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  10-03-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


Is the G5 Dual 2GHz Fast? (hands-on review)


By Bob LeVitus

From the moment Apple announced the Power Mac G5, dubbing it, "the World's Fastest Personal Computer," there has been controversy over whether or not it's true. Since that announcement on June 23, billions of bits have been spewed onto the Internet, with users (and non-users) debating earth-shattering issues like:

  • Did Apple jigger the testing?
  • Were the PCs tested somehow crippled at Apple's behest?
  • Did Apple tweak the compliers used to test the G5?


  • What is a SPECmark, anyway?

I fully intended to get to the bottom of all of these burning debates, but I received a Power Mac G5 Dual 2GHz for review two weeks ago and used it as my main Mac until a few days ago. As I packed it up and shipped it off it occurred to me that I could save myself hours of research:

None of that matters. Even if the G5 is the second fastest or fifth fastest personal computer in the world, it's the fastest Mac I've ever used in my entire life, and not by a small margin, either. I'd call it, "wicked fast," but that wouldn't even come close to doing it justice. It was astonishingly fast. It was amazingly fast. It performed every task I could think of—launching programs, getting mail, rendering Web pages, searching-and-replacing, applying Photoshop filters, rendering Final Cut Pro movies, and even using the Finder. Everything was two, three, or more times faster than my current axe, a Power Mac G4 Dual Gigahertz (which is no slouch, I might add). And compatibility was excellent—every program and peripheral I tried worked flawlessly.

Powered by the new 64-bit PowerPC G5 processor, the new Power Macs are engineering marvels with faster internal busses including a 1GHz frontside bus, 133 MHz PCI-X, and AGP 8X Pro graphics. Other features include up to 8GB of fast 400 MHz 128-bit DDR SDRAM; Gigabit Ethernet; FireWire 800; FireWire 400; USB 2.0; built-in dual display support; optical digital audio input and output; analog audio input and output; and a headphone jack; plus support for AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth (both optional).

The new aluminum G5 enclosure is gorgeous, but bigger than it looks in pictures. It's larger in all dimensions than my Power Mac G4, and weighs 5 or 6 more pounds. My desk has a caddy attached to one side, which raises the CPU off the floor and provides a small amount of swivel; the G5 was too tall and too wide to fit in it. So I ended up with the caddy in the closet and the G5 on the floor where the caddy used to be. It's not a huge issue but something you might want to consider if your furniture just fits your current Mac.

The G5 has four independently controlled thermal zones, with fans in each zone that are individually controlled. The fans run only when they need to, resulting in a Power Mac G5 that is (according to Apple) "two times quieter than the previous Power Mac G4."

That was true for the most part, but there were times when it was as loud as the G4, with all four fans spinning at full speed. Still, it didn't happen often and 99% of the time it really was "whisper-quiet."

I hate it. I don't need a new computer; but now that I've used the G5, I'm spoiled. I'll be getting one soon.

Oh, and just for the record, I believe Apple's testing methodology was as fair as it could be.

Power Mac G5. Priced from $1,999. Apple Computer. Cupertino, California.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus




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