Visit the all-new Tech Night Owl Store
  • Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page
  • Visit the all-new Tech Night Owl Store
    Namecheap.com





  • The Mac Hardware Report: Ready to Ditch Your PowerPC Yet?

    November 23rd, 2006

    When Apple’s momentous switch to Intel processors was announced in June 2005, Steve Jobs said that the migration would continue until the end of 2007. Now maybe that’s what Apple felt at the time, but, as most of you know, the entire process was completed 16 months early, in August.

    At the same time, a number of tech writers said that the long, slow process of moving to another processor family would halt Mac sales big time. More and more customers wouldn’t want to buy existing models, knowing that they’d be obsolete real soon. Well, maybe that’s a large reason why Apple rushed to get its work done, although there were some hardware defects that may have resulted, as owners of the first MacBooks and MacBook Pros could tell you. Not that it happened to me, mind you. I suppose I am destined to always miss all the fun.

    But there were still reasons to stick with the PowerPC. If you needed to use a Classic Mac OS application, you were out of luck with a MacIntel, since Classic no longer exists. Yes, there are third party possibilities under development, but they don’t appear to be good enough to use for real work. This remains a significant issue, unless you can find a Mac OS X variant that’ll get the job done.

    Now none of this has affected me in any way, since I can’t remember launching the Classic environment in the past two years. I keep the Mac OS 9 System Folder around, probably out of inertia, on my remaining Power Mac. Maybe I’ll ditch it some day, when I feel I need the drive space.

    Then there is Rosetta, the clever technology that lets you run PowerPC applications on an Intel-based Mac. Yes clever, but not terribly speedy. Apple doesn’t really quote real specs, except to say that you’ll get good performance with most of your legacy software. It all depends on what you consider to be good, and whether that’s acceptable to you.

    If you depend on, for example, Adobe Photoshop to process large images, and you have a fairly recent Power Mac G5 at hand, you would expect a fairly decent speed hit at first. Over time, Rosetta’s speed has improved by roughly a third, according to various benchmarks. This has become a fairly significant matter. In fact, Photoshop runs about as fast on a Mac Pro as on any recent Power Mac G5, give or take a few percentage points. You wouldn’t notice the difference without a stop watch in most cases.

    Rosetta really suffers most, however, when it comes to application launch times, where it still doesn’t always approach that of a PowerPC. On my MacPro, for example, Microsoft Entourage 2004 seems particularly lethargic proceeding from the opening screen to the mail window.

    When it comes to older PowerPC games, you’ll probably get playable performance on the speediest Intel-based Mac. But you have to hope for Universal versions of the more recent titles that stretch the capabilities of your processor.

    The situation becomes a little more debatable on the lower-cost Macs that use Intel’s integrated graphics. Here, anything that stresses the graphics hardware is apt to suffer, although playback of digital video seems to be fairly good, at least according to most test reports.

    At this point, however, unless you are one of the few who buys a new Mac every year or so, any MacIntel will provide a huge performance boost. Universal applications launch a lot faster than you have a right to expect, and Mac OS X components, such as the Finder, seem to have taken a few huge doses of steroids.

    Is it time to ditch the PowerPC? If you don’t need Classic, if you haven’t upgraded computers more frequently than once every two or three years — a fairly normal figure — the answer is yes. Even if you have a fairly recent Power Mac G5, you might want to start saving your spare change.



    Share
    | Print This Article Print This Article

    15 Responses to “The Mac Hardware Report: Ready to Ditch Your PowerPC Yet?”

    1. Robert Pritchett says:

      I’l save my change alright. I have a couple of iMac G5’s, with the latest purchased just before the Mactel iMac came out, so it will be a while (say after Leopard is released, rev 2?) before I can “update”. I still have to completely pay for these units! I think the “tipper” on the scale will be when Adobe CS3 is released as a Ubinary. Software applications drive hardware purchases. Let’s see what surprises are in store, come MacWorld Expo in January.

    2. Mr. Muckle says:

      Oh, come on. I have a 2GHz dual G5 PowerMac from 2004. It’s a great computer and not nearly ready for retirement. I haven’t seen any reason whatsoever to even consider upgrading, except maybe four drive bays in the new one. Na ganna even think about a MacBook or a mini until Leopard comes out.

    3. Andrew says:

      I have a G5 iMac and a G4 mini and see no reason to upgrade either. They are used mostly for database forms entry, finance and word precessing, tasks that a Mac Pro would only shave a few seconds from at most. The PPC is alive and well in my office.

    4. Mark K says:

      I have a fully tricked out Dual 2 Ghz PowerMac G5, several top 3D video cards, RAID O pair of Raptors, several hard drives, a 23″ ADC and a whopping 30″ ACD, Photoshop 7.01x and family, lots of software, 3D games, several EyeTV 500’s (for HD video from cable). The original Coverflow that can go full screen (back the computer date a year) on the 23″ and Volume Logic hooked up to a 1000 watt 5.1 surround sound system. This machine is near perfect, I’m staying on 10.4.7 and iTunes 6.05 and not upgrading a thing, not interested in buying any iTMS movies or TV shows that I can get free on TV or buy the entire series or rent from Netflix. I have over 10,000 songs, stuff I haven’t even listened too yet or had a chance to convert to Mp3. In other words my dream machine does everything I need it to do. Security issues from the internet I can regulate myself or eventually take the machine offline and use a cheap Mac online instead. I’m not interested in EFI snitching Intel Mac’s, downloading and running programs before the OS even loads sort of sneakware that’s coming down the pipe. My machine is mine and not the computer industries to determine what software I can and cannot run to access my hardware. The Playstation 3 is a very nice 3D gaming machine and a much cheaper choice, plus plays BlueRay DVD’s, plus it can access the internet with a optional keyboard. What’s going to happen to computers now?

    5. Jeremy G says:

      I find myself absolutely stuck. I NEED Classic to read thousands of Global Village faxes required for legal reasons. At the same time, I fear liquid cooling in an electronic device, and with reason, as the continuing trickle (ha!) of cooling-system failures on recent PPC Macs shows. Don’t know what to do except try to keep my old Dual G4 867 (MDD) going for longer than I normally would have (5 years).

      On an assymptotic matter, does anyone know of a high-quality USB fax-modem that works with the most recent OS X systems?

    6. I find myself absolutely stuck. I NEED Classic to read thousands of Global Village faxes required for legal reasons. At the same time, I fear liquid cooling in an electronic device, and with reason, as the continuing trickle (ha!) of cooling-system failures on recent PPC Macs shows. Don’t know what to do except try to keep my old Dual G4 867 (MDD) going for longer than I normally would have (5 years).

      On an assymptotic matter, does anyone know of a high-quality USB fax-modem that works with the most recent OS X systems?

      Can those Global Village faxes be exported to any other programs.

      Actually, it’s power supply failures on the Power Mac G5, much of it covered under an expanded warranty program from Apple.

      USB fax modem? I use Apple’s with good success.

      Peace,
      Gene

    7. Steve says:

      USB fax modem? I use Apple’s with good success.

      I can’t get my Mac Pro’s external USB modem to connect to the internet faster than 28.8 kbps. Using the same phone numbers, physical connection, and wiring, my G4 tower’s internal modem usually would connect at 46.6.

    8. Jeremy G says:

      Gene and Steve, my thanks to you both.

      MacIntouch reports coolant leaks too, Gene, and I wonder if we’ll hear about more as the last generation of G5s ages. Coolant leaks, though perhaps rarer than power-supply failures, typically result in greater catastrophes.

      My attempts to export from Global Fax’s proprietary format have thus far failed, attempting to export to Neo Office. However, there are other word processors that I can try. I shall report back if any work. I am assuming (please correct me if this is wrong, Gene) that a w-p program is the type to which to restrict myself.

      The few reviews I’ve read of Apple’s current USB faxmodem (an external) report similarly to what Steve says, so I search for something more sophisticated than that.

      Again, thank you both.

      Jeremy

    9. jack s. says:

      Regarding Global Faxes there are Classic utilites that can convert them to pdf format….

    10. The few reviews I’ve read of Apple’s current USB faxmodem (an external) report similarly to what Steve says, so I search for something more sophisticated than that.

      They’re not official reviews, for the most part. My personal experience has been largely different, which is that I get about the same connection speed as with the standard internal modem on previous Macs. Alas, with modems, it’s always been this way. Mixed experiences, depending on whom you ask.

      As to the coolant failures, no doubt there are a few. There are always a few failures of some sort in one category or another for every model, but it’s not widespread, thank goodness.

      Peace,.
      Gene

    11. Steve says:

      Alas, with modems, it’s always been this way. Mixed experiences, depending on whom you ask.

      I was sufficiently annoyed already with spending $2500 (plus extra memory, hard drive, 23″ monitor, software upgrades, etc.) for a computer and still having to pay another $50 for it to be able to connect to the internet and send faxes. Then for it to perform much more slowly than my G4 tower or my 7500 has not made me a happy camper. I’m hoping to calm down enough about it to call Apple to see if they have any suggestions.

      It’s funny how the internet connection is so much of how we perceive the speed of the computer.

      The good news is that the Universal version of Kontakt 2 just came out, I put my order in last night. I already have Digital Performer and FM8, so maybe if I get all those going and use a bunch of virtual instruments and real-time effects, I can start making those four processors do more than lope along for a change.

    12. Dave says:

      I purchased my iMac G5 on the day after Thanksgiving last year during the “Feast after the Feast” sale. I replaced an iMac DV that was purchased in February 2000, so I’m obviously not a frequent upgrader. Although my G5 iMac has been flawless and suits my needs just fine, it was still frustrating to see the Intel iMacs come out two months later after the iMac line had just been upgraded about a month or so before I bought mine. I understand that computer puchases aren’t the latest and greatest for very long, but for somebody that had waited almost six years to upgrade, it was frustrating. But I certainly don’t have any plans to upgrade soon since I have no use for Windows and the PPC works great for what I do.

    13. Bill says:

      Faxes are usually stored in TIFF format, which is a graphics file, not a word processor format.

      Try downloading the latest version of GraphicConverter X and see if it can read your faxes:

      http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/11559

    14. Sean Sommerfeld says:

      My G4 PB 12″ is fine for now. I do wish Apple would add an ultraportable to the MBP line.

      I’ve noticed over the years though, that my computer lives on my desk most of the time anyway.
      Perhaps I’d try a bigger laptop, for the extra screen space.

      If Intel’s Santa Rosa chipset supports memory addressing for 4GB of RAM in a portable, I think I’d try one of next year’s 17″ MBPs.

      I just haven’t found the current range of MBPs compelling enough to plunk down the $$$$ Apple is charging.

      Also, I’m waiting for Adobe. Never hurts to wait to buy a computer; it’s not like they make ’em slower as time goes by…

    15. My G4 PB 12″ is fine for now. I do wish Apple would add an ultraportable to the MBP line.

      I’ve noticed over the years though, that my computer lives on my desk most of the time anyway.
      Perhaps I’d try a bigger laptop, for the extra screen space.

      If Intel’s Santa Rosa chipset supports memory addressing for 4GB of RAM in a portable, I think I’d try one of next year’s 17″ MBPs.

      I just haven’t found the current range of MBPs compelling enough to plunk down the $$$$ Apple is charging.

      Also, I’m waiting for Adobe. Never hurts to wait to buy a computer; it’s not like they make ‘em slower as time goes by…

      Depending on your needs, the MacBook may be just what you want, and it starts at $1,099. In fact, all of Apple’s current MacBooks and Pro versions are priced pretty much in the same area as previous PowerPC-based models, so I don’t see where that’s so much of an issue.

      As to Adobe’s forthcoming Creative Suite applications, Apple has sped up Rosetta emulation to the point — particularly with 10.4.8 – where today’s Apple notebooks can match or exceed performance of the PowerBooks with most of these applications.

      Peace,
      Gene

    Leave Your Comment