Upgrade G4 Tower or Mac Mini?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by SC68Cal, Feb 23, 2006.

  1. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Hello everyone! My name is Sean, I'm a student at Temple University and a part time writer for www.68caliber.com

    I was a pretty heavy Windows user until I met my Roomate, who has basically turned me over to Apple products. I picked up a job with Computer services a few weeks ago, and basically fixed up an old PowerMac G4 (Gigabit) and now have it running in (semi) good shape. OSX is a bit dated (10.2) and most of the apps (iTunes, iPhoto etc...) are really dated and need an update.

    Now here is my dillemma. Apparently there are upgrade chips that you can purchase that would increase my processing power on the G4 (from dual 500mhz) to say high as dual 1.8 GHZ.

    A thought crossed my mind, the Mac Mini costs about the same as some processor upgrades, and I will get not only a faster processor but also a good CD combo drive and faster memory.

    These are the abbreviated specs for the G4 Tower:
    2x G4 500mhz
    OS X 10.2
    4x 128 PC100 RAM
    DVD-RAM Drive
    80 Gig HD

    Off the cuff, I'll probably need the following for the G4 Tower
    OSX Update
    USB 2.0 PCI Card

    And probably down the line, a processor upgrade.

    Otherwise, I could purchase the Mac Mini.

    My question is this: Which would you do? buy a mac mini or get a new processor for the current machine?

    Thank you everyone!

    EDIT: I'd also like to include my usage habits to help everyone get an idea of what I do.
    Programs used (highest occurance to lowest)
    AIM Client
    Picasa (or iPhoto)
    Abyss Webserver (Runs in background)

    Essentially, I do a little of everything. Probably not nearly enough to justify the raw power of a G5 tower, but enough. I do run most of my applications off a laptop (that I had before fixing the g4 tower that was just a 1.4 GHZ centrino with 512MB memory and a 80 gig hard drive)
  2. tjwett macrumors 68000


    May 6, 2002
    Brooklyn, NYC
    to run Tiger you'll probably want to pick up a new video card as well. personally i would go with the processor upgrade. a dual will always run better for OS X. i just acquired a dual G4 1 ghz and it's quite a bit faster than my much newer 1.5 Ghz PowerBook. the only problem with investing an upgrade like that in such an old machine is the age factor. how is the condition? what is the history of the machine? but as long as the logic board doesn't go then you should be fine. you definitely don't want to be paying for a new logic board.
  3. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    The hard drive is a brand new Hitachi Desk Star 80 Gig, the ram is brand new. This computer was part of a research grant, and was recently returned to our computer office. When I recieved the computer it had been cannibalized for parts, it was missing a HD and ram. It runs fairly well, for the fact that it's only 500mhz. I don't forsee any problems with it.
  4. tjwett macrumors 68000


    May 6, 2002
    Brooklyn, NYC
    i'd say wait till tuesday and see if they come out with an intel mini or something for the same price. if nothing exciting comes along then i'd say go for it and get the proc upgrade. you can tinker with that machine for a while and when you feel you've beaten it to death then it will probably make a fine server. i like these old G4s for servers, you can load them up with hard drives!
  5. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    That's definetly the dealbreaker: if an Intel mac mini comes out Tuesday or not.
  6. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Done some more research:

    According to benchmarks, I can get a OWC G4/1.5 7455B Mercury Extreme that will bring my performance to on par (or similar) to the G4 MacMini, for $349 without losing much performance switching from a dual to a single. I just don't know if shelling out close to $600 (dual processor 1.8's) is a bit too rich for my blood, not to mention not nearly worth the cost for the slight performance increase. It seems that there are just too many other bottlenecks in the system to justify dual processors like that.

    I'll still see what's going to come out of Apple next tuesday, if an Intel mac mini makes an appearance
  7. spinne1 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 12, 2005
    Hermitage, TN USA (near Nashville)
    I would wait for awhile and use it as is. For your needs, the dual 500 should be fine. Have you noticed any particular slowness? To help you spend little but speed things up, up the ram to at least 1 GB. This will speed things up quite a bit. Next, I would get a newer OS X. I believe you will be surprised how much you like a newer OS X. Next, I would get a nice video card for your computer (if you plan to keep and use it for a while). Perhaps a 9800 Pro used if you can find one cheap enough (but a Mac version unless you are comfortable with a flashed PC version).

    As for having a better computer in the end, I believe a Dual-1.8 Ghz G4 tower will crush the Mac Mini of today in processing speed and overall productiveness, despite the G4 tower's age, slower memory and slower bus speed.

    If an Intel Mini is released then I think you should pay attention to exactly what it can do. Also price exactly what computer you would be getting (you still want at least 1 GB ram). Wait for some benchmarks to come along on apps running native on the Intel processor to compare it to the upgraded tower. Barefeats.com may have some good tests if you are patient and wait for them to make such comparisons.

    I'm curious whether G4 upgrades will go down in price over time or stay close to the same. The price of used G4 towers is about to hit a major drop in value I think. The Blue and White G3's just recently went through this to where you can easily get one for well under $100. The G4 Towers at lower speeds will soon follow. 2-3 years from now even the Dual 1Ghz and faster will start to come way down.

    The Intel Mini will retain its resale value longer and for a bigger percentage than the G4 tower.

    Still, despite all this, I'd still probably upgrade the tower at some point.
  8. crazyfortech macrumors member

    Dec 28, 2005
    I'm actually in the same boat as you, thats the same exact computer I accquired. I think I finally am going to sell it to get an intel mac mini when they come out, it will support more apps and will probably blow and g4 tower. Plus it will probably be core! maybe for what apps your using it would be fine but I'm just going to be runnign new apps and I don't want to use a old computer when I can get a new one for like the same price
  9. ITASOR macrumors 601


    Mar 20, 2005
    Yeah man, the dual 500 is seriously powerful...I think you should keep that processor.

    That computer will run Tiger great, and have much more upgradability than a mini will.
  10. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    These are all great opinions! I'm very thankful for all the input that everyone has contributed!

    I'm not sure what exactly I'm going to do. I'd definetly like to play around more with the G4 Tower, it seems to run well enough. My only complaint has been that iPhoto is a bit sluggish when importing my entire library over (close to 2,000 images, so who knows what computer would run in a timely fashion doing that :-\ ). Then again, the iPhoto software is absolutely outdated. I'm sure if I did the necessesary updates (latest version of OSX) then the times would greatly improve.

    For comparison, the iTunes software is somewhere in the ballpark of 3? It has a purple icon. My roomate describes all the software as "anchient", and it's running a fresh install of OSX 10.2. I don't think I have much to lose purchasing the newest build of OSX, especially when an education discount makes the software around $60 or so.

    What I might do, is keep the G4 tower the way it is, update the OS. I mean, worst case if the performance isn't enough just pick up a Mac Mini and use the G4 Tower as a server/ftp host for the rest of my computers. I'm sure dual processors would do an excellent job in that regard. I have two full websites that I could transfer over to the G4, and then save quite a bit of money that would have to be wasted on webhosting space
  11. QCassidy352 macrumors G4


    Mar 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    I'd upgrade the tower, but hold off on the processor, actually.

    Taking the RAM to 1 GB or more will make worlds of difference. After that, I'd get Panther or Tiger. After that, upgrade the video card - maybe to a 9600? (a 9800 would be more than your processor could handle, i think.) With all that, you should see a very large performance boost. And if you still want more, *then* get a processor upgrade.

    just my 2 cents.

    edit: unless the new intel mini coming tomorrow is amazing. If so, get that. :)
  12. Eidorian macrumors Penryn


    Mar 23, 2005
    Get 10.3 at least and get iLife 06. iPhoto is much more perky then it ever was.

    Also upgrade the video card to at least a Radeon or a GeForce 2/3/4. Quartz Extreme support is a big boost for the GUI and in iPhoto. That is after upgrading the RAM.

    That or wait for an Intel Mac Mini.
  13. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Mar 17, 2005
    London, UK
    If I were you, I'd sell the G4 and get a Mac Mini. Wait until tomorrow of course to see if they release new minis or not though. You'll be able to get a decent price for the G4, probably about half the cost of a new Mini even though the Mini will be considerably faster and would come with all the software you need (OS X Tiger, iLife '06).

    You should be able to get around $250 for that machine on ebay for one. Add the cost of a USB2 card ($10), Tiger ($129), iLife '06 ($79) and you've already got $468 which is only $31 shy of a current G4 Mac Mini which has a 1.25Ghz processor and a half decent graphics card. Less HD space and no DVD-RAM but otherwise equally specced as your current machine. This is all even before the upgrades that'll hopefully be in the new Mini that'll fingers crossed be out tomorrow!
  14. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    I'd bump the RAM up to 1GB and install Tiger. It should run pretty well. As far as more upgrades v.s. a Mac Mini...depends on what you want:

    The G4 tower is better for people who like to tinker, want multiple hard drives (or RAID), or want more performance than the Mini has (which means upgrading the CPU, video card and maxing out the RAM, for between $500-$1000 in upgrades depending on what you get).

    The Mini is better if you want a computer with good stock performance, minimum fuss and don't care too much about future upgrades beyond RAM and maybe a hard drive.
  15. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    With my education discount, Tiger will only cost me $70.

    The only thing I wonder about is that some of the minimum requirements for iLife in terms of processing power are a bit above my specs. iDvd for example requires a 700mhz or better processor. Now, I know I don't have a DVD writer in my machine (roomate has an external one I can use) but the fact that some of the min. system requirements are above my specs makes me think that maybe just shelling out the cash for a Mac Mini would be wiser, since the hardware in my current machine is from 2000 after all...
  16. mcdermd macrumors regular


    Mar 17, 2004
    I have a dual 500mhz gigabit also. It has received second-hand upgrades from various PC using friends. 160gb (128gb recognized) HDD, 1gb RAM, dual layer DVD+/-RW, 128mb GeForce FX5500 (flashed PC card), USB2 PCI card, wireless 802.11g PCI card all running under Tiger.

    The new OS and more RAM will make a world of difference. Even more would be to upgrade the video card to at least a Quartz Extreme capable card (you could even find a GeForce 2 for < $20). If you do the RAM, OS and Video card, it will feel at least as responsive as a mini in daily tasks and I have heard that our dual 500's are on easily par with a single 867mhz QS. Something to think about if you want to bug friends for some free upgrades (who among them needs 256mb PC100/133 DIMMs anymore :p )
  17. Swami macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2006
    Go with the mini

    There is nothing like having a new computer, the feel, the smell, etc.
    Upgrades are good but you always feel like you could do more.
  18. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    You can fool iLife into accepting your machine specs...can't remember how exactly but there's a thread around here somewhere where someone with a 500Mhz G3 iBook got iLife running. It will be slow, but will work.
  19. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Hmmmm...... I think I might just go with a Mac Mini, if that's how it's going to shake down. I'll use the G4 as a server. Everybody wins!
  20. discoforce macrumors 6502a


    Jan 27, 2004
    Vermont, USA
    A similar conundrum was considered in August's Macworld. Not the exact same boat as you, but many similarities.
  21. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    People are definetly showing interest in my machine. I'm worrying that I'm scaring them all away, because I have no idea what to ask for pricewise.... that MacQuote place gave me a quote at like 500-600, which is completely unrealistic.

    What's a fair price for this machine?
  22. Dane D. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2004
    Check this site out for G4 value:

    From what I have read, it depends on the apps you use. Here at work we use Adobe software (Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat) and Quark. We will not be upgrading anytime soon. Our shop runs G4s (450, 466, DP 450, DP 867), our software and printing equipment are setup for these computers. I would stuff as much RAM as you can afford in it, install either Panther or Tiger and another internal HD. The video card is icing on the cake if you can afford it.
  23. SmurfBoxMasta macrumors 65816


    Nov 24, 2005
    I'm only really here at night.
  24. SC68Cal thread starter macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    I'm definetly considering giving Tiger a try at the least, maybe add iLife as well.

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