No more mysteries: Apple's G5 versus x86, Mac OS X versus Linuxby Johan De Gelas on June 3, 2005 7:48 AM EST
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IntroductionIt 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 focusApple’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.
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michaelok - Saturday, June 4, 2005 - link"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."
Well, things are a little different when you connect, say, 32768 processors together, i.e. you go from running MySQL to Teradata, so yes, the Power architecture seems to dominate, and the Virginia Tech supercomputer is still up there, at 7th.
" The RISC ISA, which is quite complex and can hardly be called "Reduced" (The R of RISC), provides 32 architectural registers"
'Reduced Instruction Set' is misleading, it actually refers to a design philosophy of using *smaller, simpler* instructions, instead of a single complex instruction. This is to be compared with the Itanium for example, which Intel calls 'EPIC' (Explicit Parallel Instruction Computing), but it is essentially derived from VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word).
Anyway, nice article, certainly much more to discuss here, such as SMT (Simultaneous Multithreading), (when that is available for the Apple :), vs. Intel's Hyperthreading. We'll still be comparing Apples to Oranges but isn't that why everybody buys the Motor Trend articles, i.e. '68 Mustang vs. '68 GT?
psychodad - Saturday, June 4, 2005 - linkI agree. Recently I read a review which pitted macs against pcs using software blatantly optimized for macs. If you have ever used unoptimized software, you will know it. It is slow, often unstable and not at all usable, especially if you're after productivity.
Viditor - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkIntelUser2000 - "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"
Not true at all...AMD's datasheet clearly states that it's not only max power, but max theoretical power.
trooper11 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkI think its hard enough comparing a G5 to PC systems. I dont belive there will ever be a 'fair' comparison that satisfies everyone on both sides. There are too few general programs to compare and people will always complain about using or not using optimized apps for either platform. many of the varibles are subjective and the benchmarks to be compared are so heavily debated without a clear answer.
I think this was a good attempt, but I gave up trying to 'fairly' compare the two a long time ago. Anyhting that sheds a bit of light is a good thing, but i never expect an end to the contreversy, too many questions that cant be answered.
I would though love to see the addition of dual core amd chips since they are out there and would be serious competition, of course it would fly in server applications. hopefully the numbers for that could be added in a later article.
psychodad - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkFascinating. You run these tests using a compiler that Apple does not use (unless it is Yellow Dog) against software generally optimized for x86 architectures and you make conclusions. This makes your data tainted (actually biased) and your conclusions faulty. I would suggest that in fairness you make your tests more "real world" by using the software compiled by compilers that the rest of us nontechnical people use on a daily basis.
smitty3268 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkRosyna:
Oh, I assumed he was using the Apple version of gcc. If not, then I see what you mean.
crimsonson - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkThis article may be moot by Monday
Garyclaus16 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - link" Oh and the graph on page 5 doesnt display correctly in firefox. "
AND you are using firefox for what reason?...you deserve to view pages incorrectly
Rosyna - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linksmitty3268, that's part of the problem. Almost no one uses GCC 3.3.3 (stock, from the main gcc branch) for Mac OS X development because it really sucks at optimizing for the PPC. On the other hand, OS X was compiled with the Apple shipped GCC 3.3/GCC 4.0.
smitty3268 - Friday, June 3, 2005 - linkI think its fair to use the compilers most people are going to be using. That would be gcc on both platforms. As far as autovectorization in 4.0, don't expect very much from it. Obviously it will be better than 3.3, but the real work is being added now in 4.1.
I'll join the other 50 posters who would have liked to see at least 1 page showing the G5's performance under linux compared to OSX. That and maybe a few more real world benchmarks. But your article was very informative and answered a lot of questions. It was frustrating that there really wasn't anything done like this before.