There is a rare breed of Macintosh game fans who have an insatiable appetite to push the envelope of their gaming experience. This means having the latest and greatest 3D software titles and pushing them to the edge of playability. Running a game in full 32-bit color, with the highest possible audio quality and using an insanely large monitor resolution is simply part of the fun. If you want to be that kind of gamer, you will need deep pockets in order to get your hands on the latest hardware. Why? Because the old 266 MHz beige G3 equipped with a Voodoo 5 video card that has been sitting in your bedroom is simply not going to cut it anymore.
The absolute latest and greatest piece of Apple desktop hardware is the Power Macintosh G4/733. This machine ships with 256 megabytes of RAM, a 60-gigabyte hard disk drive, an nVidia GeForce 2 MX 4x AGP video card and sports the latest PowerPC 7450 microprocessor. The new 64 Megabyte GeForce 3 video card is available as a $250 build-to-order option.
Clearly, the latest Power Mac G4 is a powerhouse on the strength of these specifications alone. But as all Mac users know, a computer must be judged on more than numbers. The 733ís performance combined with its compelling feature set makes this a desktop Macintosh that raises the bar for all future Apple computers.
Specifications and PerformanceThe G4/733 is enclosed in the now-familiar graphite mini tower with the fold down door on the side like previous G4 desktop models. And like previous G4 Power Macs, this new computer features the typical array of ports such as Gigabit Ethernet, Fire Wire and USB. There are also a number of new interface options that will be touched upon later. All of the system components are on the G4ís new 133 MHz system bus, which has been upgraded from the previous top speed of 100 MHz.
When compared to the former single-processor champ, the G4/500, the new G4/733 has clearly raised the performance standard of the Mac platform. Running Quake 3 Arena version 117, a G4/500 equipped with a Rage 128 Pro video card scored an average frame per second (fps) rate of 20.9 frames running high quality at 1024x768 resolution. Replacing the Rage 128 Pro card with a PC GeForce 2 MX card that was upgraded to work on the Mac upped the frame rate to 50.8 fps. This is compared to a G4/733, which edged out the GeForce 2 MX test with a 53.4 fps score. When a Radeon was brought into the mix in the Quake 3 tests, a score of 58.7 frames per second was achieved. Testing with the brand new nVidia GeForce 3 card, the same test resulted in a noticeable jump in performance, yielding a 73.7 fps score.
In further testing using Unreal Tournament, the scores of the three video cards and the G4/733 resulted in a wide range of frame rates. Testing was completed using the Thunder demo at 1024x768 resolution in 32-bit color using both RAVE and OpenGL rendering modes. The GeForce 2MX achieved a 24.97 fps score in RAVE mode, but jumped to a respectable 49.36 frames when using Unreal Tournamentís OpenGL option. The Radeon showed more consistent results, with 50.36 frames per second in RAVE mode and 48.6 frames in OpenGL. The GeForce 3 again bested the competition, but not by as wide a margin as in the Quake 3 tests. RAVE rendering resulted in the highest score of 55.95 frames per second. OpenGL came in second place with a 51.1 fps score. Clearly, these tests show the maturity Appleís RAVE technology on the Mac when compared to Mac OS 9ís OpenGL implementation. Not only did Unreal Tournament play faster using RAVE, but it also looked better. Playing in OpenGL resulted in the occasional strange onscreen rendering glitch, such as textures not appearing where they should. Since Unreal Tournament was originally written with only RAVE 3D acceleration in mind, this is understandable. The OpenGL-based Quake 3 Arena looked gorgeous with no visible errors using any of the tested video cards. This title has been an OpenGL game from the start, which accounts for its excellent OpenGL performance and rendering quality.