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SHOOTOUT: Panther versus Tiger

Originally posted April 29th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
May 2nd, 2005 - corrected Doom 3 results
May 9th, 2005 - Motion results added

According to Apple, "...unmodified applications that use the system math functions will get an automatic performance boost on the G5..." when switching from Panther to Tiger. We decided to run some tests to see if we got a speed gain right out of the box with applications that we suspect use system math functions:

Panther Tiger Gain
Maya 6 Software Render 50 sec 47 sec 6.4%
Photoshop CS2 MP Actions 28.2 sec 25.8 sec 9.3%
Motion RAM Preview Render 32.7 sec 28.4 sec 15.1%
AltiVec Fractal Carbon 64K 18.1 mf 18.7 mf 3.3%
Halo "High" 800x600 4X FSAA* 80.7 fps 83.8 fps 3.8%
Doom3 "High" 800x600 4X FSAA* 46.0 fps 50.4 fps 9.6%
Doom 3 High 1920x1200* 29.7 fps 35.4 fps 19.2%

The above tests were performed on the same G5/2.5GHz Power Mac with 8GB memory and Radeon X800 XT graphics card. We booted from indentical drives (10K Raptors), one with Panther (10.3.9) and the other with Tiger (10.4). We ran each test at least twice and double checked settings.

*We goofed on the initial Doom test posting. Apparently, the ATI Displays "Vertical Sync OFF" override was used under Tiger but not under Panther -- making Tiger seem much faster than it really was. Since we can't imagine anyone NOT taking advantage of the speed gain from disabling Vertical Sync with ATI Displays utility, we've updated the Doom 3 results to reflect the benefits of using ATI's overrides. (Ditto for Halo, which also responds well to ATI's Vertical Sync or VSync override.)

We tested Unreal Tournament 2004. We used SantaDuck Toolpak to run all 8 flybys and 7 botmatches at 1920x1200 Max. Panther was 0% to 7% faster than Tiger in every case except the Primeval Flyby where Tiger was 5% faster.

We'll continue to compare Panther and Tiger in the days ahead and report to you any new discoveries. For example, we are finding Tiger and Photoshop CS2 make a potent combination, especially since Tiger addresses the full 8GB of memory and Photoshop CS2 can create a memory cache of up to 3.5GB. The latest caching scheme is so effective, our 500MB file rotate dropped from 20 to 10 seconds the second time we tried it, even though we closed the file between tries.

And did you know that Tiger's Disk Utility supports RAID 10 now?

We're looking forward to testing applications that demonstrate the performance advantage of Tiger's Core Image code. MacWelt has posted their Core Image benchmarks. It's in German, so you might need to use Google to translate it. But the graphs are self explanatory. We plan to play with iMaginator ourselves to see what we can learn and how we can use it in our suite of tests.

Anandtech evaluates Tiger through the eyes of a Windows PC user.

ITinquirer posted a compatibility article for Tiger. (We found two apps that have problems with Tiger: Bryce and Motion.)


Order Tiger (OS X release 10.4) from Apple for $129 or get it bundled with iLife and iWork for $249.

OWC has Tiger for just $99. Plus, they have a special deal where if you buy a TechWorks 1GB DDR400 memory module along with Tiger, you get a $15 rebate.

PowerMax has Tiger for $99 and they throw in a bonus tiger.

The Apple Online Store lets you custom configure your G5 Power Mac. You can do the same if you order from Small Dog Electronics.
Click HERE to buy a Power Mac and Bare Feats get a small commission.

For refurbished, reconditioned, open box (as well as new) 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 and search on the model number.

You can order the single 2GHz G4 upgrade and dual 1.8GHz G4 upgrade direct from GigaDesigns. They are also sold by Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

You can buy the Sonnet Encore/ST G4/1.7GHz upgrade and other CPU upgrades direct from Sonnet, or through Other World Computing and Small Dog Electronics.

PowerLogix has CPU upgrades up to 1.7GHz for the G4 Power Mac. Check with their online store or with Other World Computing.

Other World Computing also offers their own Mercury line of CPU upgrades. They have a special page that helps you figure out what CPU, memory, video, and hard drive upgrades are compatible with your G4 Power Mac.


For your Mac Pro, you have the following 16X PCI Express (PCIe) options:
The GeForce 7300 GT (16X, 256MB, dual-link DVI + single-link DVI port) is the default. We recommend the Radeon X1900 XT (16X, 512MB, two dual-link DVI ports) as a CTO option. It's much faster than the GeForce 7300 GT and just as fast as the expensive Quadro FX 4500. According to Alias/Autodesk, the X1900 XT is the only graphics card without limitations when using Maya 8.5. To custom order your Mac Pro with the Radeon X1900 XT, go to the Apple Store and click on the Mac Pro graphic.

If you didn't order the Radeon X1900 XT with your Mac Pro, you can order the Radeon X1900 XT as an aftermarket kit for your Mac Pro, go to the Apple Store and click on DISPLAYS in the left margin or do a search on "X1900."

NOTE: Mac Pro PCIe graphics cards will not work in Power Mac G5s with PCIe slots -- and vice versa. Nor will Windows PC PCIe graphics cards work in the Mac Pro.

Graphics Card Options for the Dual-Core or Quad-Core G5 with 16X PCI Express slot:
The best option for your Dual-Core or Quad-Core G5 with PCIe slots is the ATI Radeon X1900 G5 Mac Edition released in November 2006. You can buy it directly from ATI's Online Store for $299 (with "trade up" allowance).

It's also sold by Small Dog Electronics and Other World Computing.

The following cards only work on a G5 Power Mac with 8X AGP slot:
The "G5 only" Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, ADC + Dual-Link DVI port) is available from ATI Online Store, Apple's Online Store,, Other World Computing, and Small Dog Electronics. (The MSRP is $299)

Apple's Online Store is no longer selling the GeForce 6800 GT or Ultra, which had Dual-Dual-Link DVI ports (for two 30" Cinemas).

The "G5 only" Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Special Edition (8X AGP, 256MB, ADC + DVI port) is no longer made by ATI.

The following cards work on both the G5 Power Mac (8X AGP) and G4 Power Macs with 2X or 4X AGP:
Other World Computing has the new ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac (2X/4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + VGA ports) graphics card in stock for $259. ATI has it on their Online Store for $249. The SKU number is 100-435058, in case you want to make sure you are getting the right card.

ATI Online Store, and Other World Computing have the Radeon 9600 Pro PC and Mac Edition (4X AGP, 256MB, DVI + Dual-Link DVI port) as well. It's compatible with late model G4 Power Macs and all G5 Power Macs with AGP slots. Priced at $199 MSRP it is the lowest priced AGP graphics card with Dual-Link DVI support.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist