Macs are used in.
In everyday use the compact keyboard is a joy to use, the keys offer a perfect tactile feel, but the compact arrow keys are not so clever as they can be hard to find in a hurry, the truncated function keys are just bearable, but the'soap dish' round mouse is an ergonomic nightmare. It has nice tactile 'rubber' on the sides but is hard to control and orientate. It's round so you never know exactly where it is pointing for precision work. Newer purchasers of a G4 will (luckily) not get the round mouse but get the gorgeous transparant optical (no ball) mouse, which ergonically speaking is at the other end of the spectrum..i.e. brillant! The compact keyboard has also been discarded in favour of a full sized 'Pro' transparent keyboard. Visually though I feel it lacks something, as it looks a bit plain but this is a real minor point.
The fan is quieter than in older non G Macs too, and upgradablility is SO EASY, just release the catch and hey presto, the hinged door just flips down giving easy access to the bits you need to access, no hidden RAM slots, no hard to get to drive bays, everything is all there! The eject of the CD tray is slightly strange as Apple have put a cosmetic flap in front of the drive tray to hide it, but works fine (though slightly obscures the volume and earphone socket). As always on a Mac it's difficult to get your hands on another cosmetic flap should you choose to add say a Jaz/Zip drive..if the drive is beige it will stick out like a sore thumb visually.
Most folks will be using this for design work which this machine is perfectly suited to (after all, most of the design industry is using this) and compared to previous Macs it is good value for money. Though I would say 128Mb of RAM is the bare minimum to operate this machine optimally, go for 256 as RAM is so cheap these days...dabs.com do a strip of 128mb for about 55 quid including delivery! The Mac operating system always has the problem of memory fragmentation, and cannot dynamically assign RAM to applications like a PC can, but this will be addressed in Mac OS X, until then you will benefit from the extra RAM.
So, should a MacUser buy one? Well there is only one manufacturer of Macs and that is Apple so you don't really get a choice...but fortunately they give you a good choice : ), though owners of older Macs have to watch out if they have heavy investment in SCSI / non USB equipment or even dongle protected software (which needs a hardware key attached to the ADB port, the new G4's of course have none!)
So, should a PCuser buy one? Yes if you are using it for design work and particulary if you are a core photoshop user you get the speed of the velocity engine and those dual processors! Go for it! and you will also gain a piece of well crafted equipment both in hardware and operating system (especially when OS X hits the streets..) but if you want it for games then stay on the PC, although more games have been released for Mac, you only have to look on the shelves of Game shops to draw a conclusion, the same is true if you want to use the Mac as an admin or accounting machine, how many accounting packages have you seen for a Mac? How much Mac software can you see in PC World? One solution if you use PC apps very occasionally is to install VirtualPC on your Mac which emulates a Windows machine and the speed of a G4 should produce a adequate performance for standard software, but don't try playing games on it! It won't be very fast in emulation mode.
Lastly for surfing, which is a growing area, Macs are inherently more secure as people don't write that many nasty viruses for it (luckily) and in theory shouldn't pick up as many nasties off the internet, but the downside there are a few sites out there that don't work with Macs e.g. like go2call.com which use PC code and and some streaming audio / video sites which use Windows Media Player technology over Quicktime or RealPlayer. On the minus front the Mac is incredibly slow surfing compared to a PC. I have two IBM PC's - AMD K2 450Mhz and AMD Duron 600Mhz, and a Celeron 366Mhz machine all are miles faster at pulling up webpages than my G4 350Mhz. Personally I think it's the PPP (point to point protocol implementation on the Mac) so slowwwww.
Just bought a PC for the first time to test websites on. I'm beginning to despair of ever getting it working, so I'll stick with my G4. Just one point: you probably know that Safari (Apple's new web browser) greatly speeds up internet use on the Mac - but maybe your op needs updating to include that fact! Otherwise a nice, balanced piece of writing
JoePoirot 22.02.2003 23:16
A very useful and thorough analysis.
aaron 24.05.2002 00:15
Useful comparison between the Mac and PC, thanks, much appreciated.
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