Are we there yet?

A little more than a year ago, I purchased a G4. It is a dual processor 500MHz system, and has thus far been the most reliable machine I have ever owned. More on this machine in a moment.

Two years ago, when people would ask me “Should I buy a computer now, or wait? I don’t want to buy something that will be obsolete in a month.” I would give them the best answer at the time I could. “Buy it now. No sense in waiting. It will be obsolete within six months anyway, so buy what you can afford now and learn to live with it.” (By obsolete, we are referring to speed and features, not usability.)

But is that as true today as it was two years ago?

To answer that, I only have to look at my home computer. As I said, it is a dual-processor 500MHz G4. It runs both Mac OS 9.2.1 and Mac OS X. It has four hard drives. The internal stock ATA 40GB is where most of my applications reside, as well as Mac OS 9.2.1. I have another internal, a Seagate Cheetah 36XL 36.7GB U-160 SCSI 68PIN10 Hard Drive. That one is running Mac OS X.

Besides the two internal drives, I also run two external Firewire hard drives, 40GB and 80GB respectively. The 40GB holds all my MP3’s, and is about 3/4 full. The 80GB is for backing up the other three drives via retrospect express.

That is, total, 196GB of storage space on my home computer.

Memory-wise, I have four slots. (Can ANYONE tell me why Apple only put three memory slots in the new G4’s? How stupid is that? With memory as cheap as it is, they should be adding memory slots, not taking them away.) I have a 256MB chip in three of the slots, and a 512MB chip in the other. That is 1.2GB of memory in that machine. (A funny side note: did you know you can’t use virtual memory when you have over 1GB of physical memory in your Mac? In the memory control panel, it says “too much memory to use virtual memory.”)

My G4 also has a mini-jack audio out-port, unlike the current batch of new Macs. Why did Apple take THAT away I wonder?

So, I figured my Mac is about as tricked out as I need it to be, once you add in a few of the other do-dads I have connected to it: a Firewire 24X CD burner. Two scanners. Two printers. Internal DVD player. DV to Analog Bridge an external USB ZIP drive (brand new, used it once in eight months now. CD-R rules!) Cable modem and router. VST Flash Media Reader. 19″ monitor. Eliminator GamePad Pro (Used it a few times after my review, and is gathering dust now.) And, of course, a digital camera that sits right along side the monitor.

None of the above, save the Mac itself, cost much money at all. None of the above items are out of date or obsolete, even though most of it is at least a year old. Is there a better sub-$200 printer I would rather have? No. Is there a better sub-$200 scanner I would rather have? Nope. How about a faster CD burner? Nahh. 24X is plenty speedy, let me tell you.

I have MORE than enough hard drive space. I have enough memory to run any application I own five times over. (That includes Photoshop.) The Machine is already a dual processor, which Mac OS X will take advantage of, giving me even more power and speed.

So I ask you, what do the new Macs hold for me?

Is the 800MHz Dual processor Mac all that much faster than my machine? I have used one. Even in Adobe Photoshop, there was no REAL difference between it and my machine at home. I mean, sure, it IS faster. But is it a few thousand dollars worth faster? No way. Not even close. Hell, it was not even $500 worth faster to me.

So are we there yet? Where, you ask? Why, the golden state of “It’s fast enough” of course. And I think the answer is a loud and clear “Yes!”

This is true also if you’re a PC user. If you have a 900MHz or higher computer, do you REALLY benefit from a 1.2GHz chip? Nahh. Not really. At least not enough to justify the cost of said upgrade.

But maybe you disagree? If so, let me know and I will share your thought on why we are “NOT there yet” in a few days.

Tim Robertson

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