iMac G5 or PowerMac G5?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by palatinate11, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. palatinate11 macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2005
    I've used macs for years and spent ages working on my old G3 Powerbook. Over the course of the two years or so I have been self-teaching web and graphic design using the old powerbook, a friend's G4 iMac and a PC laptop.

    I've been holding off on buying a new Mac until I felt I had reached a certain level of competency. I've built 5 sites now - all hand-coded (I haven't ever used Dreamweaver) in XHTML, CSS, and Javascript. I'm also studying php and mySQL and working through the Mac OSX Support Essentials coursebook so I can get certified.

    I'm prepared to spend what's needed to get the right machine to set me up going forward - either to keep going and get into professional web design or just to maintain it as a part-time gig.

    What I can't work out is whether the G5 iMac is enough for what I want to do: use lots of creative applications, probably get into editing video, work on digital images, high quality printing etc. Or, if I really need to get the G5 PowerMac.

    Obviously the pro model is cooler but it's also a lot more expensive and then there's the Intel changeover coming up.

    I want to avoid regretting my purchase - either thinking I didn't get enough machine, or that I got more than I will ever need and wasted cash I could have spent on software and peripherals.

    Any thoughts/similar experiences? (Thanks.)
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    As a print designer with all things being equal and if given a choice, I would always go for the best PowerMac I could afford.

    The dual 1.42 with SuperDrive was the best model I could get at the time and will still be usable for another 2-4 years given some upgrades. If I'd bought the best iMac at the time, I would now be kicking myself.

    Longer life i.e. more oomph and upgradable. The new iMacs are sealed units and apart from changing RAM there's not much else you can do to upgrade or repair it in the future without taking it to an Apple-certified service centre.

    The PowerMacs, I feel, are just simply better value for pro users for so many reasons. What may feel like overkill to start with will be just right for you in 1-2 years time.

    Don't bank on Mactels being the immediate solution either. Firstly, do you really want a Revision A machine? And secondly, PPC machines will be supported for at least another 3-4 years if not longer. There's millions of PPC machines out there that will need OS and app upgrades — no software manufacturer is going to ignore that market.
  3. palatinate11 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2005
    Thanks for the advice, it makes perfect sense. Being able to upgrade the machine will make a huge difference to it's useful life.

    With that in mind can anyone suggest a learning resource - book or online - that explains all the options on a PowerMac. I am studying the OSX Support Essentials Coursebook to upgrade my knowledge but am quite novice when it comes to knowing what my requirements should be in terms of processing speed, Serial ATA, cards, and RAM. I don't want to make a selection mistake (trying to be economical) during purchase on something that can't be easily upgraded at a later date.

    Thanks for your thoughts...
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    What about this? ;)

    But seriously, ask all you need here. There are some very bright, helpful and friendly people here that will share their experiences.

    The only thing I usually consider in a new PowerMac is processor.

    The rest can easily be upgraded... and it's wise to budget for at least 1gb of RAM (2gb is nice) to make the most of your machine (far cheaper from 3rd party suppliers) and some kind of backup strategy and device whether internal or external.
  5. palatinate11 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2005
    Good point! I'll stick to asking my questions here. There's lots of info in the Apple store but it really helps to read real-life explanations and examples.

    So for starters here are some questions based on the comparison of available PowerMacs (specs listed first):

    Dual-core 2GHz PowerPC G5 processor
    1GHz frontside bus per processor
    1MB L2 cache per core
    512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-4200)
    160GB Serial ATA hard drive
    16x SuperDrive (double-layer)
    Three open PCI-Express expansion slots
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE with 128MB GDDR SDRAM

    Dual-core 2.3GHz PowerPC G5 processor
    1.15GHz frontside bus per processor
    1MB L2 cache per core
    512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-4200)
    250GB Serial ATA hard drive
    16x SuperDrive (double-layer)
    Three open PCI-Express expansion slots
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 with 256MB GDDR SDRAM

    Two dual-core 2.5GHz PowerPC G5 processors
    1.25GHz frontside bus per processor
    1MB L2 cache per core
    512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-4200)
    250GB Serial ATA hard drive
    16x SuperDrive (double-layer)
    Three open PCI-Express expansion slots
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 with 256MB GDDR SDRAM

    1. So the processor is the thing. It seems to be the main difference between the three offerings. I really don't think that I merit the Quad as a not-quite-professional-yet web designer. So can anyone give me an example of the real-life difference between option 1 and 2 (or a really good reason for spending $3,300 on the quad) for example: Dual-core 2GHz PowerPC G5 processor vs. Dual-core 2.3GHz PowerPC G5 processor? Do the speed/performance differences only come in to play when you are creating a movie or rendering broadcast graphics or something, or are there real gains to be made for someone like me who wants to run PhotoShop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver etc. for design and web production? I'll probably get into Final Cut at some point - in an amateur way - will the slower processor become a drag with that kind of use? Or is it plenty of oomph with some in reserve?

    2. The frontside bus per processor is the connection between the processor and the rest of the machine - correct? So the speed of that is a potential bottleneck? But presumably they are scaled with the processor speed so there's no hinderance. Is there another reason for having a faster frontside bus? Or am I totally wrong about its purpose in the first place?

    3. 512MB of 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-4200) This is the RAM - right? And typically you'd add more with extra 3rd party RAM? If I'm right on this what kind of RAM upgrade do most people think is a good idea? And do you buy it from Apple (I've had some problems with my old g3 caused by 3rd party RAM failing - twice actually)?

    4. The Serial ATA hard drive. Could you upgrade the hard drive at a later date or is that a silly idea? I plan to buy an external hard drive for backing up everything so would the lowest budget offering -option1- be fine here - or is there a good reason I am missing to get the biggest internal hard drive you can?

    5. What's this? "NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE with 128MB GDDR SDRAM"

    That's a lot of questions for New Year's Eve! I thought I might as well pose them and see if anyone has strong opinions/answers to offer on any or all.

    Your help is much appreciated - Happy New Year!
  6. chicagdan macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2002
    Chicago, IL
    Not here to give tech answers, but I can offer a little shopping advice since I just bought a Power Mac 2.0 gig dual yesterday -- has a $200 mail in rebate on all Power Macs (on other Apple systems as well -- seems to be 10%, topping off at $200.) Amazon does not charge sales tax and even overnight shipping is cheap.

    I think the 2.0 dual processor PPC should be enough for you. Upgrading anything in the Power Mac is absurdly easy ... even adding a hard drive is little more than sliding it in, plugging it in and clamping it in place. The eight RAM slots almost encourage incremental increases in memory ... add an extra gig from time to time when you have the extra cash (or when there's a sale.) Other World Computing has great prices on RAM.

    I'd suggest sticking with the stock video card for now and seeing if it works for you. ATI and nVIDIA upgrade their cards so often that it doesn't make much sense to buy the bleeding edge, prices tend to drop quickly once the new latest and greatest is out. And the great thing about having a PM is that you can upgrade whenever you damn well feel like it.

    Final thought -- IBM processor. Look, 100 percent of the Pro software is written for the PPC and the pro userbase will exceed 50 percent for at least the next three years. If you feel left out by something on the Intel side in a year or two, buy a cheap Mac Mini or iBook for the consumer apps. For pro applications, this PPC is going to have a long run. And besides, an Eye TV 500/Power Mac combination is likely to be vastly superior to whatever supposed "TiVO killer" Mac is going to introduce ... Eye TV gives you the power, the new Mac solution will likely tie your hands (for example, I can send videos to an iPod video or a PSP. Think the new Apple solution will allow that? No chance.)
  7. leekohler macrumors G5


    Dec 22, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    I agree. As far as being able to upgrade over the years, the PowerMac is your best bet. I've had my PowerMac G4 for 5 years and it's still great. You really don't want to get 2 years down the road and wish you could upgrade this or that. Look at it this way, the new iMacs can be upgraded to 2 Gigs of RAM. My 5 year old PM can hold that amount.
  8. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    Powermac is my vote

    If you plan on keeping this system for a long time (like the G3 Powerbook) you will want to go with the fastest, most equipped system you can afford. This is justifiable because you don't intend on selling it next year, or in the near future.

    If you don't need the power of the Quad now, that may not be the case in the future. It all depends on how far you want to go with your website computing in the future, and there is no telling what future expectations will be for websites, as many already have complicated flash, video, and graphics during this day and age.

    For what you are doing ( I also do some web design) I think the 2.3 would be a great fit. Since it isn't the base model, and has the faster FSB you will get good performance from it out of the box, and into the future. I would also recommend buying the system with the lowest available memory on Apples site, and buying Upgraded ram from a separate source strait away. The prices that Apple charges for memory is quite high.

    Besides Amazon, you can also watch the Apple's Refurbished site for good deals on refurbished Powermacs, that will have the full factory warranty, and awesome prices. Just click on the Save tag shown on the online Apple store (scroll down), and browse the inventory that is listed, and it often changes many times during 1 day :) .

  9. FocusAndEarnIt macrumors 601


    May 29, 2005
    iMac for power and no upgrades. PowerMac for extreme power and tons of upgrades.

    That's your choice. ;)
  10. chicagdan macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2002
    Chicago, IL
    Yes, but shop carefully -- the PMs on the refurb site tend to be the last generation (non dual core and PCI-X architecture.) It kinda defeats the purpose of having an upgradable system when you limit your ability to get the most up-to-date upgrades.

    On the other hand, Apple Stores continue to have interesting refreshed models available -- a lot of them are current generation and selling at deeper discounts than the refurbs. These products seem to have flown off the shelves pretty quickly here in Chicago, but I'm sure it varies store to store and as more returns come in, these tables have been replenished.
  11. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    If it was me and I had the money, I'd get the Quad. Overkill now perhaps but not in 2-3 years... besides, I've found one's computing needs often expand with the power and capabilities of your machine.

    OK, to make a quick stab at answering your questions:

    1. Yes, the 2.3 will be of benefit when using Photoshop and if you want to get into Final Cut, the faster the better.

    2. Wouldn't worry about the FSB. Like you say, it scales with the processor and there's not much you can do about it.

    3. Yep, it's RAM. Get the standard 512mb and put an extra 1-2gb in there yourself. Trustworthy suppliers include Crucial and OWC. All of our work Macs and my home G4 has extra Crucial RAM with no probs at all. Easy installation.

    4. Yes, you can upgrade the drive at a later stage which is something I've also just done on my G4. You can put an identical drive in the 2nd bay for backup purposes or get a Firewire external one. Installing them is ridiculously easy in the G5 PMs.

    5. NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE with 128MB GDDR SDRAM — the graphics card. Less important for Photoshop but useful for games and driving monitors. I'm a little vague on this so someone else might give you more detail on the pros and cons of various graphics cards.
  12. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    That goes without question, however it was listed as an alternative and suggested to someone that appears to understand how to read specifications.

    If the intent is to not add other cards to the system at a later date, the Dual 2.7 is still a good choice. It is faster then a Dual core 2.3, and is still highly expandable in the memory department, as well as drives.

    Just giving an other option, not a better option. If the poster can afford a Quad, I would highly recommend that over all others :) .
  13. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 LE with 128MB GDDR SDRAM is fine for your needs. And definitely go for the Powermac
  14. palatinate11 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 30, 2005
    Awesome feedback. You were right Blue Velvet, this is the place to ask questions!

    Only thing is I'll have to find a way to up the budget! I'd feel really good going with the second PowerMac on the list, the 2.3Ghz processor which is about the max I can afford, but if I could find the extra cash I'd definitely get the quad. I have quad-lust now.

    And I still need to find more $$ for peripherals - and a display - it's a scary shopping list. This is my wishlist so far (suggestions welcome) but it'll be a wishlist for a while if I blow the budget on the 2.3 G5!

    - wacom intous tablet
    - external firewire drive for backups
    - kick ass printer for photos etc. (but not so good that the inks dry up/get too expensive) haven't researched this yet...
    - scanner
    - all kinds of shockingly expensive creative software - mainly the creative suite... yikes.

    I've been scraping by for a few years, self-educating web design with old machines and software so I've been building up to this for a long time!

    Any more thoughts are most welcome and meanwhile I'll be reading through old posts for more opinions on peripherals.

    Happy New Year!
  15. maya macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2004
    somewhere between here and there.
    However in 2 years time, Apple will release a new iMac with some kewl new add-ons and features as standards. Can you get this with a PowerMac G5. ;)

    I have a 5+ year old PowerBook G3 still being able to use as a mail, internet, music terminal. It will render FCP 1.2 and 2.0 files however its no speed demon according to current standards.

    My now iMac G5 which I only and maybe plan on maxing out the RAM is about a year old and it plenty fast for my requirements. Plus in another year when I want to upgrade who knows what the iMac will include as standards. ;)

    Matter of Prospect. ;) :)
  16. djkny macrumors 6502

    Sep 30, 2003
    the fact of the matter is, everything will be obsolete with the passage of time; and the power of a machine depends more on the executable talents of a user rather than its innards -- case and point, there have been many feature films, for e.g., and award winning short films and design projects cut on DP G4's ... less power, yes, but an editor's craft is an editor's craft. You can know all about ram, and graphics, and what not, and still not make any use of a G5 Quad.

    Spring for a refurb G5 -- it will last a long time. And for $1449 (G5 Dualie 2.0?)? can't be beat.
  17. hubristol macrumors regular


    Nov 28, 2005
    I agree. Everything is always relative with computers and you'll always be buying into soon-to-be "outdated" hardware. I've done video editing with only a Dual 1.8 and I was amazed by how well FC Pro worked on that...I can't imagine how great a refurbed Dual 2.0 or 2.3 are. Just because someone has $3-4k to spend on a computer doesn't mean that they *should*, afterall.
  18. dwd3885 macrumors 68020

    Dec 10, 2004
    i used to advocate refurbs on Apple, but buying TWO of them and coming up empty with tons of problembs both times, I decided to buy the NEW Dual Core 2ghz. Nothing can beat brand new, absolutely NO problems.

    So proceed with caution if buying refurb
  19. FFTT macrumors 68030


    Apr 17, 2004
    A Stoned Throw From Ground Zero
    I think the 2.3 would be more than enough for the use you've indicated.
    Add 2GB RAM from Crucial,OWC or Datamem and you'll be amazed at the power you've got at your fingertips.
    The Quad is insanely beautiful, but it doesn't really sound like you need that much power.

    I feel your pain with "other" stuff still on your shopping list.
    Last spring, I purchased my REV "B" 2.0 (8DIMM) and my Dell 24" display for less than $2700.
    Since then, I've spent another $2000 on hardware and I'm still just barely getting my project studio rolling.

    It's great to have the fastest CPU you can afford, but it doesn't do you much good if you can't afford the other gear you need to actually get something

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