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Mac vs. PC 5: Power Mac G5 Dual 2.7GHzAlso reviewed: 23-inch Cinema HD display
(5/25/05) The Apple Power Mac G5s dual processors recently received a speed bump to 2.7GHz ($4598 as tested). In an atypical move, Apple sent us an up-to-date machine just a few weeks after its release. This gave us a chance to compare it to the fastest PC we have here the Midwest Test Facility, a dual Xeon 3.6GHz computer from Dell. So here it is: Mac vs. PC Part 5, back by popular demand. We pummeled the new Mac with our battery of benchmarks, concentrating on a processor-intensive content creation application, Adobe After Effects. For good measure, we also used the newest G5-enhanced CineBench tests. Could the fastest Mac unseat our speed champ?
Along with the Mac, Apple sent us one of its gorgeous 23" Cinema HD flat panel displays ($1500). It is without a doubt the most beautifully-designed monitor that has ever graced the halls of our Midwest Test Facility. Not only is it attractive on the outside, its flat panel arrived absolutely perfect with no dead pixels and delivers near-perfect video at a resolution of 1920x1200. Its 16:10 aspect ratio contains enough pixels for its graphics to be as sharp as they could possibly be. Weve grown accustomed to the high quality of this 23-inch flat panel, because it boasts the same crisp output as its 23-inch predecessor, the clear plastic-encased Cinema HD display that resembles an easel that weve used here for the past year. This new anodized aluminum beautys sophisticated design takes that quality level a notch higher, along with the functionality of being able to actually tilt the monitor forward or backward, a very important feature which weve sorely missed in its predecessor.
Its also pleasing the way the monitor matches the Power Mac G5s gleaming aluminum computer case. One of the more convenient aspects of this monitor is the fact that Apple decided to abandon its oddball ADC connector, a proprietary scheme which without special adapters prevented its monitors from being used with anything but Macs. Its about time. Now, industry-standard DVI connectors rule the day, and you can easily use this spectacular monitor with PCs as well as Macs. As an aside, keep in mind that you still cant use this computer display as an HDTV monitor unless you get an SDI-to-DVI adapter such as the one made by Black Magic Design. Even so, you cant use this monitor to watch TV since it doesnt have the facilities for HDCP, the supposedly bulletproof technology that prevents mere mortals from making perfect copies of valuable digital TV programs. (By the way, many people think HDCP stands for High Definition Copy Protection, but it actually stands for High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection.) Anyway, if youd like to use a monitor like this with your older ADC-equipped Mac, a $48 adapter will do the trick.
A possible downside to the monitor is its new outboard power supply. Even though its also wonderfully designed, I noticed that its a bit flaky. When I first got it out of the package and plugged it in, there was an immediate problem. In short, it wouldnt work. There was no power going through it to the monitor at all. Oddly, after I unplugged it and plugging it back in, it began to work. Thinking it was a mere anomaly, I searched the Web for other users who had noticed this problem, and sure enough, I was not the only one to whom this has happened. Hopefully this is not a sign that the beauty of this ravishing monitor is only skin deep. Nevertheless, since that initial problem the monitor has performed flawlessly and receives my highest recommendation, 10 out of 10 stars.
Now lets take a closer look at this new Power Mac G5. Attention to detail is the order of the day with any Mac, and especially with this one. In this test bed unit that was Fed-Exed to us, the optional Airport Extreme was included, along with Bluetooth. We like that. Im also quite fond of the included FireWire 800 ports which are twice the speed of run-of-the-mill FireWire 400 ports, and even those slower ports must be installed at extra cost and effort on many PCs. In past reviews, Ive raved about the Power Mac G5s sleek, minimalist exterior appearance, and have also positively commented on its first-rate design inside. Even though Ive explored the interior of the Power Mac G5 many times before, Im still always in a state of awe when I open it up. First of all, its as easy to open as an old cigar box, where releasing one latch offers you easy access without further complaint. Packed inside is its new liquid cooling system, which keeps the processors at a nominal operating temperature while not making so much noise that it bothers even a persnickety reviewer like me who prefers Zen-like quiet to the cacophony of computer fans. These fans are smart, too, staying nearly silent when the machine isnt doing anything, but then sneaking up to a bit noisier level when you require it to do some hard work such as rendering, editing or searching. I can live with that. Goofing around, I booted up the Power Mac with the door open and removed the clear plastic air director, and noticed the fans immediately revving up to high speed, while the machine at the same time turned on a red light inside as a subtle warning. Hey, thats neat. That air director keeps the negative air pressure at a level where airflow will be optimal throughout the machine. Everything else inside this box is optimal as well. There isnt a computer on this planet thats better constructed inside or out, in my opinion. The perfection of its industrial design is a wonder to behold.
Also included with our test machine was the new OS X Tiger (version 10.4) operating system. Although this is not a full-scale review of Tiger, I must comment on the speed and grace of its new Spotlight feature (see graphic below). Sitting at the top right of the screen is a little magnifying glass. Click on that and a box drops down that offers a field in which to enter a search term. Immediately after you type one character, Spotlight starts finding folders, documents and applications that match the term youre typing. Its the fastest, most convenient search feature Ive ever seen, and I wish every computer in the world had it. Wow. The rest of the operating system is just about as good as an OS can be. The icons are all beautifully drawn, and the whole thing just oozes quality.
|Spotlight instantaneously shows you search hits as you type, and it's right there at the top of the screen whenever you need to find something quickly.|
After all that gushing praise, I do have one bone to pick. The only tone-deaf feature that has stubbornly stayed with Macs for many years is that idiotic button-less mouse. Is there anyone on this planet whos still using this dopey thing? If so, please let me know why. I am positively baffled. Ive also noticed that even when I plug in a typical two-button mouse with a mouse wheel, the mouse driver included with OS X, even when I have its speed turned up to 11, just can't get the cursor moving fast enough for my taste, nor does it have the ability to accelerate the cursor. Further, hasnt anyone at Apple figured out that right-click functionality makes a computer much easier to use? Sure, you can use the right mouse button on a lot of Mac applications if you buy a third-party mouse, but even then, the right-click functionality on the Macintosh is still vastly inferior to that of Windows XP applications. When, oh when, will Apple finally abandon this misguided single-button fetish? Whenever Im unpacking a new Mac for testing, Ive gotten to the point where I dont even take that goofy mouse out of the shipping container any more. Out of character for a company that prides itself in ease-of-use, Apple has inexplicably decided to lock its mouse technology in a time warp for 25 years, continuing to ship this beautiful but dumb-blond pointing device, which I think is nothing short of foolish.
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