Review: Apple Power Mac G4 (FW 800)
April 10, 2003
Apple introduced the Power Mac G4 (FW 800) systems on January 28, 2003. The Power Mac G4 (FW 800) adds FireWire 800, Bluetooth, and AirPort Extreme support, and several other enhancements to the fifth generation of a Power Macintosh G4 product line Apple originally introduced more than three years ago, in September, 1999.
What it has
What it doesn't have (compared to the previous Power Mac G4)
Configurations & availability
The Power Mac G4 (FW 800) is available in three basic configurations, which the Computer Connection has in specially priced versions matched to various Apple displays:
Information Systems & Computing (ISC) sees these Power Macintoshes as evolutionary improvements over the previous generation models, with some features (FireWire 800, AirPort Extreme) that will transition to the next generation of Apple desktops. However, users who are replacing workstations on a four-year life-cycle will find these a stunning improvement on their G3s - about 3 times the clock speed, 4 to 8 times the VRAM, faster memory and video cards, and including connectivity (AirPort, FireWire, etc) not available four years ago.
The Power Mac G4 (FW 800) supports an integrated 802.11g-based AirPort Extreme card. This new card is backward-compatible with 802.11b wireless networks (Wi-Fi), and does support the greater throughput capability of the 802.11g protocol of up to 54 Mbps. ISC has not yet completed testing of AirPort Extreme or 802.11g-based wireless networks, though the technology looks promising and initial testing has been successful.
Technical issues & recommendations
ISC does not expect there to be significant hardware-related compatibility problems with the Power Mac G4 (FW 800). However, the Power Mac will have the same software-related conflicts that any Mac OS 10.2.x-based workstation would have.
ISC has tested the Power Mac G4 (FW 800) for compatibility with University-supported hardware and software. The Power Mac G4 (FW 800) is compatible with the Network Applications Installer for Mac OS X version 10.2.x and Penn's supported network applications. Like other Power Macintoshes released in 2003, the Power Mac G4 (FW 800) does not have the ability to boot into Mac OS 9.x. However, support exists for running Mac OS 9.x-based ("Classic") applications from within Mac OS X. Support providers should be aware of this limitation if they have any Mac OS 9.x-based applications that must run natively.
Properly configured, these workstations meet or exceed ISC's desktop recommendations for Macintoshes, with the addition of extra RAM and/or an external Zip 250 drive. For most users, the dual 1.25 GHz workstation is an appropriate choice, having the best combination of processor speed, bus speed, video card capability, and price. As always, support providers should be aware of the technical issues associated with any new workstation design.
--John Mulhern III, Senior IT Project Leader, ISC Technology Support Services (April 10, 2003)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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