Power Mac G5 is a sheep in wolf’s clothing – for the time being

“On Monday, Apple Computer chief potentate and executive kibitzer Steve Jobs presented Apple’s latest high-end computer system lineup, driven by the IBM PowerPC 970 processor and branded by Apple as the G5 . The systems surprised observers with speeds higher than what IBM promised when it debuted the PowerPC 970 a year ago. In fact, the hardware adds up to what Apple claims is the fastest desktop computer… But there was a little bit missing — 32 bits, actually. Jobs made much of the fact that the G5 Power Macs will be the first systems with a 64-bit chip, allowing the processor to utilize more main memory. Of course, that capability requires support from the operating system. Although Jobs showed off numerous “really cool” features in Panther, the next version of Mac OS X , there was no mention of when OS X will offer full 64-bit support. It’s all pretty cool, Steve, but where are the other bits,” asks Tiernan Ray for E-Commerce Times.

“… the fact that OS X is not there yet is plain enough if you root around in the G5 documentation posted by Apple yesterday,” Ray writes. “The white paper says the next revision of OS X before Panther, 10.2.7, ‘has been enhanced to leverage the capabilities of the 64-bit Power Mac G5.’ But it also says just below that, ‘Mac OS X takes full advantage of the 8 GB memory capacity of the Power Mac G5: It can now allocate up to 4 GB of memory per process to easily fit memory-intensive applications into RAM.’

“Now, using two separate processors to access that 8 GB of memory is impressive, but it’s not the same as having each processor access 8 GB. As Apple admits on page eight of the same brochure, maximizing the utility of 64-bit computing will require further enhancements to Panther and any OS X apps. So, for the time being, this really isn’t a 64-bit desktop computer,” Ray writes. “All in all, however, the G5 looks like a great computer at a swell price, and a nice road map for the future. I have little doubt that Apple can take Panther, or a follow-up, to the next level. In addition, PC buyers who still take it as an article of faith that Apple is always more expensive than Wintel for similar performance may have cause to reevaluate that view.”

“It would have been nice to find out yesterday just when Apple will be able to call its spiffy machine a 64-bit computer for real. Nonetheless, I’ll take a 32-bit computer dressed up like a 64-bit speed demon over a two-bit computer any day,” writes Ray.

Full article here.


  1. “Now, using two separate processors to access that 8 GB of memory is impressive, but it’s not the same as having each processor access 8 GB.”

    Ummn… I believe the comment he is using for this statement is that OS X can allocate 4 GB per process. This has nothing to do with how much memory each *processor* can access.


  2. The move to G5s is a good thing, not only for PowerMacs but XServes as well. I wonder if we will finally see the mythical quad processor Mac.

    I am still getting over the system design of the G5 PowerMacs. It is perhaps the tidiest insides of a computer, second only to the Cube.

    If the G4 was a supercomputer class CPU on its debut then the G5 is a monolith from the movie 2001. HAL would be the PeeCee, running a buggy version of Windows.

  3. Maybe, maybe not. If the OS is limited to 32bits, then neitehr processor will be able to address the top 4GB. No process that either runs will be able to address the top 4GB.

    It’s a fair comment, but it is worded badly with the process/processors line.

    They really need to build the OS as 64-bit VERY soon to avoid this kind of negative comment.

  4. I wonder why Apple didnt include tests with it’s G4 processors with those with the G5 and Pentiums?

    Hopefully the prices of all G3 & G4 machines might start to come down a bit now, but I doubt it :b

  5. “The white paper says the next revision of OS X before Panther, 10.2.7, ‘has been enhanced to leverage the capabilities of the 64-bit Power Mac G5.’

    But the G5 is shipping with Panther so what’s the point? Panther is not golden master yet is it?

  6. I read somewhere that the 970 should have a 5Ghz ceiling. Oh man! If I ever met a quad-processor G5/5Ghz, I’d start humping that computer right then and there in the store! Oh man! Ohhhh man!!

    I wonder why Apple hasn’t gone to RAMBUS. I thought DDR400 was getting old. Geez! Apple does some awesome things and then they top it off with something like that! DDR400 has an 800Mhz frontside bus. What’s the point in having dual 1Ghz processor busses?

  7. I think the reason for the 400MHz RAM is that it’s widely available and at reasonable cost (unless you get it direct from Apple !). Looking at Crucial the other day, the RAM Apple have chosen was the highest spec that they sell.

    The design can presumably be tweaked to take advantage of new RAM technologies later, but they really needed a number of stable predictable components in there rather than make every single thing innovative.

  8. “Process” does not equal “processor”

    Man, people just spout off without knowing anything, and end up spreading misinformation all over the net. Now everyone will be going around thinking the dual G5 can only use 4 GB of RAM per CPU. This is SOOOO annoying.

  9. Well, I left a pretty detailed comment in the E-Commerce talkback forum. Dunno when it will show up though. If you guys want to be heard, maybe a few thoughtful comments would help, and maybe this guy can get more educated on computer terminology. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    He’s a pretty confused ‘journalist’. Definitely not a tech writer. He mentions the Intel 875P chipset, you’d think that he could have gone to Intel’s website, downloaded the 875P chipset datasheet and read it. Its pretty similar to what Apple has done for the chipset on the G5. Yet this guy is confused.

  10. “4GB per process…”

    At any one time your computer is running dozens of processes, regardless of how many processors you have. A “process” is roughly equivalent to a running program. Do “top” in terminal to see your running proccesses.

    “4GB per process” is not a big limitation on an 8GB Machine. However if the OS were truly 64-bit, there should be no such limitation. This will not be an issue until machines arrive with 16GB or more. Presumably Apple’ll have it sorted by then.

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