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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  • michael2k - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    Well, it shouts to stay away from the XServe unless you happen to have vectorizable code that you have the resources to properly vectorize!
  • erwos - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    Excellent comparison of the platforms, although I actually wish they would have spent more time analyzing the graphs.

    Like the others, I would have liked to see a G5 / Linux benchmark (now that FC4 has a PPC version, you could run a fairly reasonable one), but I do admit it's not a very popular option compared to x86. My curiosity is whether MacOS X is the problem, or whether it's some sort of issue with the CPU itself. Seems unlikely the G5 would have such a fundamental flaw, but it does shout to stay the hell away from the Xserve until these issues are resolved.

  • Thresher - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    As the owner of intel, AMD, and Mac based computers, I have to say this is one of the best and most thorough comparisons I've seen.

    You did an excellent job of isolating CPU and OS performance.

    That being said, if performance were the only indicator, there is no doubt in my mind that AMD would be ruling the roost. However, personal preferences come into play to a great deal. Businesses like the reputation behind intel. I prefer the usability of Mac OS X. People have strong feelings about Microsoft that may color their decisions.

    When it comes down to it, performance is important, but not the only reason people buy what they buy. I would say more often than not, the decision is made with only a modicum of logic.
  • Cruise51 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    I'd be interested in seeing how it performs on yellowdog aswell.
  • IntelUser2000 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    People, in case some of you misunderstand, the 10.8GB/sec Full Duplex bus means that its two 32-bit 1350MHz bus, rather than one 64-bit bus in the PCs. Its not, 10.8GB/sec x 2 =21.6GB/sec bus, its 10.8GB/sec bus(or more correctly stated 5.4GB/sec x 2). Plus, it says in Apple site that it has TWO(yes two!!!) of the 10.8GB/sec buses, per CPU.

    Summary: Per CPU=10.8GB/sec
    Per Dual Processor System=21.6GB/sec

    Johan, about the AMD TDP number, they never state that its max power, they say its maximum power achievable under most circumstances, its not absolute max power.
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    Porkster: It is a little geekisch Unix joke. Where is your geekish you man spirit?

    Wessonality: Our next project if we can keep the G5 long enough in the labs.

    Ailleur2: indeed, I agree. The G5 is a potent CPU with a lot of potential. Just give it a bigger L2 and a better memory subsystem. This is an architecture that could last very long by applying a few tweaks, like the P6.

    Methodical: All of the benchmarks are trustworthy, they should be looked upon as a whole to get a good picture, not just pick one. About After affects, I indicate that the G5 does very well here (seen other reports on the web), I just didn't have the software in the lab.

    I also warned that this was not about "should I buy an Apple or not?". It is just "if performance is what counts for me, where should I position the G5/Mac os X combiantion compared to x86/Linux/Windows ?".

  • StuckMojo - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    hmph. you say it yourself in the last come you didn't try it?
  • StuckMojo - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    yes, it seems you've left out a very good method of testing if OSX is the issue: run a powerPC linux distro with the mysql and apache benchmarks and see what happens!

    i'd be _really_ interested in the results. see if you can update the article with them.
  • porkster - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    "Root Me" in Australian slang is the same as "Fxxk Me" in common language. Some people my find a picture in this review offensive.
  • wessonality - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link

    What about installing Yellow Dog Linux on the XServe?

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