Introduction

It is a professional 64 bit Dream machine with supersonic speed! It is beautiful. It is about the ultimate user friendliness. It is about a lifestyle. It is a class apart. You guessed it - I am parroting Apple’s marketing.

For some reason, the performance of Apple’s gorgeous machines has been wrapped in a shroud of mystery. Yes, you could find a benchmark here and there, with one benchmark showing that the PowerMac is just a mediocre PC while another shows it off as a supercomputer, the unchallenged king of the personal computer world.

This article is written solely from the frustration that I could not get a clear picture on what the G5 and Mac OS X are capable of. So, be warned; this is not an all-round review. It is definitely the worst buyer’s guide that you can imagine. This article cares about speed, performance, and nothing else! No comments on how well designed the internals are, no elaborate discussions about user friendliness, out-of-the-box experience and other subjective subjects. But we think that you should have a decent insight to where the G5/Mac OS X combination positions itself when compared to the Intel & AMD world at the end of this article.

If you like a less performance-obsessed article about Apple, OS X and the G5, you should definitely give Anand’s articles in the Mac section on AnandTech a read...

In this article, you will find a pedal to the metal comparison of the latest Xeon DP 3.6 GHz (Irwindale), Opteron 250, Dual G5 2.5 GHz and Dual G5 2.7 GHz.

Scope and focus

Apple’s PowerMac is an alternative to the x86 PC, but we didn’t bother testing it as a gaming machine. Firstly, you have to pay a big premium to get a fast video card – as a standard, you get the ATI Radeon 9650 - even on the high-end PowerMacs. Secondly, there are fewer games available on this platform than on the x86 PC. Thirdly, hardcore gamers are not the ones buying Apples, but rather, creative professionals.

So, we focus on workstation and server applications, especially the open source ones ( MySQL, Apache) as Apple is touting heavily on how important their move to an “open source foundation” is.

The 64 bit Apple Machines were running OS X Server 10.3 (Panther) and OS X Server 10.4.1 (Tiger), while our x86 machines were also running a 64 bit server version of a popular Open Source Operating Unix system: SUSE Linux SLES 9 (kernel 2.6.5). We also included an older Xeon 3.06 GHz ( Galatin, 1 MB L3) running SUSE SLES 8 (kernel 2.4.19) just for reference purposes. Some of the workstation tests were done on Windows XP SP2.

IBM PowerPC 970FX: Superscalar monster
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  • jhagman - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    OK, this clears it up, thanks.

    One little thing still, what is the number you are giving in the ab results table? Is it requests per second or perhaps the transfer rate?

    Reply
  • demuynckr - Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - link

    jhagman:
    As i mentioned before, we used gcc 3.3.3 for all linux, and gcc 3.3 mac compiler on apple, because that was the standard one.
    I did a second flops test with the gcc 4.0 compiler included on the Tiger cd, and the flops are much better when compiled with the -mcpu=g5 option which did not seem available when using the gcc 3.3 Apple compiler.
    As for ab i used these settings,
    ab -n 100000 -n x http://localhost/

    x for the various concurrencies: 5,20,50,100,150.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Guess there's no one arguing that the PPC is not keeping its paces with the current market, but rather OS/X able to do Big Iron computing. And if rumors be true, where will you be able to get a PPC built once Apple drops IBM for Intel?
    In a Usenet debate in 93, Torvalds and Tannenbaum go roasting Mach microkernel vs. the death of Linux. Seems Linus' work will be seeing more light of day, and Mach go the way of the dodo. Will Apple rewrite OS/X for Intel x86/64? As far as practical business sense, that's like shooting off one's leg foot.
    Reply
  • spinportal - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Reply
  • jhagman - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Could you please give the exact method of testing apache with ab? It is really hard to try to redo the tests when one does not know which methodology was used. The amount of clients and switches of ab would be appreciated.

    Also an answer to why Apple's newest gcc (4.0) was not used would be an interesting one and did you _really_ use gcc 3.3.3 and not Apple's gcc?

    Other than these omissions I found the article very interesting, thanks.
    Reply
  • demuynckr - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Yes I have read the article, I also personally compiled the microbenchmarks on linux as well as on the PPC, and I can tell you I used gcc 3.3 on Mac for all compilation needs :). Reply
  • webflits - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    demuynckr, did your read the article?

    "So, before we start with application benchmarks, we performed a few micro benchmarks compiled on all platforms with the SAME gcc 3.3.3 compiler. "


    BTW I ran the same tests using Apple's version of gcc 3.3
    As you can see my 2.0Ghz now beats the 2.5Ghz on 5 of the 8 tests, and a 2.7Ghz G5 would be on par with the Opteron 250 when you extrapolate the results.

    Lets face it, Anandtech screwed up by using a crippled compiler for the G5 tests


    ----------------------------
    GCC 3.3/OSX 10.4.1/2.0GHz G5

    FLOPS C Program (Double Precision), V2.0 18 Dec 1992

    Module Error RunTime MFLOPS
    (usec)
    1 4.0146e-13 0.0140 997.2971
    2 -1.4166e-13 0.0108 648.4622
    3 4.7184e-14 0.0089 1918.5122
    4 -1.2546e-13 0.0139 1076.8597
    5 -1.3800e-13 0.0312 928.9079
    6 3.2374e-13 0.0182 1596.1407
    7 -8.4583e-11 0.0348 344.3954
    8 3.4855e-13 0.0196 1527.6638

    Iterations = 512000000
    NullTime (usec) = 0.0004
    MFLOPS(1) = 827.5658
    MFLOPS(2) = 673.7847
    MFLOPS(3) = 1037.6825
    MFLOPS(4) = 1501.7226
    Reply
  • demuynckr - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Just to clear things up: on linux the gcc 3.3.3 was used, on macintosh gcc 3.3 was used (the one that was included with the OS).
    Reply
  • Joepublic2 - Monday, June 06, 2005 - link

    Wow, pixelglow, that's an awesome way to advertise your product. No marketing BS, just numbers! Reply
  • pixelglow - Sunday, June 05, 2005 - link

    I've done a direct comparison of G5 vs. Pentium 4 here. The benchmark is cache-bound, minimal branching, maximal floating point and designed to minimize use of the underlying operating system. It is also single-threaded so there's no significant advantage to dual procs. More importantly it uses Altivec on G5 and SSE/SSE2 on the Pentium 4, and also compares against different compilers including the autovectorizing Intel ICC.

    http://www.pixelglow.com/stories/macstl-intel-auto...
    http://www.pixelglow.com/stories/pentium-vs-g5/

    Let the results speak for themselves.
    Reply

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