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Detailed technical post comparing the G4 and Core Duo Minis

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Spanky Deluxe, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. macrumors demi-god

    Spanky Deluxe

    I've posted some of this information in the news item thread but thought it best to put it all together in one chunk. This info might be spread around several topics by a few people but its pretty hard to keep up with the thousands of posts a minute that are being posted about the mac mini. Anyway, I've gone through the entire hardware of both models and have compared them.

    Here are my findings:

    The Processor

    IBM PowerPC G4

    - Speeds of 1.25(1.33) or 1.42(1.5)
    - 167 Mhz Bus Speed
    - First G4 system with 1.25Ghz CPU and a 167 Mhz FSB was released on the 13th of August 2002 in the form of a Powermac (MDD). It was, however, dual processor. The first single 1.25Ghz G4 was released on the 23rd of June 2003 but these were basically equal or downgraded versions to the previous system
    - Altivec Enabled

    Intel Core Solo/Duo

    - Speeds of 1.5 (Solo) or 1.66 (Duo)
    - 667 Mhz Bus Speed
    - First Core Duo sysem was released only a month ago
    - SSE, SSE2, SSE3, XD bit
    - Needs to use Rosetta to run non-native apps.

    The Memory

    IBM PowerPC G4

    - PC2700 DDR SDRAM
    - Maximum of 1GB in one slot

    Intel Core Solo/Duo

    - PC2-5300 DDR SDRAM
    - Maximum of 2GB in two slots
    - Probable Dual Channel support

    The Graphics Cards

    ATI Radeon 9200

    - DirectX 8.1 compliant
    - Uses R200 technology which was used for the 8500-9200 cards
    - The 9200 is actually a *slower* version than the 8500 based cards
    - The 9200s use a RV280 core
    - Have a core speed of 250Mhz
    - Memory speed of 200Mhz
    - 128 bit memory interface (12.8GB/s)
    - AGP8x connection
    - Does support hardware T&L (but very very old)

    Intel GMA 950

    - DirectX 9.0 compliant.
    - Have a core speed of 400Mhz
    - Memory speed of 667Mhz (The system's DDR-2)
    - Pixel Shader 2.0
    - Memory bandwidth of 20GB/s if using 8 lane PCIe or 40GB/s if using 16 lane PCIe
    - PCIe connection
    - Does not support hardware T&L
    - Has to share the system's memory.

    So the integrated GMA950 system is faster in every way technically but does not include hardware T&L. But the 9200 uses 2nd generation AI T&L. The X1300-X1800 graphics cards all use 5th generation T&L. That's how old it is.

    Other differences & Similarities

    The Intel models have an extra USB port but lack a modem port. The Intel models all include Airport, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet as standard and also come with Front Row and an infra-red remote.

    The Intel Mini is available for $599 or $799 while the G4 model was available for $499, $599 or $699.

    Same case, same HDs, same Combo and Superdrives.


    So by looking at the bare facts it seems to me that the Intel model is significantly 'better' than the G4 model. Yes the cost of the base model has gone up by $100 but then the base model now includes bluetooth, airport, gigabit ethernet, frontrow and an infra-red remote as standard. Not to mention a much more powerful CPU, FSB and memory. Yes Rosetta is required for several pro applications but OS X, iLife, iWork and Frontrow are all native. All Apple pro apps will be native very soon leaving Photoshop being the only major stick in the mud. A G4 model with airport express and bluetooth had the same price as the current base model. The top end model is $100 more expensive than the previous top end model but has a vastly more powerful cpu, FSB and memory and also has frontrow, the remote and gigabit ethernet. The integrated graphics is faster in every way technically than the Radeon 9200 and only lacks the 9200's ageing T&L. The drivers for the GMA950 will probably need more optimising as is apparent on the PC benchmarks but this should improve in time and I doubt as it is the GMA950 will be any slower than a 9200. Also bear in mind that the GMA950 was the graphics card in the transition kit development machines and so has been tried and tested for three quarters of a year now versus ATI's few months. I guess the only thing that the G4 Mini seriously beats the Intel Mini is the fact that it has a modem!!


  2. macrumors demi-god

    Spanky Deluxe

    Ok, this isn't the most accurate way of comparing the Radeon 9200 and the GMA950 graphics chips but its a start:

    A 6200 TC 128 is 3.24 times as fast as a GMA 950.
    Source: http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1697,1821808,00.asp

    A 5750 PCIe is approximately 0.95 times as fast as a 6200 TC 128.
    Source: http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/02/08/nvidia_geforce_6200_turbocache/index.html

    The Geforce 5750 PCIe is essentially a Geforce 5700 AGP with an AGP/PCIe bridge.
    A Radeon 9200 64 is 0.62 times as fast as a 5700AGP
    Source: http://www.tomshardware.com/2003/12/29/vga_charts_iii/index.html

    So using these calculations, a Radeon 9200 64 is 0.62 * 0.95 * 3.24 (=1.90) times as fast as a GMA950.

    So the Radeon 9200 in the old Mini by these calculations is nearly two times as fast as the GMA950 in the new Mini. BUT one big important factor that has to be kept in mind is that the GMA950 had only just been released at the time of writing for the ExtremeTech article. Intel have never paid any particular attention to driver optimisation because frankly, they haven't had to. Apple is *sure* to be putting pressure on Intel on this front in order to bring speeds up. Also, ATI and nVidia have been optimising drivers for donkeys years whereas this is new game for Intel (on the graphics front at least). A 1.9 times gain on the 9200 might seem like a great deal to a lot of you but the facts are that badly written drivers can have at least that much of a performance drain on performance. This is probably why the 9200 has done better even though technically its light years behind the GMA950. My guess is that once the GMA950's drivers are optimised (this may even have been done by the time of 10.4.5 release) then the GMA950 will be at least on a par with the 9200.
    Also, people over at the OSx86 Project forums noticed that there were new GMA950 drivers in the 10.4.5 release so hopefully Apple/Intel have already optimised them.
  3. jsw
    Moderator emeritus


    Thank you - that was a very well-researched summary of the changes. I think fears of doom over integrated graphics are unfounded, and that the new systems are indeed, overall, much better than the ones they replace.
  4. macrumors demi-god

    Spanky Deluxe

    Thank you jsw!! It took long enough. But then I've ordered one of these and I'm a physicist and a man of facts - I like to know what I'm talking about.

    Also one other thing I'd like to add:
    I really do not believe that these new Mac Minis will not be able to play 1080p on the Core Duo model. My reasons for saying this is that I've got a Dell 8600 with a Pentium-M 1.7Ghz. The Core is basically a two revision later version with the basic difference being SSE3, dual core support, faster FSB and a 2MB cache (vs the 1MB of the P-M).
    The 1.5Ghz Core Solo will probably perform roughly on a par with the 1.7Ghz P-M in the Dell machine. I can play 1080p on my Dell. It does stutter a bit though but its not hell on Earth. No I wouldn't want to use it to play anything more than the odd test HD video. BTW I have a 1920x1200 res screen on the Dell so the videos are *not* being rescaled.
    Now the Core Duo should be faster than my Dell with just one core. Maybe not smooth yet with one core but there are two of them.

    So unless Microsoft are better at codeing software than Apple, the Core Duo should play 1080p fine.
  5. macrumors 6502

    Good research Spanky Deluxe.

    I read your message in the Oh Dear, intel integrated graphics thread. I also read up on the GMA-chip. I think your calculations of the performance of the GMA have a huge ammount of uncertainty. Since the mini is available immediately, just wait a few days to see how the xBench OpenGL and interface tests turn out. What I have seen so far of the GMA950 is that if you hook it up to a good processor (core duo) and give it enough ram (1 Gb) it does ok.
  6. macrumors demi-god

    Spanky Deluxe

    isgoed, I completely agree with you, of course there's a huge amount of uncertainty in my calculations but until someone gets a hold of a new mini we simply won't know how they perform. I think the calculation of a 1.9x difference is actually negligible due to the inaccuracy and the unoptimised drivers. I have every confidence that the GMA950s will perform at least on a par with the 9200s. Besides the fact that any game running on a G4 chip is seriously handicapped because of the G4 chip rather than the graphics chip. The GMA950 is a completely different ball game to older Intel Integrated Graphics - those still make me shudder.

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