Is The Titanium G4/500 (and G4/400) PowerBook Really Faster Than A Pismo or Upgraded Wallstreet?

Post Date: January 19th, 2001
Updated February 12th, 2001 with the G4/400 Titanium and Sony VAIO laptop results.
rob ART morgan, chief test pilot
The original posting is available in FRENCH at

The Mac world is all buzzing about the new G4 PowerBook. It seems a great buy for what you get. But is it so much faster than the "older" PowerBooks that we should sell our old laptop to some poor unsuspecting devil or should we hang on and wait for revision 2?






Performance Analysis

Monkey Business
When it comes to 3D gaming, the new Titanium G4/500 PowerBook is the fastest PowerBook yet. In fact it is just as fast as a dual G4/500 minitower (OS 9) with a RAGE 128 Pro graphics card. But if you are a hard core gamer, that's still not good enough. In that case, you have two choices:
1. Get a desktop with a GeForce2 MX or Radeon or Voodoo5.
2. Wait 6 months and hope that Apple puts the GeForce2 Go or Radeon Mobility chip in Revision Two of the G4 PowerBook.

Strictly Business
Currently, no business software on the Mac takes advantage of the G4. So if you are running MS Office or FileMaker or QuickBooks, your "old" G3/500 Pismo and upgraded Wallstreet/Lombard will run them just as fast as the G4/500 Titanium PowerBook or even a dual G4/500 Power Mac Graphite. (The FileMaker graph above illustrates this reality "non-distortion.")

Velocity Engine To Go
Adding the G4/500 to the PowerBook DOES give a significant boost to Photoshop or Cinema 4D or SoundJam or iMovie or Final Cut or any software that has AltiVec code. I believe there are millions of Mac users who have held back buying a PowerBook or replacing their old one for just that reason. Therefore I predict Apple will sell "billions" of G4 PowerBooks.

Titanium G4/400 versus the Pismo G3/500
I received many emails asking which is a better deal, the new G4/400 or the closeout G3/500 PowerBook. As of 2/12/01, I've appended the numbers for the G4/400 "TiBook." If you take all the tests into account, it's pretty much a tie. If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the Pismo because I like the removable DVD-ROM which I can replace easily with a CD-RW or second battery. And I liked the keyboard better, a lot better. The "blackbird" Pismo looks less junky after being scratched.

But you say, "What about the G4/500 TiBook? Would you choose that over the G3 Pismo?" That's a different story. It's got the speed, man. The power, not just sex.

Titanium versus SONY VIAO laptop
As you can see in the graphs above, I was able to run some tests on the Sony VAIO laptop XG39 sporting an 850MHz Pentium III which sells for $3695 at your local CompUSA. It's faster than the G4/500 TiBook for some things but slower for others. It weighs 7+ pounds and has a 14" screen. I report. You decide.

Cost Analysis

If you use the BTO options on Apple's Online Store to configure the 500 with minimal memory and the smallest drive to match the entry level 400, you can get the 500 for $2999, making it ony $400 more than the 400MHz model.

So now the cost percentage difference drops to 15%. The 500 was overall 22% faster than the 400 in my testing. That makes the 500 seem like the best buy.

Actually, if cost is the factor, you should buy a desktop. G4 PowerBooks are not about pinching pennies. If you want portability with power, you're gonna have to pay for it. Getting a G4/400 Titanium is like getting a Mustang with a six cylinder engine just to save a few hundred. Don't wimp out. Order the G4/500 model or don't order one at all.


Related PowerBook Tests & News has some 800x600 and 1024x768 Quake3Arena frame rates for the G4/400 Titanium PowerBook.

MacWorld Labs compares the G4/500 Titanium with the G3/500 Pismo.

Mike Breeden tests the G3/500 Pismo PowerBook.

Mike Breeden tests the G3/500 Blue Chip PowerBook CPU Upgrade.

1/29/2001 -- Toshiba introduced the new Satellite 2805 Series Notebooks that uses the nVIDIA GeForce2 Go graphics chip. Apple, are you listening?

2/5/2001 -- Today, ATI Technologies announced their Radeon Mobility is ready for use in notebooks around the world. Apple are you listening?

2/7/2001 -- Sony announced their new FX Laptop line with CD-RW/DVD drive. Apple, are you listening?



Where To Buy

Visit the Apple Online Store to pricing on the new G4 PowerBooks. (Try playing with Build-To-Order options.)

If you live in Hawaii, shop at Mac Made Easy or CompUSA

If you shop online, Small Dog Electronics offers new and refurbished PowerBooks.

Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics have heavily discounted upgrades from Newer Technology (rest in peace).

MacGurus and Other World Computing (OWC) are selling the Blue Chip G4/500 upgrade for Wallstreet and Lombard. (OWC is selling it for $619. Add a 20GB TravelStar drive for only $210 more.)

Trans Intl has newest, fastest IBM TravelStar 32GH (32GB 5411 rpm) 2.5 inch drive for $525. If that's too rich for your blood, try the 20GB TravelStar 4200rpm for $250. It's almost as fast for a lot less.


Test Specs & Procedures

Test machines included an
Apple G3/233 Wallstreet PowerBook, G3/500 Pismo PowerBook, a G400 Titanium PowerBook, a G4/500 Titanium PowerBook, and a dual G4/500 Power Mac minitower. Some bar charts include the Sony VAIO model XG39 with 850MHz Pentium 3.

The PowerLogix Blue Chip G3/500 with 1MB L2 cache and the Newer Technology MAXpowr PB-G3/466 with 1MB L2 cache were installed in the PowerBook Wallstreet G3/233 along with an optional 20GB TravelStar 4200rpm courtesy of Trans Intl. Both CPU upgrades are priced at $699 before discount.


Id Software's
Quake III Arena (Build 117) was run in the following Graphics Setups:
a) FASTEST at 640 x 480 x 16 bit and
b) NORMAL at 800 x 600 x 32 bit.
TEST: When the main screen appears, I press "~" and enter "timedemo 1" (return) and "~" once more. Then I click on DEMOS and run DEMO001. Once it finishes and returns to the main screen, I press "~" once more to get the frames per second readout.

Adobe Photoshop 5.5 was given 103MB of application size. The test file was a 10 MB Photoshop photo. This is a new test I call "Foto 20." It includes 20 actions plus several "undo's." It does all the actions nonstop. I use a stopwatch to time it from when I click "BEGIN" to when it says "DONE." A DEMO version of Photoshop 6.0 is available from Adobe if you want to test your own machine. My test action file is available on request.

Casady & Greene's SoundJam MP Plus 2.5.2 was used to convert a 2.5 minute music selection into MP3 using default settings. With a stop watch, I timed it to the nearest tenth of a second. (A DEMO version is available from their website.)

Maxon Cinema 4D 6.1 is an award winning 3D modeling application. I used the "scene0.c4d" document from their Cinebench 2000 benchmark application. I invoked RENDER (Shift + R). It keeps track of the rendering time to the nearest whole second. (A DEMO version of Cinema 4D is available on their website as well as a copy of Cinebench 2000.)

I used the newest 2.01 version of Apple's iMovie. I ran the "render titles" function as a test since it's so CPU intensive. I typed in a two line title ("My Great Movie by rob ART mog") using default settings. Then drag/dropped it in the "story line." I used a stopwatch to time how long it took to render the 188 frames. (You can download a copy of iMovie 2.01 from Apple's web site for $49.)

The FileMaker test is courtesy of Paul Fabris, IS Manager of Market Connections Inc., Toronto, Canada ( It's a 12 action test file that can operate on a sample database containing from 1000 to 10,000 records. I chose the 2000 record option. It posts the total time in whole seconds. (More about this test later as I hope to dedicate a page just to FileMaker comparison of various machines.)



Some pages are translated into FRENCH by MacGeneration.

LINKS to SPEED tests on other web sites


DOWNLOADS that add more SPEED


Rob Art Morgan
Publisher &
Chief Test Pilot   




© 2001 Rob Art Morgan.
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