I have owned a fair number of Macintosh models, and have liked/disliked each for different reasons. For instance, I disliked my LCII because I purchased it right at the same time Apple was rolling out the PowerMac. (For those new to the Mac world, there were Macs, such as the original Mac, LC, Quadra’s, Centras, etc… and then there came the PowerMac, based on the new PowerPC chip from Motorola) So thereafter, each and every new program or game I wanted, of course, required a “PowerPC” Mac, thus leaving me out to dry. The LCII also had anemic memory (4MB) and Hard Drive (80MB) But all in all, I still loved that machine. In fact, My Mac Magazine (which grew into mymac.com) started life on that machine.
Next came the Performa 6300CD. This was a very fast machine at 100MHz, powered by a 603e chip. This was a great computer at first, but shortly after buying it, the Macintosh Clones came out, and I quickly realized what I could have had, had I waited a few more months. (Don’t let this tale deter you, though, from getting a Mac now, thinking something faster, better, and cheaper will come out. It will, but you never get anything new playing the waiting game) In hindsight, buying a clone would have been a dead-end, but so was that 6300CD. It could not be upgraded in anyway, and its chip set was faulty. (Though Apple has never admitted it, I still think that the first crop of 603e chips were for the most part defective. I went through 3 motherboard replacements before getting a stable one, and I know MANY others who had very bad luck with the 6200-6300 series. Probably one of the worse design and function Macs ever made)
Recently, I had been using a PowerMac 6500 running at 250MHz. This computer was nice. It sported two PCI slots, which I upgraded with both a Ethernet card and a USB card. This model also used the 603e chip, but within a few months of purchased, I upgraded it with a 320MHz/1MB backside cache G3 card. In this configuration, I used the machine for two years.
But it was time for a change, and an upgrade. (And not just because the dog knocked the motherboard down a flight of stairs while cleaning the computer either) It was time to get a Mac which would allow me to move into the future, Mac OS X (not beta), as well as being more expandable, powerful, and able to accomplish all the task I use it for quickly.
Time for a G4!
Went I first started looking, I already knew what I wanted, but it took me a while to convince myself to actually do it. While the 6500 was dead thanks to the stupid dog, I would carry home my PowerBook from work every night. The PowerBook in question is a “Lombard” model, 400MHz G3 with a few hundred MB of memory. This is a fine model, durable, very usable, and sports all the ports I want, save Firewire. (But it does have SCSI, which is much more important to me than Firewire at this point) But this was a pain, hefting the PB back and forth everyday. So while I knew I needed a new Mac, I was still torn about getting one.
Finally, however, I settled on a G4 DP 500MHz model. After adding in a new 19″ monitor, speakers (more on those later) and a SCSI card, the new Mac is running like a dream at home.
It is funny. I use G3’s and G4’s all day long at work, on big 21″ monitors. So speed and size should not have felt all that different. But your setting when using different machines make all the difference. I was USED to a 15″ screen at home, running a much slower machine that at work. In my home, the 19″ monitor seems HUGE. The speed of the G4 is incredible, compared to the 6500 with the G3 card. At home, I would use different programs than the ones at work. Do different tasks. So speed-wise, I never really noticed all THAT much difference from my 6500 to the work powerhouses. Now, with the G4 at home, I am amazed.
One of the first things I did with the new Mac was upgrade its memory. Now running over 300MB, I can handle pretty much any application without fear of running out of memory. At the time I am writing this, memory is dirt cheap, and looks to be even cheaper in the near future. So this was not a real expensive upgrade, though it is the most important upgrade any computer user can make. Memory is key. You can never have too much, but you can often have too little.
I could have kept the 15″ monitor I used with the 6500. It is still fairly new, as the original monitor I purchased with the 6500 broke down, and this is an Apple replacement unit, only two years old. It also holds the speakers, something I had not thought of before I got the G4. But I wanted something larger, and for less than $400, the NEC AccuSync 90 fit the bill nicely.
A SCSI card was a must for me, as both my scanner and CD burner use SCSI. Those both work great, and I saw no need to replace either unit. And a SCSI card can be had for less than $50 if you shop around.
The biggest drawback, however, was the sound quality. As I have written in the past, I am an audiophile. I love great sound. Be it a Beetle’s song or the explosion in StarCraft, I want the sound to, well, sound great! And while the speakers in the 6500 were nothing to brag at, they were listenable, for a computer. The 6500 sports a built-in sub-woofer, while the mid-high speakers were in the monitor. Not the best sounding, but I figured “This is a computer, what do I expect?” If I wanted to listen to music, I would play a CD over my home audio system.
When the new G4 arrived, I realized the only speakers connected to it was the quarter-sized speaker in the front of the tower. It sounded horrible. So new speakers jumped WAY up on my list of things to buy.
I read John’s review of the Monsoon iM-700 flat panel speakers with great interest. They sounded just like what I was looking for. However, I opted to go with the better M1000 series. These are very stylish speakers, but the SOUND QUALITY! WOW!
I teased myself. The first thing I did, after connecting them, was to put in “I am the Walrus” (Beatles) in my home audio system, and took a listen. My home audio system, if I can put modesty aside for a moment, sound great. But I wanted to compare, perhaps unfairly, how good the Monsoon’s sounded.
THESE are COMPUTER SPEARKERS!?! Good god, they sound better than most people’s entire home audio system! And while they could not touch my home audio system, it was damn close! Color me impressed.
So how do I like the G4? Well, let me put it this way: I have been writing for My Mac since 1995. This summer will mark 6 years of writing, month after month, about the Macintosh. This new G4 is the fastest computer I have ever used. It should be, but that is true every time I get a new Mac. But this one just seems, well, FAST. SUPER FAST. The large 19″ monitor makes a HUGE difference. The speakers are simply unreal. To put it simply, I have been inspired. And it has been a LONG time since any new Mac has inspired me. Sure, at Macworld Expo, I am sure my computer will be bumped from the “Fastest Mac On The Block” category, but you know what? I don’t care. The new G4 DP 500MHz is a dream machine. And I could not be happier with it, and all its toys to go with it.