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Information Today, Inc.

Apple's New G5s
Posted Jun 3, 2005 Print Version     Page 1of 1

The slew of late-spring announcements from Apple—the Final Cut Studio pro app suite, upgraded G5s, the new Tiger operating system, and price cuts on Cinema Displays—indicated a coordinated effort on the part of the company to send a single message: If you're going to switch to the Mac, now's the time. Apple knows it's going to take more than just iPods to sell its hardware.

And while Final Cut Studio might be the most exciting development for videographers, the other releases are plenty relevant, since they all should provide tangible improvements to the way FC Studio's apps—Final Cut Pro HD, DVD Studio 4, Motion 2, and Soundtrack Pro—do their jobs. EventDV contributing editor Jeff Sauer will put the whole package through the motions on a new G5 in a future article. In the meantime, we got Apple's take on what sets the new G5s apart from the old.

Two words sum up the improvements: performance and graphics, says Todd Benjamin, senior product marketing manager for Apple's PowerMac division. The top of the line in the second-generation G5s was a 2.5GHz dual-processor system. The new top dog bests that with a 2.7GHz model featuring dual 64-bit IBM server-class processors, both with dual floating points. Combined with Tiger's support for 64-bit virtual memory, that gives the G5s the ability to run powerful applications more efficiently. "64-bit processors allow you to address far more main memory," Benjamin says, "so applications can now be authored to address up to 8GB of main memory, where the previous ceiling was 4GB." Motion 2, for example, is capable of using up to 8GB.

Benjamin says Apple's approach to dual 64-bit processors is more efficient than what's available on the PC side. The dual processors on PCs share the same frontside bus, he says, which can lead to processing conflicts and slowdowns. The new G5s include a dual, independent frontside bus, "so each processor has an individual pipeline," he adds. Along with an ATI 9650 graphics card, that significantly improves the 2.7GHz model's performance over anything Apple has offered previously, Benjamin says. For example, Final Cut Pro HD now can edit two streams of uncompressed HDV simultaneously, he says. "It's not a huge clock speed increase, but it's a first on the platform, and shows just how powerful these processors are," he says.

Though the dual 2.7GHz sits atop the G5 heap (not just in power and speed but in price, at $2,999), the other two new G5s offer many of the same improvements. The dual 2.0GHz and 2.3GHz G5s both come outfitted with an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card and sell for $1,999 and $2,499, respectively. Two years ago, a similar dual 2.0GHz G5 went for $1,000 more.

According to a technical specifications document from Apple, the 2.7GHz G5 rendered a DV project containing multiple effects and filters 113% faster than a 3.6GHz Dell Dimension XPS Gen 4 Pentium 4-based system, and 83% faster than a dual 3.6GHz Xeon-based system. The 2.0GHz model also outpaced the PCs, clocking in at 76% faster than the Pentium 4 and 52% faster than the Xeon. (The Apple tests used Adobe Premiere Pro as the comparison NLE on the PCs, but the same source files.) Similar results were achieved with After Effects, LightWave 3D, and Photoshop.

That doesn't necessarily make the G5 the fastest video-editing system on the block. Apple's tests indicated that the 2.7GHz unit came in about even with a Boxx Tech Series 7300 with dual 2.6GHz AMD Opteron 252 processors, and 30% slower than an Alienware Aurora 5500 with a 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+ (again, in rendering DV content with multiple effects and filters). Of course, those are dedicated video editing systems; the Boxx system, for instance, costs roughly $1,000 more than the G5.

Apple's also made it cheaper to upgrade to one of their Cinema Displays, available in 20" ($799), 23" ($1,499), and 30" ($2,999) configurations, meaning that a 2.0GHz workstation with a 20" display is now cheaper than the workstation alone was two years ago. Apple's Cinema Displays differ from many other flat-panels, Benjamin says, in that they're all-digital from computer to display; many other flat panels require the signal to be converted from digital to analog and then back to digital, he says.

While support for two 20" displays is native to both the 2.0GHz and 2.3GHz configurations, only the 2.7GHz model supports the 30" display. "But the other two can be upgraded to support the 30-inch for $50," Benjamin says, " so you don't have to spend another $500 or $600 on a new graphics card to get the 30-inch support."

All the new G5s come outfitted with a 16X DVD SuperDrive with DVD+R double-layer capability, though Apple won't disclose the drive supplier.

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