Apple Computers Australia Pty Ltd Boot Camp Public Beta

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Apple Computers Australia Pty Ltd Boot Camp Public Beta

Pros

  • Easy installation, Excellent Performance, ground-breaking

Cons

  • Nothing to speak of

Bottom Line

If you have an Intel-based Mac and feel the need to run Windows XP, this program will perform brilliantly

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It works. Impressively well. With games, even. That's our first impression of Windows XP running under Apple's Boot Camp on our 20-inch iMac. And that's more than we could say about the promising-but-hacked-together WinXPonMac effort. (You can download Boot Camp from here.)

Eager to get our hands on a real, dual-booting Apple/Windows hybrid, we ran the Boot Camp installer on a 20-inch iMac and found the process amazingly smooth. It took about an hour. Graphics drivers -- the major remaining performance hurdle under WinXPonMac -- were solid and responsive under limited testing on our iMac.

Booting with Boot Camp

Boot Camp requires the latest version of Mac OS X (version 10.4.6) and a firmware update (a very loud, un-Mac-like system beep is normal at the start of this process). Once you've properly updated your system, you can download, install, and run Boot Camp Assistant, which burns a CD of Windows drivers for you and walks you through the process of repartitioning your Mac and installing Windows XP.

We chose to give XP a 100GB partition and inserted our XP Service Pack 2 CD to begin the installation process. XP's familiar, pixelated installation process went normally, and the Boot Camp manual provided intelligent directions about how to tell XP which partition to use and how to format that partition. (If you choose FAT instead of NTFS, you'll be able to write files to the XP volume while you're running Mac OS.)

On our iMac test machine, Boot Camp was endearingly smart about automating the series of required reboots to get you set up in XP. Once XP was set up to our satisfaction, we held down the Option key while rebooting and used the boot loader to hop back into OS X.

Once there, I used the Startup Disk preferences page that Boot Camp installs to ensure that XP was set as the default OS. Boot Camp installs a corresponding Control Panel app in Windows so you can change this setting in either OS.

Performance?

Back in Windows, we got right down to business and installed a few games to put the graphics and sound support to the test. The quick and dirty verdict on performance? Most impressive. Doom 3 and Far Cry both ran smoothly with high-end graphics options turned on. In both cases, we had to tweak visual settings manually, since the games automatically set themselves to very low settings. Far Cry, for example, auto detected very low settings, but it ran without a hitch when I bumped the resolution up to 1280 by 720, with all visual quality options set to "High."

Our 20-inch iMac came with a 2.0-GHz Core Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card with 128MB of GDDR3 memory. That's roughly equivalent to a high-end laptop machine, and anecdotally the performance we obtained was about what we'd have expected from that type of PC.

No hitches so far

So far, working in Windows on the Intel-based iMac has come off without a hitch: If not for the slicker-looking hardware, we'd think we were working on a standard Windows PC with a wide-screen monitor. And that's exactly what you'd want from a usable dual-boot system.

Firefox downloaded and installed flawlessly, and iTunes streamed songs easily from other PCs on the network. Both wired and wireless networking seemed fine. Little things, like the eject key on the Mac's keyboard worked without a hiccup. Even automatic driver updates downloaded and installed easily.

All in all, Boot Camp looks like an impressive effort from Apple.

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