Apple Archive

New Macs: Thoughts and Reflections

- 2001.02.02

Yes, it was time - time to get a new Mac. Usually the life of my computers extends from 1 year (secondhand) to 3 years (new).

It was a big decision to make - I had to choose the make, model, amount of RAM, hard drive size, etc. The first of those was easy. I was going for the Mac OS, so it has to be an Apple. I also wanted a desktop (as opposed to portable). That left me with an iMac, Power Macintosh G4 Cube, Power Macintosh G4 400, 450, or 500 (the odd number models weren't out yet). I didn't want an iMac, because I like a 17" monitor. So that left me with the Cube or the G4.

I really was leaning toward the Cube. I was. It had what I wanted - support for a 17" monitor, USB, DVD-ROM drivePower Mac G4, 16 MB of VRAM, a 20 GB hard drive, and the ability to add lots of RAM. I didn't want to mess with PCI, adapters, expansion bays, cables, or anything else. I wanted something that worked.

I was sick of playing with the sound card in my G3, reformatting the slow and noisy hard disk every time my system crashed, and trying to learn how to type on the poorly made AppleDesign Keyboard - Apple's worst keyboard ever (I still haven't learned. It's been six years since I first got one with our Performa 5215CD).

I decided to get a bit more advice. I asked people on the G-List. Everyone said a G4 would be best for me. I then asked the computer tech in my school. He told me that the Cube was really best purchased with the 15" flat panel display. In other words, you buy the Cube because of its coolness factor. I wanted a 17" monitor, and I don't like LCD displays (they give me a headache).

At this point I was again unsure of what model - but had a bit more of an idea in my head. I went to our local Apple dealer, TBI Computer. The question they asked me was "Do you consider yourself somewhat of a power user?" Yes, I do consider myself a bit of a "power user." Their answer was that it would be better for me to go with the G4 tower in case I ever wanted to add any upgrades or new features. I trust them, and their opinion on things, so I went home that night thinking G4 tower. And that is just what I ordered.

What I am about to say might shock you. Everything that I do now on my new G4, I could do on that old Performa 5215CD, which I had stopped using regularly in 1997. I use my computer for word processing, email, Internet, listening to music, and making graphs and presentations. That's it. The 5215 could run all of the current versions of software that I want to run - Office 98 (I haven't upgraded to 2001), Internet Explorer 5, Outlook Express, and Napster (yes, I have joined the "MP3 revolution").

But there is one problem: I work fast. If my computer can't keep up with me, I am not happy. I like to be current as well; that is, I want to be able to run OS 9.1, QuickTime 5, etc., with the machine still feeling responsive. The last time the Performa actually responded to my every command was when it was running 7.5.5 (a side note - never upgrade from 7.5.5. to 8.5 without doing a clean install).

When I got my G3 in 1997, it felt much slower than the Performa, and I didn't like it at all. There was no way for me to return it (since it wasn't just my computer). However, when OS 8.5 came out, it started feeling fast. Then 8.6 slowed it down a bit, and 9 is a bit of a pain. I do run 9.1 on it, but it's not as fast as I would like it to be. It would take a while to get emails - even on my cable connection. When I had to run AOL, it occasionally would feel slower than running it with a dialup connection. Now, I know you are about to say that it is my connection, not the computer, but ever since I bought my G4, I have had no problems with slow connections. Everything comes up right away - just like I want it to.

About the machine itself. It is a G4/400 with DVD and a 20 GB hard disk. It has Mac OS 9.1, 64 MB of RAM (I just ordered 256 MB more from Memory To Go.com), a 56K modem (which I don't use), and an Adaptec 2906 SCSI card. I had a little problem with the SCSI card at first. When I brought the machine home from the dealer, the drivers for the SCSI card weren't included. A quick call to my dealer fixed that. They told me that I can either download it, or if I need them on a disc they can arrange for that. I downloaded them, and it has worked fine since.

I am very happy with my new G4, and it will last several years I am sure. I love the ability to play DVDs - something I had wanted for a while. I also like the video card that's in there - 16 MB, compared to 2 MB in my G3. Seeing millions of colours instead of thousands is a big improvement when I am on the Internet- thousands is good, but there is noticeable difference when looking at high-resolution images.

I don't particularly like the colour of the G4's case (I personally liked the blue G3), but the performance that this machine delivers makes me forget about the colour of the case.

The G4 wasn't the only machine we ordered. We also ordered an Indigo iMac DV+ for my sister. It's a 450 MHz G3 with 64 MB of RAM (we ordered 128 more), a 20 GB hard drive, and a DVD-ROM drive. The whole system was priced at about $1,200.

After I finished copying some of her software from one computer to the other (via ethernet - much faster than reinstalling everything from CDs. Also, some of the software is on diskettes, and we don't have a diskette drive for the iMac), I put a CD in to install a game that wasn't on the hard disk of the other computer. The game installed fine, but when I tried to eject the CD, it would come out part way and go back in.

Our dealer gladly fixed the problem, and within a few days the iMac was working exactly as it should have been.

I have yet to experience any major crashing, freezing, or software incompatibilities with either machine. So far they have been running very smoothly.

I highly recommend the base model G4 to home or business users who like expandability and want a system that will last them 3 or 4 years. The iMac DV+ is great for home users with kids who want to be able to access the Internet, make digital movies, and watch DVDs (good excuse for a family movie night!). Too bad the new G4s left out the DVD-ROM drive.

So far, for the past few weeks, both computers have been working great. I hope they will continue to do so for the next several years.

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