Power Mac G3s grow up

The new Power Macintosh G3 from Apple Computer Inc. has taken a step beyond its predecessors through greater raw power and increased graphics performance.

Features for the system include copper-based Power PC processors running at up to 400MHz, ATI RAGE 128 graphics accelerator chip, 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, USB and 400Mbps FireWire — all on the motherboard.

The new G3 also has five internal drive bays, with built-in support for the Ultra ATA drives. It can also be configured with Ultra2 SCSI drives spinning at up to 10,000 rpm.

According to James Staten, senior analyst at San Jose, Calif.-based Dataquest, such forward-looking technology has made Apple’s new G3 a major improvement over the original.

“They are the first to have FireWire on the motherboard, which is 400Mbps throughput to peripherals. FireWire provides power and data and it does it at a significantly faster rate than SCSI,” Staten said. The downside, he noted, is that there are not a lot of peripherals on the market that support FireWire at this time.

That said, FireWire handles more devices than SCSI and provides an excellent means for transmitting video, said Craig White, manager of client applications for Comnetix Computer Systems Inc. in Markham, Ont.

Another first for the new G3 line is that they are the first high-volume computers to take advantage of the ATI RAGE 128 chip, said Stan Ossias, product manager for Markham, Ont.-based Apple Canada. Calling it a “brand new technology leap for graphics cards,” Ossias said the chip will be a standard feature across the product line, enabling greater flexibility and fluidity of images when working with 3D graphics.

When it comes to graphic performance, only the “significantly more expensive” workstation-class products on the PC side can compare to the G3, Staten said. In terms of raw performance, however, G3s are comparable to a similarly-configured PC with Pentium II processor at the same speed. “The average user won’t notice a big difference between the two,” he said.

One notable distinction between the latest G3 and its predecessor is the new industrial design, a translucent blue and “ice” mini-tower enclosure, that provides easy access to expansion slots and memory. Unlike the original model, this G3 offers a single door that can be opened, offering access to all components within the system.

“There’s no one on the market, other than Apple, who has that simple an access system,” Dataquest’s Staten said. “From the perspective of [wanting PC-styled features] for the Macintosh, it has basically everything people have been asking for.”

According to Staten, the product’s only downfall occurs when the G3 is used as a server or in a multi-client environment.

“The products do not really natively support Windows clients. You have to find freeware applications which are not supported by Apple…it’s usually not difficult for someone who is already working in a heterogeneous environment with an older G3 server, but for someone who wants to do this for the first time or wants to support Windows clients via the server and hasn’t done it before, it can be a pain,” he said.

The Power Macintosh G3 (www.apple.com/powermac/) with 300MHz, 64MB DRAM, 512Kb level 2 backside cache, ATI RAGE 128 with 16MB video SDRAM, 6GB Ultra ATA hard drive 24 speed CD-ROM drive, FireWire, USB and a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet connection sells for $2,499.

Apple Canada in Markham, Ont., is at (905) 477-5800.