Well, Steve Jobs trotted his Reality Distortion Field out on to stage yet again at MacWhirled this week, with the Field running at full strength to aide the introduction of Apple's newest products. Naturally, we watched the news coming out of the show with our usual mix of interest, anticipation, and amusement. The Field was under enormous strain as Apple's circa-late-1999 desktop computer technologies made their debut. Among them:
Although most of the tech world has hailed the changes as a Good Thing, Mac zealots will no doubt be dismayed by this obvious design compromise. It seems Apple sold out for the MHz. But not to worry, Mac lovers. The new G4+ won't be available at higher speeds for a couple of months, and even then, they'll top out at 733MHz, easily preserving your badge-of-honor clock speed disadvantage.
Of course, Steve Jobs and the Apple hype machine kicked it into high gear, once again using their tired Photoshop-only "benchmarketing" numbers. This page on Apple's web site provides a classic example of the technique:
In fact, at speeds of 5.5 gigaflops, the new 733MHz PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine is up to 57% faster than a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4. (1)Uh huh. And it's up to 300% slower than that same Pentium 4, in the right scenario. Check out the footnote their performance claim references:
(1) Based on a suite of performance tests using Adobe Photoshop 6.0.Apparently, certain, undisclosed operations and/or filters in Photoshop 6.0 are the most relevant and useful way to measure processor performance. But oddly, I have tested a Pentium 4 in Photoshop 6 myself recently, and it didn't return any numbers in gigaflops. (I can report that PS6 is significantly slower on the PC than PS5.5. Adobe's mighty optimizations are impressive.)
In reaction to the news, TR reader John Rector helpfully sent along SPECint95 and SPECfp95 scores for the 733MHz G4+ and for a 750MHz AMD Athlon. These test numbers are in FLOPS and MIPS, and they don't paint such a pretty picture. He writes:
[The 733MHz G4+] put up SPECInt95 of 32.1 and SPECfp95 of 23.9. Comparing that to an Athlon, at 750MHz it scores 32.9 on the integer test and 26.5 on the fp side. So if the x86 world were still at 750MHz, things would be pretty even ...So Apple's literature should read:
In fact, at speeds of 5.5 gigaflops, the new 733MHz PowerPC G4 processor with Velocity Engine is up to 50% slower than a 1.5 GHz Pentium 4. (1)..with the caveat, of course:
(1) 99% of the time. Not counting the Adobe Photoshop 6.0 Unsharp mask filter at 50/3/7/0 settings. On Tuesdays.
Then again, NVIDIA's move into the Mac market is an unqualified Good Thing in the long run, and I expect current Mac owners should now be able to slap any flavor of GeForce card into the AGP slot, download the drivers, and become a one-button-mouse Quake maniac.
You see, because it's Super.
Thing is, Apple already has a drive capable of reading multiple formats. And it's Super, too. In fact, it's a SuperDrive. From an online tech terms glossary:
SuperDriveBack in 1986, you couldn't even swap a text file on a floppy disk between a Mac and PC, because Macs used a funky proprietary floppy disk format that required a variable-speed floppy drive. But all that changed with the SuperDrive. Now, you could be incompatible in a broad range of formats.
A Macintosh® floppy drive that can access several different disks (e.g., 400kB, 800kB, and 1.4 MB, and PC disks).
No word yet on how the new SuperDrive will handle 800K floppies. But to celebrate the SuperDrive's return, we present this tribute to the SuperDrives of the world:
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