|Power Macintosh G4/867|
November 23, 2001 | Eddie Park
Though Apple has stressed many times that ranking a computer by processor speed alone is an argument in futility, many Apple fans are still irked that PowerPC processors have yet to break the almighty 1 GHz barrier. That so-called megahertz gap, however, has been closing in recent years, with rumors of it being broken sometime in the near future prominently featured at various rumor sites.
In the meantime, the closest thing to 1 GHz to hit Apple's product line is the mighty Power Macintosh G4/867. While not necessarily the fastest Mac on the block, it houses the fastest G4 processor currently available to the public. Couple this with the 2 MB L3 backside cache, a 4x AGP slot, and the DVD-burning Superdrive that comes with the standard package, and you have quite a powerhouse in your hands.
Well, if nothing else, it's pretty...Apple's always been known for its elegant and appealing designs. From the quietly dignified IIgs to the more recent iMacs and Titanium Powerbooks, Apple's computers have always looked good. Their latest desktop offering, internally dubbed Quicksilver, is no exception to this rule. Architecturally speaking, the case design matches that of older G4s, with the pull-out side tray that allows for easy access to the insides and plastic handles coming out of each corner. The color scheme, however, has changed from graphite to silver, thus earning it its nickname. Taken in at first glance, the Quicksilver is a slick looking machine, and more than one of my PC-loving friends has commented on its sleek looks. Quite honestly, it's about the best looking piece of "furniture" that I have in my room. Besides my Aeron chair, I mean.
There are, however, other differences besides its color that, for better or worse, set the new Quicksilver apart from its older cousins. For one thing, the front-mounted CD/DVD drive is now completely shut off from the rest of the world by a small hinged door. Unlike the old G4, there's not even a plastic tab that one could use to manually open the door. Apparently Apple means to force people to use the eject button on their Pro keyboards whether they like it or not. This can be inconvenient, particularly when one needs to access the drive manually. I had an incident one time where a CD-R was caught spinning endlessly in the drive. The eject button failed to work, so I had to take a paper clip to the machine to first open the door and then to fish around for the eject button on the drive itself. It wasn't difficult, but it was annoying, and while the G4 definitely looks slicker with a seamless hinged door that hides the drive, it comes at a cost of basic functionality most users take for granted.
Speaking of paper clips, the reset button, which is now located underneath the power button, has also shrunk considerably in size. Granted, users of OS X tend to crash a lot less often than users of older OSes, but occasionally it's nice to be a able to perform a manual reset. Pressing the reset button now takes either a sharp nail or the ubiquitous paper clip (my standard computer tool, it seems).
These complaints, despite my harping, are minor at worst. Apple knows how to engineer a good computer, and the Quicksilver is a very well put-together tower. It looks good, takes up little space on my desk, and is incredibly easy to get into whenever I feel the need to dig into its guts.