This is, quite possibly, one of the most difficult articles to write; for starters, it's not a review of hardware, and it's not actually a review of anything concrete - it is a review of an experience. We all go about using our computers knowing that if we don't like something about them, if they are too slow or too unreliable or don't do something we need them to do, then we can upgrade them, or we can swap out the faulty part and put in a new one. Now, it costs us money (sometimes lots of it), but it is possible. But much like the U.S. election system, although there may be the illusion of multiple options for your OS, in reality, there is really only one. If you want any sort of software compatibility, driver support and don't want to be made fun of, Windows is the way to go. There have been righteous attempts by smaller OSes to gain traction, and some of them have (e.g. Linux), but for the most part, we're dealing with a one-party OS system. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing; quite contrary, in fact. I believe that Windows XP is the best thing to ever come out of Redmond and I have very few issues with the OS. I actually liked the XP theme when it first came out and I've been happier with Windows XP than any previous Microsoft OS (except maybe the good ol' DOS days). When installed on the right hardware with the right drivers (and with an eye to be wary of poorly written apps), I found that Windows XP was just as stable as any other OS that I'd ever encountered. My personal machine would go months between reboots without a single problem. It's not that there is anything wrong with Windows; it's that if you want the option, if there's any particular thing that you don't like about the way Windows works, you're straight out of luck.

I think that a bit of me was feeling, after being a strictly Windows user ever since version 2.0 (with the requisite mix of DOS back then), that there were a couple of things that had started to annoy me about Windows, which I would rather do without.

For starters, heavy multi-tasking management under Windows had caused me a lot of grief. Maybe it's just because of the nature of my work, but I tend to have a lot of windows open at any given time. I like quick access to the information that I need when I'm working and much like a messy desk, there is a method to my window-madness that only I know. When writing an article (especially big NDA launches), I'd have around 20 IE windows open, Outlook with another 5 - 15 emails, Power Point with NDA presentations, Word with my article, maybe Dreamweaver if I was starting to put it into HTML, not to mention Acrobat, some sort of MP3 player, Trillian and a bunch of explorer windows as well. After a certain point, the cramped taskbar became difficult to use as a locator tool, and while I could ALT+TAB forever, I just felt like I was idle for too long. I knew what it was that I needed to get to, and I knew I had it open, but the process of getting to it was a pain.

The other issue was with the way Windows handled having so many windows opened; after a certain number of windows were opened, stability and performance both went down the drain. Sometimes applications could no longer spawn additional windows or dialog boxes, requiring me to close a handful before I could continue doing anything, and other times, applications would simply crash.

It's not that I was dissatisfied with Windows and the PC experience in general, but I thought it might be time for something new - to see what else was out there.

I've always been a fan of trying alternate Oses - I was even an OS/2 user (both 2.0 and Warp) for a little while in my early years. So, a while back, I conjured up this idea to try using a Mac for a month. At first, it started as just a personal experiment, but it later developed into the foundation for the article that you're reading now. After doing the necessary research to make sure that I could actually get work done on a Mac, I whipped out the trusty credit card and decided to give the experiment a try.

What you are about to read are my impressions, as a devout PC user, of the Apple way of life.

The Basics
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  • jecastej - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    Sorry, they updated the review with G5 2.5, dual Xeon and dual opteron. New path:

    http://www.barefeats.com/pentium4.html
    Reply
  • CindyRodriguez - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    I'm not looking for Anand to praise the Mac, I'm looking for a good article and sorry, i'm not seeing it. If Anand lauded praise on the Mac and got all the details about the machine and the OS wrong, I'd be complaining about that too.

    This is an experience piece, but as I said, I'd have appreciated it much more if would wrote it as a newbie then actually learned about it to comment out the junk.

    #27 Your explanation for why Apple is "forced" to make dual machines is laughable. It's merely a matter of MHz? The PPC 970 is shipping at 2.5 GHz while the Athlon64/Opteron is shipping at 2.4 GHz. AMD has Apple/ibm beat on memory performance but a 970 can perform more operations per clock than a *hammer core. They are both good chips.
    Not only that, Apple initally released the line with two single processor models and one dual, then they moved to two duals, then they moved all dual as they speed bumped 25%.
    The reality is more along the lines of.. the machine is designed for dual cpus so the cost of nearly doubling performance is minimal compared to a PC where you need a lower volume dual board with a potentially different chipset and dual ram banks for opterons.

    #22 You brought up an excellent point. With the release of 10.3, the official gcc tree had NO optimizations for the PPC 970. The IBM Design lead for the 970 told arstechnica that they modified gcc to optomize the G5 a bit like a Power4 and a bit like a G4 because it shared characteristics of both chips, but it was more different than just the amalgam of them.
    Current OS X software is horribly under-optomized for the G5. Our researchers have been using IBMs xlc and xlf compilers with real PPC 970 and G5 support and his code is way faster than gcc code. Initially they were seeing an average speed up of 30-40 percent but he recently told us that some code is running twice as fast.
    Reply
  • cosmotic - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    You didn't compare things like ... benchmarks to the speed of a PC... Granted the Mac *feals* sluggish, look at benchmarks and real-world preeformance of things like PS Filters, rendering, etc.

    http://www.barefeats.com/pentium4.html

    Also, your forgetting that Mac's come with Firewire 800, optical audio in/out, etc. PC Workstatioins don't come with this.

    As for OS Sluggishness, Many times Apple traded performance for smoothness. How often do you resize a window or minimize or whatever and theres a redraw issue on a PC... ALL THE TIME. Not so on a mac. All windows are stored in VRAM and thats where windows draw to then are compositited. On Windows, when a window needs to be redrawn because its now visble, the OS asks the app to draw, which is far less "smooth" than on a mac. Also, compare the text on a Mac to text on a PC. The text looks a LOT better on a Mac.

    Much of the greatness of using a mac is the overall feal. Anand, how does it FEAL to use a mac over a long period of time? You dont get fustrated, things dont get corrupted, you dont need to reinstall, etc. It may not be as snappy on a clean install, but a Mac's performance doesnt degrade like a Windows machine.

    -Charlie
    Reply
  • jecastej - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    Now the top of the line G5 2.5 ghz comes with the Radeon 9600 XT with 128 mb.

    And this site (barefeats) provides some informal benchmarks comparing the G5 2.0 with a dual opteron 2.0, price too.
    http://www.barefeats.com/g5op.html
    Reply
  • Yeah - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    One thing that made me laugh a bit after reading the first part was how Anand mentioned how he was an old DOS guru but then went so far as to say that: I quote

    "Multi-tasking
    It is somewhat ironic that I would praise Apple for the multi-tasking capabilities built into OS X, given that the Mac OS trailed Windows in its support for preemptive multi-tasking.

    I remember working at Babbages when the first version of 'multitasking for DOS' came from a company called Quarterdeck the same people who develloped emm386 (extended memory manager for pc's and DOS) I think the name of it was DOS X windows or something like that. The reason that Microsoft came out with windows (which I also remember when it first came out after DOS 6.62). Was because the MAC system was Already Capable of running multiple programs at once and soon after, Microsoft Acquired Quaterdeck and Windows was borne. How could Anand forget that part of history? I am a PC user not a Mac user and even I know that MAC lead the multitasking industry.
    Reply
  • manno - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    CindyRodriguez, thanks for elaborating on the program installs.

    Anand and thanks for the awesome review. I'm a die-hard cheap bastard. That's a non-biased die hard cheap bastard mind you. I still use a win 2k equipped Pentium 3 700. I'm sure I'll upgrade some day and this article is going to be the reason while I'll even consider making my next system a Mac.

    As for the people flaming the review out there I think you need to realize that he's taking the perspective of an independent reviewer, not the perspective of Apple's/Microsoft's marketing department. The purpose of the review wasn't to slam, or praise the system. (While you may have been hoping that's what it did, to justify your close minded view of the world) It was to give you an assessment of what it is to use a Mac from a PC users perspective. In addition to that he's writing to a MUCH savvier audience than most so he can take some liberty in pointing out certain caveats (like the fact that it took him time to adjust to the short cut keys in Mail) and understand that we're not going to look at them as black-marks against the system, but realize that's just him reporting the situation.

    If he had come out and told me how piss-poor the Mac was, or how Apple's Jobsian vision of the future is the new ray of hope in the computer industry, I would of probably completely ignored the article. But I found it to be a very candid review on the G5. That in it, and of itself makes it a very rare thing on the web these days. Andandtech.com, theiquirer.net and arstechnica.com seem to be part of a dwindling few places you can get good factual (not opinion based) reporting now-a-days. and I appreciate it.

    Again thanks for the review, it was extremely helpful.
    Reply
  • MaxxPower - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    The 9600 shipped with the G5's are not full fledged PRO's per ATI specification. They are underclocked to just over 350 MHZ core plus they offer only half what the PC version offers in terms of VRAM. Keeping in mind that the non-pro PC versions of 9600 are clocked around 325, with at least 128 MB of ram, the 9600 shipped with the G5's are somewhere between a pro and a regular version. Reply
  • Marsumane - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    My god, almost all of these replies are angry, frusterated, or just totally objective mac users. Reply
  • Kishkumen - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    #20 - Again, what? I didn't say anything about comparing architectures. You we're arguing that PPC based workstations maintain a similar price to performance ratio for x86 workstations. That's not even close to being true. I am sure that some people do use Xeon's and Opterons for workstations, but in my experience those tend to be pretty high end and are typically used for servers such as those that powers Anandtech. It seems to me that Apple uses dual CPUs for their workstations more out of necessity to keep performance up due to an inability on the part of IBM to ramp up clock speed. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the Power PC architecture, but your equivalent price to performance argument of the two platforms is flawed. Reply
  • brichpmr - Friday, October 8, 2004 - link

    I enjoyed the article, although I think Anand has just scratched the surface in terms of cool apps available for Panther. Also, I'm running a 1.33 ghz G4 tower with 1.5 gig ram and don't find Office 2004 to be slugish at all....keeping in mund that 60% of my work day is spent on a WinXP box. As others will remark, the current lack of malware on the Mac platform is a real differentiator that saves me time and money, and like many of you, my time is pretty valuable. I hope Anand will continue to explore the OSX experience and share his findings...it's great to have viable alternatives to what comes from Redmond. Reply

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