Two Against One (11/9/99)

You know, when it comes to relative computer speeds, it's tough to know whom to believe, especially when you're talking about cross-platform comparisons. On the one side you've got Apple's marketing department, making claims that sometimes seem a little shifty: yes, the G3 is "up to twice as fast as the fastest Pentium II"-- as long as you're looking at Bytemarks instead of real-world performance. On the other side there are equally suspicious "facts," like PC Magazine's recent results showing a 550 MHz Pentium III running "four to five times faster" than a 400 MHz G3 in web-rendering tests. And then there are differences in system and application software, hardware configurations, test suites, and the like. We admit it: we find it all more than a little confusing.

That's why we were so happy to stumble upon a head-to-head comparison at Bare Feats that pits a Power Macintosh G4/400 (the Yosemite motherboard version) against a Dell system running Windows NT on two 600 MHz Pentium III chips. Our loyalty to the Mac aside, we fully expected the G4 to get stomped pretty badly. After all, its competition is a dual-processor system built by a well-known manufacturer and running a modern operating system with all those happy buzzwords like "pre-emptive multitasking" and "symmetric multiprocessing" and stuff like that. The Mac, on the other hand, was forced into battle armed with only a single mid-range G4 chip and Mac OS 8.6. To try to even things out a bit, both systems were given 256 MB of RAM and identical Voodoo 3 3D graphics cards.

What do you know? In most tests, the results were very close. The Mac finished slightly ahead in Bryce 3D rendering. When it came to Photoshop, the Dell won hands-down in the Rotate test, the Mac won at Gaussian Blur, and it was almost a dead heat for the Motion Blur race. And for 3D games performance, the Mac had better frame rates in Unreal, while the Dell was a bit faster in Quake 2. The thing to remember, here, though, is that the Mac's single 400 MHz chip was more than holding its own against two 600 MHz Pentiums-- and the Mac actually cost over $2000 less than the Dell. Now that's price/performance. We can't wait to see what happens when Apple ships dual-G4 systems running Mac OS X; in a "fair fight," the Dell would likely get creamed.

SceneLink (1901)
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The above scene was taken from the 11/9/99 episode:

November 9, 1999: Those who tuned in to watch Phil Schiller's QuickTime Live keynote were treated to a slew of new QuickTime developments-- and a bit of PG-13 slapstick. Oh, Phil... Meanwhile, a head-to-head real-world applications test shows that megahertz isn't everything, and Salomon Smith Barney downgrades Apple's stock, claiming that it's "overvalued"...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1900: Is This Thing On? (11/9/99)   Well, as far as Apple-related speeches go, the QuickTime Live one was pretty far down there on the pre-event hype list. A presentation specially scheduled for the press and starring Steve Jobs would rate a 9 or 10, because it's got Steve and it's virtually guaranteed to be chock-full of new product announcements and other surprises...

  • 1902: Downgrade THIS, Buddy (11/9/99)   Leave it to one of those snooty analysts to spoil the party. "Let's see," said a number-cruncher at Salomon Smith Barney. "Apple's completely refreshed all four quadrants of its product line in only six months...

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