Low End Mac Benchmarks

'Digital Audio' Power Mac G4/533 MHz

Dan Knight - 2009.03.10 - Tip Jar

Thanks to a donation from a reader, we have our first 'Digital Audio' (DA) Power Mac G4, which we received bare bones - no RAM, no hard drive. It's the 533 MHz model with an ATI Rage 128 Pro AGP video card, the same card found in earlier G4 Power Macs. I transplanted the PC133 RAM and 80 GB 7200 rpm Deskstar hard drive from our 'Mystic' Power Mac, which has separate partitions for Mac OS X 10.2.8, 10.3.9, 10.4.11, and 10.5.6. Everything just worked.

The DA was Apple's third generation of AGP Power Mac, and its big improvement over earlier generations was moving from a 100 MHz system bus to a 133 MHz bus. On the down side, there's no microphone input and there are only 3 RAM sockets, giving it a maximum of 1.5 GB.

I have a Kensington mouse and Acer keyboard attached and used a 17" Samsung 700DF monitor at 1024 x 768 resolution and millions of colors for all tests.

Speedometer 4.02

The system was tested on 10 March 2009 under Mac OS 9.2.2 in my standard configuration. Display run at 1024 x 768 at millions of colors. Results are relative to a Quadra 605, which rates 1.0. All tests were run with the cache at the 8 MB default setting. Numbers rounded off to one or two decimal places.

 CPU  graphics  disk    math
30.61   n/a     3.35  1124.6

The CPU and math settings are virtually identical. Both the external Western Digital drive/FireWire combo and IBM Travelstar drive handily outperformed the stock Toshiba drive. In the case of the IBM drive, the 5400 rpm speed and larger cache managed to boost overall drive performance by 35%.

MacBench 5

The system was tested on 10 March 2009 under Mac OS 9.2.2 in my standard configuration. Display run at default 1024 x 768 at millions of colors. The disk cache was set to 8 MB. Results are relative to a Power Mac G3/300, which rates 1000.

 CPU  math   disk graphics
1692  2008   2985     n/a 

Let 1000 Windows Bloom

The system was tested on 10 March 2009. Running Jaguar (OS X 10.2.8), the Digital Audio displayed 1000 windows in 49.7 seconds. The same test took only 40.1 seconds under Panther (10.3.9), and just 22.44 sec. in Tiger (10.4.11). Apple definitely improved graphics performance through Tiger, but it took a real hit with Leopard (10.5.6) because this old video card doesn't support Core Image, which Leopard uses extensively. Running 10.5.6, this benchmark took 44.4 seconds.

Power Fractal

This program creates a fractal pattern, which can really bog down a CPU. It does not run under Jaguar. Under Panther, it took 6.4 seconds and scored 2,096 Mflops. Under Tiger, performance decreased slightly to 6.5 seconds and 2,079 Mflops. There was another small decrease when running Leopard, which completed the test in 6.6 seconds and scored 2,043 Mflops. The difference in scores between these three versions of OS X is insignificant.


Xbench has been out for some time. Version 1.3 runs on all versions of OS X since 10.3 and tests a lot of things. Here are the test results for 10.3, 10.4, and 10.5 (100 = 2.0 GHz G5):

           10.3.9 10.4.11  10.5.6
Overall     24.7    29.8    16.1
CPU         34.2    33.4    30.3  
Threads     25.3    25.2    22.5  
Memory      25.4    27.1    26.6 
Quartz      29.7    29.9    20.0  
OpenGL      53.0    58.4    13.7  
User Int.    9.7    17.3     5.8 
Drive       52.6    49.7    44.3  

Again we can see how OS X became more efficient through Tiger. The overall score is 2.6% higher under Tiger than Panther, and improvements in 10.4 are especially evident in the User Interface test. While CPU, threads, memory, and drive performance was down a bit in Leopard, it really took a hit on graphics tasks - Quartz was down by 33%, OpenGL by 76%, and User Interface by 67%.


Geekbench only runs in Tiger and Leopard. A 1.6 GHz Power Mac G5 would have a score of 1000.

               10.4.11  10.5.6
Overall          362      321    11.3% slower
Integer          406      354    12.8% slower
Floating Point   400      361     9.8% slower
Memory           314      265    15.6% slower
Streams          177      187     5.6% faster

As we've seen with other benchmarks, Leopard is generally slower than Tiger, although the Streams test does run faster under 10.5.6.


For older G4 Macs, Mac OS X 10.4 'Tiger' seems to be the best choice overall. Leopard would have done better with a more modern graphics card and might have done better with more RAM, but we can only test with what we have at present.

Go to the Digital Audio Power Mac G4 profile.

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