The Fastest of the Fast

Gone is the now-familiar blue and white translucent colour scheme, replaced by what Apple likes to call a graphite colour - essentially, polished silver and blue-grey surfacing. The new, toned-down appearance is visually quite stunning and refined.

We looked at the mid-range 450MHz. For $7295, you receive 128MB RAM, a 133MHz AGP 2x slot with 16MB ATI RAGE 128 AGP graphics card, 20GB Ultra ATA/66 hard drive, CD/DVD-ROM drive and a Zip drive. Also included are two USB ports, two external and one internal FireWire port, allowing for internal installation of FireWire devices. The machine comes with an internal 56Kbps modem, 1MB of backside cache, a 10/100Base-T Ethernet card and an AirPort option. The latter allows for wireless connectivity such as networking via radiowaves at speeds reaching 11Mbps - a feature first implemented in the iBook. Although Apple has decided to keep the sometimes annoying ‘puck' mouse, it is reassuring to see that the company has also kept the swing-open door, providing easy access under the G4's hood.

In December 1999, Apple announced that all new G4s will feature the upgraded Sawtooth architecture, which features in the Mac we used. Herein lies the major difference between high-end G4s and their earlier released counterparts. The first G4 350MHz model shares the Yosemite motherboard with the G3 series. All machines in the G4 Mac range have four PC100 SDRAM slots. Where Yosemite could only accommodate a maximum of 1GB RAM using 256MB or less DIMMs, the Sawtooth motherboard can use 512MB DIMMs and has a capacity of 1.5GB RAM. Apple claims that up to 800Mbps can be pushed through the 100MHz Sawtooth bus. Data transfer between RAM and the processor reaches three times the speed of that on the older Yosemite motherboard.

With the Velocity Engine using Motorola's Altivec technology at its core, the PowerPC 7400 G4 chip makes the G4 the first personal computer able to execute over 1 billion floating point instructions per second, dubbed a gigaflop. This has prompted the US Government to classify the G4 as a supercomputer. The chip allows information to be processed in 128-bit portions rather than 32 or 64bits as with older processors. Applications are being written to make full use of the new improvements, through upgrades, plug-ins or patches; in the case of Adobe's PhotoShop 5.5, the plug-in comes with every new G4.

If you have been waiting for the new improved G4s, this machine may be for you.

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