From Power Mac to Mac Pro

Photo: Mike Cameron.

Power Mac G5 Repair

Few products have been hyped as much as Apple's new G5 range of bit personal computers — but how good are they for making and recording music in the real world? According to Apple's publicity, their new G5 is both the world's first bit personal computer, and the fastest personal computer on the planet. Both of these claims have been challenged in PC circles, but what is clear is that the G5 is a massive step up from the previous G4 range, and that the combination of IBM's PowerPC processor and Mac OS X at least provides stiff competition for cutting-edge Wintel machines. Whichever platform is currently ahead in the absolute speed stakes, the situation will probably continue to reverse every few months, so absolute speed is not the only concern.

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There are other reasons to buy a Mac, such as its elegant operating system, the predictability and consistency of the hardware, and the cool design; and, of course, Windows PCs have their own attractions, such as lower cost and a wider user base. The important questions don't concern exactly how many more audio tracks or reverb plug-ins you can squeeze out of a G5, but how well it functions in its practical role at the heart of a studio.

The G5 processor itself is already available at speeds of up to 2GHz, and Apple are promising to have a 3GHz version within a year. However, there's far more to the new range than faster clock speeds. Whereas both the G4 and Intel's Pentium 4 are bit processors, the PowerPC is a bit device that can theoretically address 4 terabytes of physical memory; and though neither Mac OS X nor any applications are fully bit native at present, the G5 can run bit code natively, without having to use an inefficient emulation mode.

The PowerPC chip also includes the 'Velocity Engine' originally developed for the G4 chip, so Altivec-optimised programs will still benefit from the speed increase. Photo: Mike Cameron Other aspects of the G5's design are equally cutting-edge. The older Parallel ATA buss used to connect hard drives has been replaced by two independent Serial ATA busses, supporting a data throughput of up to 1. To increase the rate at which data can be fed to and output from the CPU, the system features a new front side buss that can run at up to 1GHz the two dual-processor models in the range have one for each processor.

Except in the 1.

PowerMac G5 - Is it Obsolete?

Doesn't NuBus seem such a distant memory now? The connectivity options build on what was available to G4 users, so now we have Firewire as well as Firewire and USB 2. USB 1. Dual-monitor support comes as standard, though you'll need an additional adaptor if you want to use two of Apple's swanky cinema displays. Photo: Mike Cameron In keeping with long-established Apple policy, there are three basic models in the G5 range, although you can choose to vary the specifications using their build-to-order service. The entry-level G5 has a single 1. We were lent the top-of-the-range dual 2GHz G5 for this review.

Unfortunately, deadlines meant that my tests had to be conducted with the older Mac OS The starkly beautiful case is made from aluminium, an extremely good conductor of heat, so the case itself is used to move heat away from hot spots by conduction as well as the more usual fan cooling. Computers have always had a bad reputation for being noisy, especially the silver-door G4s, which whined like a hairdressing salon on a Saturday afternoon, but Apple have made a very serious attempt to keep the G5s quiet, a feat that seems all the more impressive when you realise there are nine fans inside the box!

The secret is to use intelligent fan speed control so that the fans only turn up the wick when the temperature rises — the rest of the time they swoosh gently around like something out of a Ridley Scott movie. Despite the clean design, the front panel nonetheless manages to conceal the optical drive as well as USB, Firewire and headphone connectors. Photo: Mike Cameron Access to the innards is via a pull-off side cover that is secured by a recessed latch on the rear panel.

Removing the panel reveals a perspex cover, which may be unlatched and lifted out to provide full access through the side of the machine. If you do this when the machine is switched on, the fans rev up to full power like a Matrix hovercraft! The innards of the machine also look sharp and well-organised compared to earlier models and have been designed to allow additional drives and RAM chips to be fitted without the need for any tools at all.

There's space inside to fit one additional hard drive, with cables already fitted, but because the G5 employs the new Serial ATA standard, you can't simply whip a Parallel ATA audio drive out of a G4 and transplant it — and in any event, both the connectors and the drive mounting system are different. If you want to use an older ATA drive with your G5, you'll need to buy an external Firewire drive housing and connect it that way.

Rather than fixing into place with four screws, hard drives are installed by sliding pegs on the sides of the drive into plastic guide rails, after which a plastic toggle is rotated to lock the drive into place. A fan assembly has to be removed to get to the memory slots, but the whole fan assembly simply slides out without the need for tools, so the only time you should need a screwdriver is when fitting the crosshead screws the ones that always fall down into the computer's innards!

Two large fan outlets and an IEC mains connector are in evidence, along with sockets for Airport and Bluetooth antennae. If this seems a little on the sparse side in some respects, that's because you get a further USB and Firewire connection on the front panel along with a headphone jack. This is very practical for connecting 'visiting' peripherals without having to crawl around the back of the machine with a torch!

Both the dual 1. When I turned on the G5 for the first time, I was particularly interested in how noisy it would be in my own studio, as I'd previously only seen them at trade shows where the ambient noise level is fairly high. I currently use an earlier MHz G4, which is very reasonable in the noise department, despite the horrendous reputation of some later models. The G5 starts with a flurry of fans that immediately settles back into a gentle whisper, leaving the whine of the hard drive as the loudest audible component of the sound.

Apple Power Mac G5 review - Engadget

There's still more noise than you would want to share a room with if recording something sensitive, but in most instances, setting the mic up at the other end of the room and pointing it away from the computer should suffice. If you stand the computer under your desk rather than next to your ears, the noise level is low enough that it shouldn't prove a distraction when monitoring unless you happen to be monitoring extremely quietly.

I've also checked out a couple of other G5 dual-processor machines that seem to be significantly quieter than the one I had for test, so maybe there is some variation in the types of drives fitted? It turned out that this must be unstuffed using Stuffit Expander version 8 or later — you can unstuff the file in OS 9 using any version of Stuffit Expander, but if you do, OS X sees the file as an unknown document and refuses to play ball with it. So, I spent another hour downloading Stuffit Expander 8, unstuffed the installer on the G5, and everything went swimmingly well. Most pre-G4 Apple computers had line-level audio input and output at quality that was often surprisingly usable, and this has made a welcome return on the G5.

The subjective quality of the inbuilt audio seems really very good and monitoring from the output jack sounded identical to what I was hearing from my In fact I had to double-check that the monitor output really had changed! However, on closer listening with the track not running, some digital crosstalk was evident at higher monitoring levels, so the audio out isn't as noise-free as a serious external interface, but it should be perfectly adequate for many monitoring uses.

A single catch on the rear releases the G5's side panel Photo: Mike Cameron Some benchmarks show the fastest G5 outgunning a dual 3GHz Pentium 4 by up to 35 percent, while others suggest that the Pentium has the edge, but this type of "My Dad is bigger than your Dad! What's more, because the G5s like the later G4s can only run Mac OS X, you have to ensure not only that your main audio applications are OS-X-compliant, but also that all the your favourite plug-ins are too.

The majority of plug-ins are finally becoming available for Mac OS X, though not always in Audio Units versions that can be used directly within Logic and other AU-reliant programs. Though 11 percent doesn't seem like much, it can really add up over the course of a day or week, especially on time-sensitive projects.

Apple Power Mac G5 Quad

The Pentium EE overclocked to 3. CineBench is a multithreaded app, so the more cores or threads your system can handle, the more efficiently your workload gets done. Although the nVidia Quadro FX graphics in our Quad G5 wasn't built for gaming, this is the first Mac with which we could play Doom 3, and at an adequate 61 frames per second at 1,by resolution.

Even with the most powerful graphics card in the arsenal, Doom 3 still runs at a jerky 23 fps at 1,by-1, on the G5 Quad, but again, we think that's because of certain inefficiencies introduced when Doom 3 was ported over to the Mac platform. Thus, you can play Doom 3 and enjoy the storyline and ambiance; just don't expect to play smoothly at the same resolutions as your PC-using buddies. Oh well. The IBM Power4 processor, which the PowerPC G5 processor was based on, was originally developed as a dual- and quad-core processor back in , so it was inevitable that the G5 dual-core would make an appearance; it's just puzzling why its introduction came so late in the process.

We see Apple's eventual move to Intel-based processors as driven by the continual need to improve performance, which is reaching a zenith on the PowerPC G5 platform. In addition to increased performance, solving the problems of heat and power management are at the forefront in Apple's future strategies for mobile and compact computers.


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The reason you haven't seen a PowerBook or Mac mini G5 is because the G5 processors run too hot for those compact form factors. Last, a shift to Intel is attractive due to economies of scale. Using Intel's Pentium processors means that Apple doesn't have to fund CPU development anymore: Apple can just buy off-the-shelf processors for future Macintosh computers. We recommend that professional businesses such as design and engineering firms continue to buy PowerPC-based Power Macs.

Intel-native and universal binary software software that contains both PowerPC and Intel optimized code are likely to lag behind the introduction of the Intel Macs by several months to a year. Since non-Intel-optimized programs are likely to remain current for several years after the introduction of Intel Macs in and , it behooves current Mac houses to buy the current PowerPC Macs as their last pre-Intel upgrade.

For the Mac-centric professionals, the G5 Quad offers the necessary speed and a reason to stick with the PowerPC platform.

Since universal binary and Intel-native code is still in development, if you need the power now , it would be best to get a few G5 Quads for your most productive users and bring the Intel Macs in for testing when they are available. More Desktop Reviews:. His background includes managing mobile, desktop and network infrastructure on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Joel is proof that you can escape the retail grind: he wore a yellow polo shirt early in his tech career.

He is responsible for overseeing PC Labs testing, as well as formulating new test methodologies for the PC Hardware team. Along with See Full Bio.

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Editor Rating: Excellent 4.