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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

REVIEW: Fastest G5 Power Macs
versus Windows PCs
(Page One - CPU Crunching)

Originally posted February 18th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated March 14th with Maya results.

This is the "early 2005" version of what is consistently one of our most popular reports: MAC VS PC. I've "massaged" the report again, removing the 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 and the 2.0GHz AMD Dual Opteron and replacing them with the 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 (FX55) and 2.6GHz AMD Dual Opteron (252). That gives better representation the AMD state of the art. We also added the faster AMD machines to our 3D GAME page.

Though the goal is to shed light on how high end G5 Power Macs compare to high end Windows PCs, this article tends to generate some heat as well. Though the comparision never pleases everyone and though it continues to be a slippery slope, we keep trying anyway.

The Maya test file we used is one posted on the Maya Test Center website. We hope to add the Opteron 252 to this test graph in a few days.

G5 PMac 2.5GHz = Dual G5/2.5GHz Power Mac
G5 PMac 2.0GHz = Dual G5/2.0GHz Power Mac
Xeon 3.4GHz = Intel Dual Xeon 3.4GHz (1MB L2)
Opteron 252 2.6Hz = AMD Dual Opteron 252 (2.6GHz)
Athlon FX55 2.6GHz = AMD Athlon FX55 (2.6GHz)
Pentium 4 3GHz = Intel Pentium 4 3.06GHz

1. I'm often accused of choosing applications that favor the Mac. My only criteria is that the applications run on both platforms. That charge falls flat when you see the fastest Power Mac G5 was fastest in only 2 out of 5 tests on this page.

Though the Dual G5 Power Macs were able to run with the Windows "big dogs" in the CPU intensive tests featured on this page, the 3D graphics tests were a whole other matter. Be sure to check out our "GRAPHICS" PAGE TWO.

2. The first three graphs above show the power of having dual processors. The last two show how non-MP "aware" apps or actions give single processor systems "equal footing" with the dual processor units.

NOTE: The Dual Xeon and Pentium 4 had hyper-threading turned on at all times.

3. All test units had 4GB of 400MHz DDR or DDR2 memory with the exception of the Pentium 4 3GHz which had 2GB of 400MHz DDR. We hope to test a much faster Pentium 4 in the near future but included the numbers for reference.

4. The boot drives in all but the Pentium 4 were 10K Raptors, but the tests we ran and the way we ran them involved little or no disk activity.

5. We didn't specify graphics cards on this page because the tests we ran netted the same results, no matter what card we used. In other words, we successfully isolated the CPU. For the record, all had GeForce 6800 Ultras except the Pentium 4, which had a GeForce 5950.

There is a new trend to involve the graphics card in what has been traditionally a CPU only function. Two examples of applications that involve the GPU are Maya and Motion. We plan to add Maya results in a few days but Motion is Mac only so we won't be including it in this report.

6. I often get asked to do price/performance comparisons on the Mac vs PC. It's hard to do since the price of the Windows PCs vary widely depending on the motherboard used and from whom you buy. I did go to @XiComputer for a quote on the AMD Opteron 252 (Dual 2.6GHz) with 4GB of memory, DVD burner, 10K Raptor boot drive, and 160GB data drive, a configuration that matched the Dual G5/2.5GHz Power Mac we tested. I also ran their numbers for the Intel Dual Xeon 3.4GHz system (same config):
The Dual Opteron 252 quote came in at $5593 (before tax and shipping).
The Dual Xeon 3.4GHz came in at $4197.
The Apple Online Store quote for the G5/2.5GHz Power Mac was $4870 + $179 for the 10K Raptor (ZipZoomFly) for a total of $5079. (Apple typically overcharges for memory. Buying the four 1GB PC3200 modules from sources at "sane" prices drops the overall price of the Mac to $4351.)

Be sure to check out our "3D GRAPHICS Mac vs PC" PAGE.

Anandtech posted a fascinating article comparing the architecture of the G5, Xeon and Opteron. They also compare OS X to Linux.

Apple posted their own "Mac vs PC" page

Apple Online Store

The Apple Online Store lets you custom configure your G5 Power Mac. You can do the same if you order from Small Dog Electronics. If you have an Apple Retail Store in your city, it's always worth a visit to see and feel the different models of Power Macs.

For new and refurbished G5 Power Macs, check with Small Dog and Power Max.

Some of you have asked which G5 Power Mac models are most desirable. Whether you buy a new, refurbished or used G5 Power Mac, I recommend getting a model with 8 memory slots, 100/133MHz PCI-X slots, and 600W Power Supply. The table below gives the model number, etc., of these most desirable G5s.

Model Number
clock speed
intro date
June 2003
June 2003
November 2003
June 2004
June 2004
April 2005
April 2005

All other models have only 4 memory slots, 33MHz PCI slots, 450W Power Supply, and slower frontside bus speeds. If you can't find the model you want at Apple's Special Deals page, Small Dog's site, or Power Max's site, go to Froogle.com and search on the model number.

There are many places to buy PCs. We want to plug WhisperPC since they provided the Intel Dual Xeon 3.4GHz and 3GHz Pentium 4.

The AMD Dual Opteron 252 (2.6GHz) and "Solo" AMD Athlon FX55 (2.6GHz) were provided courtesy of @XiComputer. Be sure to visit their site and play "what if" with various configuations.

All systems we tested had 4 GB of 400MHz PC3200 memory, GeForce 6800 Ultra PCI-Express graphics, and 10K Raptor boot drive.

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2008 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"