Readers Sound Off on New Power Macs

Mac professionals square off over Apple's latest desktop systems. Are Motorola's minimal PowerPC G4 enhancements a dealbreaker, or is there still plenty to like under the hood?

My recent call for reader responses to Apple Computers latest generation of Power Mac G4 towers had two paradoxical effects: While the wealth of articulate opinion (both pro and con) proved manifestly worthy of a column, its sheer volume left me busily exercising my correspondence skills in an effort to answer each e-mail individually—instead of actually delivering the planned follow-up.

Meanwhile, some additional controversy over the new machines threatened to render anachronistic my initial argument that the systems many architectural improvements outweighed the modest performance improvements in the twin Motorola PowerPC G4 chips powering each new model.

Specifically, early benchmarks posted on the Bare Feats site just hours after my column hit eWEEK suggest that those Moto CPUs are unable to take full advantage of the DDR memory in the new machines—a finding that many readers cited as a deal-breaker.

On the other hand, I heard from plenty of readers who have already shelled out for a new dual-processor system; while some of them expressed mild disappointment in the rate of PowerPC evolution between Januarys Power Macs and these models, they argued forcefully for the position that these systems represent a great leap forward for price and performance.

Along the way, readers joined me in musing about the effect of Mac OS X on professional markets and the widely discussed prospect of Apples abandonment of Motorola processors in favor of a Mac-friendly version of IBMs 64-bit Power4 chip.

Without further ado, heres a sampling of those responses:

I just ordered a new dual-867MHz G4 desktop, along with a 17-inch Apple LCD display. Ill admit I was hoping for more ... at least 1GHz on the low end, with 1.4GHz or better on the high end.

Even so, the other architecture changes to the hardware platform make the lower-than-expected CPU speeds worth the money. Dual CPUs, combined with improvements in Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) and the move to ATA/100 and DDR SDRAM will pack a big punch.

I can also (finally) add a second 5.25-inch device to the second media bay, and even better, can now have up to four hard drives in a RAID array. My point: Theres plenty of room for growth, something Apple typically doesnt accommodate (at least not since the days of the Power Mac 9600).

But why not wait for the next speed bump, and possibly the 7470s or Power4s? I have a rule I follow when buying computers: Never wait for the next "great thing" at the expense of productivity today. Just when that great thing comes along, so will some other technology (533MHz system bus! 800Mbit FireWire! Gigabit wireless!) thats expected in a soon-to-be-released model of the future.

The new Mac I just bought will meet my needs for the next 24 months at least. Beyond that ... Well, its only money!

Troy S. Curtis
Director, Technology Services
University of Phoenix—Phoenix Campus

I bought a dual-867 system with DVD-R a while back. The new ones just dont make sense, especially with the bottleneck.

If Apple came out with a Power4 machine, Id sell my left arm to get one. But until then, Ill wait. The incremental increases are not enough—Apple needs to shake up their pro line like they reinvigorated the iMac and laptop lines. Its been far too long.

Torrey Loomis