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Motorola offers 300-MHz Mac

The clone will take aim at Intel with a PowerPC processor in a system selling for less than $2,900.

    Motorola Computer Group (MOT) today announced a new Mac clone system with a 300-MHz PowerPC processor for less than $2,900, one-upping Intel on pricing and offering additional competition in the Macintosh OS system market.

    The StarMax 5000/300 is being targeted for use in corporate and small or home office environments and by graphics professionals. The 300-MHz 603e PowerPC processor is expected to offer better performance than systems using Intel's Pentium processors, according to one industry analyst.

    "Our estimates show that the 300-MHz 603e offers higher performance than any of the Pentium chips available today and is getting close to the Pentium Pro," according to Linley Gwennap, editor in chief and publisher of the Microprocessor Report.

    Gwennap says the estimates are based on industry standard benchmarks under the Unix operating system but cautions that it is difficult to judge performance when comparing standard applications under the Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

    "There's a lot of performance [of the PowerPC] left on table right now," Gwennap says of the new Mac systems coming out. "Some of the Mac vendors are just getting to using a 50-MHz bus, and that is really constraining the output of the processor."

    The bus speed is the rate at which the processor sends data to the rest of the system. The new Motorola system uses a motherboard that has a 50-MHz bus speed, an increase over other systems in the StarMax line.

    "Regardless of whether a system has a Pentium or PowerPC, it needs a fast bus. The fact that Apple and Mac vendors are lagging in bus speed makes it more difficult to deliver the same level of application performance" on a per-MHz basis, Gwennap notes.

    Motorola's new systems will have 512K of secondary cache to help ensure that the processor is fed a steady stream of data to compensate for the bus speed.

    The 5000/300 will come with 32MB of RAM, a 16X CD-ROM drive, and an ethernet network connection card. A 4.3GB hard drive and 100 MB Zip drive from Iomega for data storage and backup are standard.

    The new system will have a suggested retail price of $2,899, and a system with the a high-end graphics card will sell for $3,399.

    Although clone makers have generally been quicker to market with systems using the fastest available processors, Apple introduced systems using the same processor ahead of the Motorola announcement. Both systems won't be available until May, though.

    Meanwhile, IBM will announce that its 250-MHz 604e processor will be available in volume this month. Systems using this processor are not expected to be readily available until May.

    Gwennap notes that it's not unusual to have a few glitches when employing a new manufacturing process but added that most of the delay was caused by the premature announcement in mid-March of new systems from Umax and Power Computing. (See related story)