Miscellaneous Ramblings

Cube Hitting Its Stride?

Charles W. Moore - 2001.04.17

Is the Cube finally hitting its stride?

The G4 Cube got off to a bit of a slow start, sales wise, and there were even rumors afoot a couple of months back Power Mac G4 Cubeat Apple might even be fixing to pull the plug on the revolutionary little powerhouse.

Fortunately, Steve Jobs has denied that there are any plans to scuttle the Cube, and I have been noticing signs that it may be finally building a following.

The price reduction announced at Macworld Tokyo didn't hurt, and at US$1,299, the entry-level 450 MHz DVD Cube is, if not a rip roaring bargain, at least now fairly attractively priced. Of course, being never satisfied, I wish Apple would offer a 500 MHz machine with DVD at, say, US$1,450.

I'm not that stoked on having an internal CD-RW drive. The one Apple installs is only 8x. Having experienced the Que Fire! 16x10x40x FireWire CD-RW drive, 8x seems kind of sluggish. I think a CD burner is something I would rather have as a freestanding peripheral that could be used with a variety of machines. An internal DVD drive makes more sense.

Anyway, Mac Web acquaintances who have Cubes, like my friends Eolake Stobblehouse and Chris Long, profess to love them, as have several readers who have written me on the topic. Both Chris and Eolake are professionals who use their Cubes for production work and find them very satisfactory for that purpose.

This is one reason I recently recommended a Cube to my friend, Bishop Robert Crawley. Robert publishes an excellent quarterly Christian journal called The Rock, which has been produced on Macs since its inception, first on a Performa 5200, and subsequently on a Motorola StarMax 3000 clone.

A month or so ago, Robert emailed to say that the StarMax was behaving erratically - sounded like possible motherboard problems - and he allowed that it was probably time to think about upgrading to a new Mac. He wanted my opinion on which one to get

Of course, the model that immediately comes to mind for tasks like magazine production is the Power Mac G4 tower, and that was my initial suggestion. However, on further reflection, it occurred to me that a Cube might be the ideal solution in this case. The Rock is essentially a text and line art graphics publication, with no color. It is a nonprofit labor of love of for Robert, and a more inexpensive machine than a G4 tower would help with the magazine's shoestring finances.

Consequently, I smiled when Robert emailed again to say that his local Mac guru had suggested that a Cube would be the ideal choice. I was very happy to second that motion. A telephone conversation confirmed that PCI slots are not likely to be required, so the Cube's relatively limited expansion support would not be a drawback in this case. I recommended the 450 MHz DVD machine with a 15" Apple LCD Studio Display and as much RAM as The Rock's upgrade budget can handle.

Actually, I am seriously considering a Cube for my own next system. I am a PowerBook guy, but my WallStreet rarely leaves my desktop workstation, and the 450 MHz Cube and Studio Display combo would offer substantially more bang for the buck than the 400 MHz TiBook, while still offering a portable - or at least luggable - package with a good-sized LCD screen. The screen issue is important. With a Cube, it will be possible to just upgrade the CPU from time to time without having to buy an expensive new flat screen monitor with each upgrade, as one is obliged to do with the PowerBook.

I think the Cube is in the vanguard of the future of desktop computing - compact, quiet, and attractively styled. It's probably a bit ahead of its time, but the world will eventually follow in its direction. If enough people make the same evaluation, Cube sales may finally hit their stride.