A Look at the Dual G5

by Harvey Chao

The New G5

I recently purchased a dual G5 1.8GHz CPU with the basic configuration (80GB HD, SuperDrive CD/DVD read write, 256MB RAM, modem, etc.). This machine is replacing a G4 "Digital Audio" 466MHz machine 1.25GB RAM 40GB HD CD-R/RW drive, and so all observations are compared to that baseline. The new machine has been immediately upgraded by the addition of 1GB RAM (total now is 1.25) and the addition of a 4 Port USB2 PCI card transferred from the old machine . One immediate observation is that it boots and runs a whole bunch faster. No surprise. Both machines are running OS 10.3.8 and no obvious differences are noted in fundamental operation. Basically, the new G5 does pretty much what the old machine did, but faster. Note, the G5 cannot boot in OS 9, but so far Classic seems to address my OS 9 needs and applications.

Some rather indefensible issues drove my decision for the upgrade. The G4's 40GB HD was starting to fill up with a lot of digital photo files. The machine was showing it's processing speed limitations as I worked on digital photo images, so a speed boost was needed (or as Home Improvement's Tim Allen would say, "More power"). The G5 comes with the "Super Drive" that supports CD and DVD reads and burns. Finally, some nice financial circumstances arose that allowed me to be able to do it (see requirements below). I can now pass the G4 on to one of the kids to replace the early beige G3, which I can then pass on to the special ed class that one of my daughter's attends where it will be an upgrade to one of their machines.

The Requirements
The main requirement is having the available funds to purchase. The G5 isn't cheap. Using the EPP discount along with the Mac Guild $75 coupon, this purchase came to $1909 after tax. The retail price of this configuration is $1999 (and that's before tax).

Getting Started
As with most Macs, getting setup is pretty easy. I unpacked the G4 and set it up using a spare monitor, and hooked it via Firewire to the old G4. First booted the new machine, and then booted the G4 while holding down the "t" key. That booted the G4 into some kind of firewire transfer mode that is recognizable by a blue monitor background with a large yellow firewire icon that floats around the screen (kind of like a screen saver). The G5 displays a window inviting the user to select which information shall be transferred from the old to new machine. Basically you can bring over personal settings, ISP, user, applications, data files, etc., to configure the new machine functionally the same as the old machine. This saves a lot of time and hassle. When it is done, you shut down the old machine and the new machine proceeds with some other screens to complete set up. When done, you are good to go on the new machine with all the configuration settings (and if you so choose, applications, data files, user accounts, etc.) of the old machine. Painless.

Next I plugged into the internet and immediately checked for software upgrades (10.3.8, security, and one other) downloaded and installed. I moved the machine to it's permanent location, and plugged in all the peripherals (scanner, printer, external HD, . . .) and was pretty much in business.

Initial Observations
This is a QUICK machine!! It boots in 1/3 the time or less of the old G4. Web pages pop up faster, applications appear to load and execute faster - everything one might expect from such a step up in processors, bus speed, and architecture modernization. It is, so far as I can tell, happily compatible with the Griffin iMate that I use to bridge USB to ADB, and thus use an old Apple Extended Keyboard with the tactile feedback that the newer keyboards lack. F12 on the AEK opens and closes the CD/DVD drawer.

A few applications (especially under Classic) came up with "first time run" windows and needed product "Keys" re-entered, and a few drivers had to be reloaded (again mostly Classis applications). The printer worked fine. A quick check shows all address books, bookmarks, e-mail files, etc., previously on the old machine made the transfer without a hitch. Apple "Mail" and "Safari" applications function as if nothing had changed. I took the opportunity to install Photoshop Expressions 3.0 (upgrade from 2.0) and MS Office 2004 (via LM/Microsoft employee purchase).

I performed some digital photo processing for comparison. This test produced the spinning beach ball for 20 to 30+ seconds on the G4, and on the G5 it "just happens". With this additional processing power, I have now also re-set my camera to record simultaneous RAW and JPEG captures and will start to explore RAW image processing.

There were a couple of early system issues that exhibited themselves as:

I booted from the external HD, ran disk utilities disk repair (which found a few problems) and permission repair, and then rebooted from the G5's internal HD. That seems to have stabilized/cured things, but I can't be sure until I get more hours on the machine. For the moment, I am thinking that these were possibly caused by the problem installing Office. It did, however, make me aware of just how stabile the G4 configuration has been - I can't remember the last time I had any kind of freeze, panic, or unexpected quit.

Initial system problems aside, this is a pretty nifty upgrade for me. I am ecstatic about the increased processing speed and power that I can apply to image processing and manipulation. I'm very happy with my Dual G5, and give it a rating of 4 1/2 out of 5 mice.

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