The Good Much faster than past Power Macs; quiet; can be used as a serious workstation for a fraction of the cost.
The Bad Limited internal expansion capabilities; case is big and heavy; ships with outdated keyboard and mouse; not cheap.
The Bottom Line Whether it's the world's fastest PC is up for debate, but the Power Mac G5 delivers top-notch performance for creative pros and power users.
Apple Power Mac G5
Editors' note: Apple recently updated its Power Mac G5 line, which now has three dual-processor configurations with speeds up to 2.5GHz. We hope to bring you updated performance results for the new 2.5GHz dual-processor model and news about the other technology and features improvements. Check back here soon. (6/11/04)
Although Mac and PC camps will probably never resolve their claims of having the "fastest personal computer," the Power Mac G5 is nonetheless an epochal leap for Apple, as it addresses G4 shortcomings such as lack of CPU speed, choked bus architecture, and tired case design. The 1.6GHz, single-processor base model starts at $1,999 and ramps up to $2,999 for a 2GHz dual-processor model with plenty of extras. We tested the dual-processor G5 with added memory totaling 2GB, upgraded graphics in the form of ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro card, and Apple's stunning 20-inch Cinema Display, which, among other extras, brings the total system price to a whopping $5,926. For the quality, the included software, and the flexibility of a Unix-based desktop that can do much of what a $20,000 Sun workstation can do, however, the Power Mac G5 is worth every penny for power users and creative professionals. And iMac fans looking for a jolt will find lots to like in the single-processor G5 models.
As car design has moved from the jelly-bean Taurus to the sharp creases of the new Cadillacs, the Power Mac G5 changes from the molded plastic of the Power Mac G3 and G4 to the industrial and machined idioms of recent PowerBooks, with a squared-off, brushed-aluminum case. Some may not like its cold, serverlike appearance, but we appreciate its clean lines and functional design.
The face of the G5 looks relatively nondescript, with only an optical-drive door, a power switch, and (finally) headphone, USB 2.0, and FireWire 400 jacks interrupting an expanse of perforated metal. Holes on the front and back maximize the cooling airflow, as the G5 processor (IBM's PowerPC 970) runs hotter than Motorola's G4. Inside, the OS monitors nine fans according to temperatures in four thermal zones, minimizing fan activity to keep the G5 one of the quietest Macs in recent memory.
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