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Psychology 101: Breaking the gigahertz barrier

by Porruka (porruka@macedition.com), January 29, 2002

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It’s been a long time coming. Apple has spent time and money to dispel the thought that it was necessary. We’ve poked fun at it time and again. But our own Gay Blade called it almost perfectly; the gigahertz Mac is finally here. On Monday, January 28, the Apple Store was updated to include new models of the Power Mac G4 desktop as well as new server versions of the hardware.

Apple didn’t announce this to great fanfare; no, it simply added the new configurations to the store and added a “new” bubble to the front page of the store. It’s not like the Mac community hasn’t been awaiting speed bumps since Macworld San Francisco narrowed the gap between Apple’s pro line and the consumer iMac line as to be practically non-existent. But newer machines finally are here.

The new machines do seem to provide a decent boost over the previous offerings. Want a 1GHz PPC chip in your Mac? It’s finally available, but only in a dual configuration. At the same time, though, you also get the ability to drive two monitors out of the box (as long as you don’t mind one ADC monitor and one VGA), a new Nvidia card (the GeForce4 MX) and 512MB of RAM. Don’t have a bunch of cash? You can get the SuperDrive in a machine costing about US$2300. Going for the low end? There’s a decent machine with CD-RW that’s yesterday’s high-end – 800MHz.

Regular desktop machines weren’t the only hardware updated. Apple simultaneously updated the server hardware in parity. If you need a Mac OS X Server machine, you can now choose from 933MHz or dual 1GHz configurations and a variety of additional hardware. Don’t get in too much of a hurry, though, as Apple indicates the servers won’t be available until February.

These machines sport subtle improvements in addition to the bump in chip speed and hard drive capacity, such as an improved cache architecture. These changes give a glimpse into the technology Apple is likely to incorporate into the next generation of machines. However, the newly released machines give a good value for the price, so there is ample incentive to upgrade now if there is a need, rather than await the rumored G5 and new enclosures.

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