Intel vs PowerPC
Q. Do you have any idea how good the new Intel Macs are?
A. As an Apple Authorized Reseller, I have access to all manner of models of Macintoshes. Recently I took in the opportunity to test the new Macs in a real world test. To begin with there are a couple of facts that need to be considered. The most important fact is that the PowerPC chip cannot be manufactured to run cool enough to be put in a laptop. Computers generate heat while doing the calculations necessary. So Appleâ€™s first goal was to roll out a laptop with the new Intel chip.
The Intel Core Duo chip is a dual processor chip that can do calculations by splitting the work between the two processors. However, the current chip is a 32-bit processor, which limits the Mac two gigabytes of RAM. The PowerPC G5 is a 64-bit processor and can support up to eight gigabytes of RAM. Adobeâ€™s Creative Suite works best if you can get as much RAM as you can â€“ so the two gigabyte limit in a drawback.
Software manufacturers had previously took advantage of the AltiVec engine built into the PowerPC. Without his many applications will need to rewritten for the new hardware. Companies have had to hire more developers to assist in this task. Apple has developed a technology called Rosetta, which translates the PowerPC code so that it can run on the Intel Macs. While many applications can run with the help of Rosetta, there is a performance cost.
When Apple switched from Motorola 68K chips to the PowerPC and came up with an emulator to help the new machines run the legacy software. Then again in 1999, Apple introduced the MacOS X technology â€œClassicâ€ which allows us to run pre-OSX software. Unfortunately, Classic will not run on the new Intel Macs. As a result legacy applications cannot run the legacy apps.
So should you consider the new Macs? The answer depends on what you are doing. I have been a PhotoShop user since it was introduced so itâ€™s my benchmark application. I tested my G4 laptop, a iMac G5, an stock Intel iMac with 512 MB, a Intel iMac with 2 GB of RAM, a Dual Core G5 and a Quad G5. I created a complex PhotoShop action (PhotoShop is not currently optimized for the Intel chip yet.)
From slowest to fastest: The task took the longest on the 400Mhz G4, followed by the Intel iMacs, the iMac G5, the desktop G5s with the Quad G5 being the fastest by far.
PowerBook G4 (640 MB) Intel iMac
(512 MB) Intel iMac
(2 GB) IMac G5
(512 MB) Dual Core
G5 (2.5 GB) Quad G5
41 sec 23 sec 17 sec 10 sec 6 sec 4 sec
The bottom line is that if you are coming from a G4 (or G3) or older iMac you will see a huge improvement with the Intel Macs. If you are in production with pre-press, printing, photography or video you will not see a benefit â€“ at this time. If you need Classic support then you cannot run your old applications at all. You also may be rewarded by waiting for the 64-bit Intel chips or if you wait for the applications to be made ready. Look of the new â€œUniversalâ€ logo on your apps. Appleâ€™s 30th anniversary on April 1, 2006 may have some surprises as well.