What's so great about the Intel Macs?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by EHUnlucky7x9@ao, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Hey guys, I've been reading everyone's comments about the Intel Macs and I still can't get ground on WHY the Intel Macs are so great? I'm not sure if this has been discussed before, so if you can show me the thread, I"ll gladly do my reading. But I've searched and searched online and I can't find the REASONS why it's better. I always thought that the PowerPC processors were better? I've own macs since the G3's first came out and everyone always praised the Macs over the Pentiums. What's changed now? Does the Intel processors run faster than dual-core PPC's? Let me know your thoughts and/or share your knowledge.

    Oh yeah, by the way... how does the Macbook beat out the Powerbook? They look the same, probably do the same thing... boy...this whole Intel thing has me confuzzled. :-D :p
     
  2. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2006
    #2
    Duo Core's run faster and cooler than a single PPC proccerssor. And good luck trying to fit one of those into a Power Book or iMac, Duo Core's are better and more efficient technology.
     
  3. macrumors 6502a

    MacsomJRR

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    #3
    Not all Intel chips are created equal. The chips that the new Macs are using are just like the above dude said. They are faster, run cooler etc... They are just better chips. What else do you want?

    They aren't pentiums also.
     
  4. macrumors 601

    Anonymous Freak

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    #4
    Wait for Ars...

    Ars Technica has good 'Processor Review' articles whenever a new architecture comes out. Look for one on the CoreDuo processor soon. (He had FOUR more-detailed-than-former-Intel-employee-me-can-handle articles on the G5 and history of PPC, when the G5 came out.)

    But the essence is that the PowerPC became less efficient per clock in recent revisions, while the Pentium-M/CoreDuo architecture became more efficient per clock. And the Core Duo is MUCH more efficient 'per Watt', as Jobs now likes to point out. This derives from the fact that the Core Duo (and the Pentium-M predecessor) was designed from the ground up for good performance with the minimum power usage.

    PowerPC's big selling point early on was that it was a 'simple' RISC architecture, where most of the hard work was actually in software. So if you wrote your program efficiently, it would run fast. And because the processor was simple, it wouldn't be hard to ramp up processor speeds. Unfortunately for Apple, Intel had more pressure to increase speed (in AMD) than Motorola or IBM did. The main market of the PowerPC really isn't PCs, it's as 'embedded controllers' in things like Cable modems, DirecTV receivers, traffic light controllers, satellites, and other non-computer devices, where all-out processor power isn't the main selling point. So Intel ramped up processor speeds in their architecture much faster than the PowerPC camp did. (In fact, Intel did this partly by having the core of the processor actually be RISC, with internal translation.) Intel's might in developing new manufacturing processes also helps here. IBM is good, Intel is better. (i.e. if Intel were to take the G5 design, and tweak it for their manufacturing plants, they could probably get 3 GHz out of the design no problem.)

    Later, the addition of the excellent 'Altivec' vector instruction set allowed the G4 (and later the G5) to perform amazingly fast calculations on sets of repeating data. (Things like photo, audio, and video processing make heavy use of this.) At the time, Intel's counterpart, MMX, was woefully underpowered. However, over time, Intel introduced SSE, SSE2, and the latest, SSE3; which makes their vector processing at least equal to Altivec, if not better. (I haven't seen a true unbiased comparison between SSE3 and Altivec yet.)

    So between clock speed increases going better for Intel, and the leveling of the core architecture; the Core Duo's base architecture SHOULD be about equal to a G5 at the same GHz rating. That means that the dual-core in the Core Duo should be about twice as fast as the single-core G5. Yes, Apple always blows performance improvements out of proportion. They always have. But realistically, a 2.0 GHz iMac Core Duo should perform about equally well (on well optimized native apps,) as a dual-processor 2.0 GHz Power Mac G5.
     
  5. macrumors member

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    Jan 12, 2004
    #5
    Thank you, this really helped me get the "big picture" I was missing.
     
  6. macrumors G4

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    #6
    You are confusing RISC with EPIC. The selling point of RISC is that it eliminated those instructions that were not used by compilers. This allowed the designer to decrease the decoding stage and increase the number of registers. The resulting processor allowed for relatively simple compilers to produce code that was nearly as efficient as assembly language. EPIC processors have very little onboard intelligence for such things a code-ordering and branch prediction. Instead, responsibility for these functions were the responsibility of very sophisticated compilers.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #7
    Wow, I see...so here's another question...I know people say that when you purchase a Mac and it's processor speed, you have to double it in order to get it's PC-equivalent. With these new Mac's, does that thought still apply or no more?
     
  8. macrumors 68000

    DeSnousa

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    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    #8
    It never really went that way, its just that the os operated apps well enough and in a way that made the computer experience better.

    I would not even place a speed difference on the chips between Mac and Windows. Keep in mind they are 2 os. I guess you could run photoshop tests and etc to compare. But we should wait for better optimised native apps first.
     
  9. macrumors 6502

    maclamb

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2002
    Location:
    Northern California
    #9
    I got the intel imac for these reasons:
    1. Dual core cpu in a non-pro machine (i don't need a powermac)
    2. Ability to do extended desktop to my 20" LCD (so I could get the 17 and save $)
    3. Quiet and cool (quieter than anything else inlcudes my powerbook)
    4. When UBs are fully available it will scream - and it ain't bad now...
     
  10. macrumors 601

    Anonymous Freak

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    #10
    I was referring to the original idea of RISC and PowerPC. Over time, PowerPC processors became 'smarter', and therefore, more complex. Yes, EPIC and VLIW are the latest incarnations in the 'move the work to software' approach. Even then, Itanium's core processor (not including extravagant amounts of cache,) is larger than the P4's core. I think only Transmeta, with their Crusoe, got it right. And we see where that got them.
     
  11. macrumors 68030

    superbovine

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    Nov 7, 2003
    #11
    i've seen real world benchmarks on dual processor PPC vs dual processor amd ...video encoding PPC wins hands down, however things like audio encoding and gaming benchmarks x86 wins. I think it shows, that certain application PPC might be better suited for, but perhaps not in the bigger picture down the road.
     
  12. macrumors 65816

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    #12
    You bought into Steve's reality distortion field.

    Interesting that he used the Spec2000 tests to show how much faster the Intel Macs are. The truth is, the Spec2000 tests have ALWAYS showed the Intel processors to be faster than their PPC equivalents (with small exceptions). All that "fastest PC in the world" stuff was just bunk. So you have to remember, a lot of this evangelism around the Mac is and has been disposable hype, rabid marketing.

    The Intel Macs are better for Apple because they free themselves from the whims of Motorola/IBM/FreeScale. Since they are in such a tough market, they have a harder time competing with Intel. And as of the last few years it's become more and more obvious that they didn't want to fight the battle anymore.

    Also, look at the trend Apple followed, even before the Intel switch. They started using PC standard components (IDE, PCI, etc.) and now they're using Intel processors, chipsets, and probably motherboards. As opposed to developing all this stuff themselves and begging Motorola to try harder. The days when computer companies used to be able to do all this proprietary engineering are over (see Silicon Graphics). Apple, let's not forget, is the last holdover from the days when there really were different computers and computer companies and nobody had more than 20% of the market (I'm talking the days of Commodore, Atari, Coleco, TI, Timex Sinclair).

    Let's all pause to think what the Mac today really is when distilled to its basic elements -- a fancy UI on top of BSD Unix running on Intel processors.

    Apple (and Steve) have always refused to admit that SOFTWARE, IE the Operating System and applications like QuickTime, are their core talent. Steve always had to have the vice grip lock on the hardware, he has a romanticized view of the hardware being special. The move to Intel shows that maybe Steve is learning that software is what's important not hardware -- he's not cutting off his nose to spite his face anymore. If he decides to open up Mac OS on any PC, he can let go of his last obsession and give a big middle finger to Bill Gates at the same time.

    Another thing is that it was clear the G5 was never going to be in a notebook, and IBM didn't care apparently. So the Powerbooks were dead in the water while Intel was doing interesting things with Centrino re: good power consumption and power. Steve said so in the keynote. Now throw in efficient DUAL CORE processors in a laptop, and watch out, this is good stuff. Intel suddenly isn't the evil empire anymore. They're a hard-working supplier that actually works on improving their chips.

    Basically this switch allows Apple to get more standardized components and work with a processor line that will actually get some money spent on it and see rapid development change.
     
  13. macrumors 65816

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    #13
    You can't even say that with PCs anymore. As someone said above, the Pentium M chips really changed the game, and a 1.4 GHz Pentium M is not the same as a 1.4 GHz Pentium IV.

    Intel was playing a game of more complex processors and faster clock speeds all the time up to the Pentium IV. They took a sidetrack with the Pentium M and that side track ended up being the future. Right now I don't see a future for the Pentium IV (topped out at 3.6 GHz), 64-bit Itanium is dead too.
     
  14. Moderator emeritus

    AmbitiousLemon

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    #14
    Technically speaking the PPC chips still are much better than any Intel chips (even the CoreDuo). The old PC fan boys around here (switchers) will try to argue that the Intel chips were always faster and point to things like spec. Truth is Intel chips cheat at these benchmarks requiring you to look at real world performance to assertain true speed. And in nearly all real world benchmarks PPC wins over Intel (AMD is another story).

    PPC chips almost always have been faster than the best offerings from Intel (including the current moment in time). The latest battles have mostly been between AMD chips and PPC chips with various processors released by each camp leap frogging the competition. The reason the PowerMac isn't Intel yet is that Intel doesn't have a chip that would match the current performance of the PowerMacs, let alone anything that would constitute an upgrade.

    The advantage to Apple moving to Intel isn't speed or power per watt (as the marketing guys would like you to think). The main reason for the switch is that IBM embarassed Steve - by not delivering on the promise of a mobile G5 and a 3Ghz G5.

    And thats where the advantage of Intel comes in. The switch makes Macs slower in the short term, and relegates us to probably never having the fastest processor (AMD has taken over that crown in the x86 crowd), but what it does give us is parity with PC vendors (they will be using the same stuff) and a more reliable source of chips.

    This doesn't necessarily mean no more broken promises. Intel has a long history of not meeting roadmap deadlines, watering down features on planned chips, and grossly overstating the expected performance of planned processors. But we know we will be getting the same crap as everyone else. And supply problems should be a thing of the past (although currently we are having CoreDuo supply problems). But we know Intel is dedicated to improving processors for PC use, while the PPC camp seems to have lost interest in PC processors. So Intel represents a more dedicated (if promiscuous) partner.

    This has nothing to do with technical features, speed, or watts - this has to do with business, and finding a partner who is dedicated to the product they are supplying you.
     
  15. macrumors 68040

    MattG

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  16. macrumors 68030

    Catfish_Man

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    #16
    Obligatory credibility establishment: I've been a Mac user literally my entire life and I write Mac software.

    You're incorrect, unless you count POWERx as PowerPC. Intel pulled ahead of PowerPC around 2000-2001, except in certain carefully chosen benchmarks (RC5, some photoshop filters, etc...).

    The G5 brought PPC back to being quite competitive; faster in many cases, slower in others. However, it stagnated after that (pick a theory as to why; my theory is a combination of shoddy support chipset and lack of interest from non-Apple companies).

    Currently the G5 is competitive at streaming floating point stuff like Photoshop and video apps, and gets destroyed at latency sensitive and int heavy stuff (compiling, for example). The quad G5 is obviously very fast, but if you compare it to a quad Xeon system, it's again just competitive (however, Intel artificially inflates prices for Xeons, so the quad G5 would likely cost less than the quad xeon)

    Re: SPECcpu. It's actually very difficult to cheat at SPEC. There are rigorous submission rules, and potential cheats are investigated when discovered. That said, there are a few known "legal but nasty" compiler optimizations, such as Sun's 179.art hack. I would regard SPECcpu as more reliable than any other synthetic benchmark for the tasks it measures (mostly engineering and scientific computing), but not as accurate as a *well done* (that means non-Apple. Apple cheats horribly and blatantly) application-specific benchmark.

    Apparently the new low end iMac is 256% faster than a 1.6GHz G5 PowerMac at compiling using GCC, according to a test on the arstechnica Mac forums. For most apps, though, the speed increase is in the 10-30% range, and for some the new machine is slower. I'm fairly curious about the compile numbers though. I've heard from other sources that compiling is "very fast" on the Intel machines, but I haven't tracked down anyone to confirm just how fast it is, so I'm taking the number above with a big grain of salt until I do.

    <edit>
    One theory I've heard about why GCC is so much faster on the mactels is that its x86 version has just had waaaaay more attention paid to it by the legions of open source x86 hackers. Probably at least somewhat true.
    </edit>
     
  17. Moderator emeritus

    AmbitiousLemon

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    #17
    Well Catfish man you have an odd way of looking at things. What you said in most part completely agrees with what I have said. You had to go to an extremely expensive high end Intel cpu to find something comparable to a PowerMac. But that isn't playing fair. If you want to look at a higher class then you need to do so on both ends. Compare it to a Power cpu.

    Independent benchmarks consistently show the G5 outperforming Intel chips (even holding its own against Xeons and Opterons, which isn't exactly a fair comparison). You also mentioned that Intel pulled ahead around 2000. This again shows the PPC has been ahead most of the time and it was just a short span of time during early 2000s before the G5 came out that the G4 wasn't competing. With the G5, PPC has pulled ahead again and even with the CoreDuo the G5 remains ahead (hence why no Intel PowerMac). Current independent benchmarks confirm this.

    You also mention cost, mentioning the Xeon system is much more expensive. Also of note is that the CoreDuo is also a more expensive chip than the G5. Apple is having to go with a more expensive cpu for the iMac and Pro laptop in order to garner just a 10% improvement in real world benchmarks. A bump up to a faster G5 probably would have provided a similar improvement in speed (and perhaps at lower cost).

    PPC technology is simply hands down superior technology to x86, and if you think different you are fooling yourself. The switch to Intel is probably a very good move, but lets not confuse people by trying to pretend the benefits of the switch are technological. Its as I said before, the switch is a good idea because developers of PPC are no longer focused on creating CPUs for personal computing. While the PowerMac remains competive Apple has not been provided good upgrade options for the laptops or low end desktops. Intel chips provide good cometitive products across the spectrum and also provides a more reliable source of chip (since Intel is very much interested in creating cpus for personal computers).
     
  18. thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #18
    Wow, all this info is interesting. So IBM hasn't made a mobile G5...it takes time. So Intel will be doing that job now?
     
  19. Moderator emeritus

    AmbitiousLemon

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    #19
    Well the G5 is a PowerPC processor. It is being abandoned. We are switching to x86 processors made by Intel. The CoreDuo (cpu in the new MacBook Pro and iMac) IS a mobile chip. So in essence it is the mobile G5 that IBM had no interest in creating.

    I said a few times the reason the PowerMac wasn't updated was that its still faster than any Intel chip. The other end of that question is why the iMac and Macbook Pro then? The answer would be that these are the best selling Macs. No doubt Apple wanted to move its most popular lines to Intel to send a strong message to developers that its time to get those Universal Binaries out. I think thats also why these machines (great machines don't get me wrong) seem a bit half-baked by Apple standards. They are a warning shot. Priming the development environment for Intel Macs.
     
  20. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2006
    #20
    The fact that the G4 PowerBooks are extremely slow by todays standards and have been showing their age for 18 months didn't hurt the decision to do the laptop refresh early on either, I wager.
     
  21. Moderator emeritus

    AmbitiousLemon

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    #21
    :) indeed.
     
  22. macrumors newbie

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    Apr 13, 2005
    #22
    I updated my old 1Ghz G4 iMac to a new 20" Intel iMac this week and I'm lovin' it. I realize it's only a little faster (or a little slower, depending upon what you're doing) than the G5 machines, but it's a lot faster than what I had.

    I'm looking forward to the same thrill ride next month when my MBP replaces my used-to-be-top-of-the-line Powerbook. Until then, my Powerbook now feels really slow. That's the only real downside of my new iMac. :)
     
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    How soon do you guys think that they will come out with faster speeds on MBP and how short/long is the horizon for the PowerMacs to have these processors?
     
  24. macrumors 6502a

    shrimpdesign

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2005
    #24
    That's awesome! All I have right now is a G4 PowerMac and iBook. I'm going to be blazing with my new Core Duo iMac. It'll probably be evern faster than my Dual 1Ghz G4 in Rosetta if I upgrade to 1.5Gb or RAM. From what I hear, Rosetta likes RAM as much as I like Macs.
     
  25. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    #25
    I would imagine that many professionals would like to see more universal apps released before they trade in their Quad G5 for an Intel machine. I'm not a professional user, but I still don't think it makes much sense to get an Intel Mac until most of the programs I use run native. Hopefully for many applications that will coincide with an Intel PowerMac launch. Maybe by then Intel will have a 64-bit chip ready, although I suppose you can argue whether or not that's necessary.
     

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