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The SpeedZone: What Is Faster, The 1GHz iMac Or The 1 GHz PowerBook? - A Detailed Performance Report

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Performance article index

Fri Feb 28, 2003

by David Engstrom

The main differences between the 1 GHz iMac and the 1 GHz PowerBook is that the PowerBook has a L3 cache and the iMac does not, the iMac has a NVIDIA graphics card and the PowerBook an ATI one, the iMac has a larger and faster hard drive, and the iMac comes with SuperDrive 2 which runs significantly faster than the SuperDrive in the PowerBook.

This translates into faster copying performance on the iMac (though this is tempered somewhat by the lack of the L3 cache). The iMac also burns CD's significantly faster than the PowerBook.

On activities that can take advantage of a L3 cache the PowerBook steamed ahead of the iMac. You can see this reflected in the large document and database type tests results below.

In our Photoshop tests the PowerBook again had the better of the iMac, though not by a dramatic amount. And in Gaming performance the PowerBook came out on top.

Overall the PowerBook was faster than the iMac.

Differences and similarities of each machine
  Power Mac Dual G4/1000 iMac G4/1GHz/1GHz/256K 17 Inch (#M8935LL/A)

PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch (#M8859LL/A)

Processors 2 x G4/1000 G4/1GHz G4/1GHz
L2 Cache 256k @ 1000 MHz 256k @ 1GHz 256k @ 1GHz
L3 Cache 1MB DDR SRAM per processor none L3 cache - 1MB DDR
Bus Speed 167 MHz 133 MHz 133 MHz
Memory 1 GB PC2100 266MHz DDR SDRAM (2 GB max) 768 MB PC2100 266MHz DDR SDRAM (1 GB max) 1 GB
PC133 SDRAM
(1GB max)
Graphics Card ATI Radeon 9000 Pro with 64MB of DDR SDRAM NVIDIA GeForce4 MX
64 MB of DDR RAM
2x AGP
ATI Mobility Radeon 9000
64 MB DDR
4x AGP
Drive 80GB Ultra ATA/100; 7200 rpm 80GB Ultra ATA/100
7200 rpm
60GB Ultra ATA/66
(4200 rpm)
CD Drive SuperDrive 2x 6x8x 4x 24x Tray loading SuperDrive
(DVD-R/CD-RW)
Writes DVD-R at 4x
Reads DVDs at 8x
Writes CD-R at 16x
Writes CD-RW at 8x
Reads CDs at 32x
"SuperDrive"
CD read - 24x
DVD read - 6x
DVD write 1x
CD-R write - 8x
CD-RW write - 4x
Operating System 10.2 10.2.3 10.2.1
Price $2,499 $1,799 $2,799

"Real World" Tests

For the graphs below frame rates were converted to percentages, relative to the Power Mac Dual G4/1000, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.


Desktop Tests    

Re-Boot Test

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 81% 87%

Copy 60 MB Folder

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 94% 77%

The copy folder test not only stresses drive performance but also takes advantage of faster processing capability & caching schemes.

Copy 128 MB File

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 103% 65%

In the single file test the the processor & caching capability of the machine is less of a factor.

Burn CD

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 170% 101%

CD burning only uses a fraction of the processor to get the work done. The iMac has a top rate of burn speed twice that of the PowerBook

Let 1000 Windows Bloom

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 79% 99%

Let 1K Windows Bloom is a simple carbon application that opens and closes 1,000 windows. This gauges how fast screen redraws are taking place. The iMac is probably hurt here because of the lack of a L3 cache.

Large Document & Database Type Tests

Microsoft Office X Word Macro

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 76% 93%

A Macro (series of complex actions) was run in Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program. Excel is part of Office X

Microsoft Office X Excel Macro

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 72% 92%

A Macro (series of complex actions) was run in Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program. Excel is part of Office X

AppleWorks Search And Replace Test

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 81% 93%

This test takes place in a large AppleWorks document. Machines with larger chip caches do better in this test

Finder File Search

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 69% 85%

OS X's new File Search function relies on both processor and drive performance




Number Crunching & Rendering Tests

Photoshop 7 - BareFeat's Test

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 65% 77%

BareFeats Photoshop Test Suite - mimics a production type workflow in Photoshop

Photoshop 7 - AltiVec Tests

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 55% 64%

Certain of the functions of Photoshop can take special performance advantage of the G4 processor. A dual processor machine runs rings around the the other two machines.

Photoshop 7 - Normal Tests

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 86% 93%

Other Photoshop functions cannot run any faster under a G4 when compared to a G3 of the same clock speed or take advantage of dual processors

AltiVec Fractal (Carbon)

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 50% 51%

The Fractal program has been highly tuned to take advantage of the G4 and is precisely the type of work that the G4 was made for. It will also gobble up whatever processing capability is present. This is a good test for assessing the fundamental processing potential of each machine. Really highlights the potential processing advantage of a dual processor machine


Encoding/Decoding Tests

iTunes 3 - MP3 Encode From CD

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 84% 59%

We think that the lower performance of the PowerBook is due to its slower CD read speed

StuffIt 6.5 Expand

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 88% 97%


Multitasking

iTunes MP3 Encode + AppleWorks Search & Replace + Finder Copy (Multitasking)

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 55% 75%

MP3 Encode, AppleWorks search & replace and folder copy are all carried out at the same time. In a production type environment the Dual Processor Towers make a lot of sense ... if you do some planning.

MP3 Encode + Photoshop Normal + Word Macro (Multitasking)

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Scores as percentage of Power Mac Dual G4/1 GHz 100% 40% 55%

The MP3 Encode, Photoshop Normal and Word Macro tests are all run at the same time


Gaming

Giants Highest Frame Rates

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 105 38 61

Giants Average Frame Rates

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 45 22 24.8

Giants Lowest Frame Rates

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 21 10.7 13.5

4x4 EVO2 High Quality

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 18 14.5 20

4x4 EVO2 Medium Quality

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 30 21 29

4x4 EVO2 Low Quality

Machine Power Mac Dual 1 GHz iMac G4/1 GHz 17 Inch PowerBook G4/1GHz 15 Inch
Actual Frame Rates 42 31 41

Both these games are very demanding of computer resources



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