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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 July, 2003, 07:32 GMT 08:32 UK
Power challenge of new Macs
By Ian Hardy
BBC ClickOnline

Apple released its latest desktop machine with all the usual pizzazz, with Chief Executive Steve Jobs claiming the Power Mac G5 to be "the world's fastest personal computer". But can we take his word for it?

Apple Power Mac G5
Nick Stam, Director of PC Magazine's testing laboratory in New York is not convinced quite yet.

In 1998 he successfully challenged Apple's claims that the original iMac was faster than a Windows machine under certain conditions.

So is the new G5 truly the world's faster personal computer?

"You take that with a grain of salt because you don't know what they're presenting in the benchmark up there," said Mr Stam.

"We don't have a system to test ourselves and we know there is all kind of tweaking that can be done and that's the big issue right now."

Steve Jobs also made a big announcement about the G5 processor, ahead of competitors such as chip maker AMD.

"The 64-bit revolution has begun and the personal computer will never be the same again," said Mr Jobs in his address last week to Apple devotees in San Francisco.

"The new Power Mac G5 combines the world's first 64-bit desktop processor, the industry's first 1GHz front-side bus and up to 8GB of memory to beat the fastest Pentium 4 and dual Xeon-based systems in industry-standard benchmarks and real-world professional applications."

But his statement about being the first 64-bit machine has to be taken in context.

"Of course it isn't shipping yet. It's not shipping for a couple of months. So they're not first-to-market today as Steve said," said Mr Stam.

"AMD may likely decide to come out in August instead of September with their new desktop Athlon 64. It's bragging rights is what it is, and that's what Steve is great at."

Hardcore fans

True Macintosh believers see things a different way.

1.6 GHz 64-bit PowerPC G5
800 MHz front-side bus
256MB 333 MHz Dual Channel (128-bit) DDR
4 DIMMs, 4GB maximum memory
80GB Serial ATA hard drive
NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra-64MB DDR
Entry level US retail price - $1,999
For people like Matt Cohen, co-owner of Tekserve, an Apple reseller in Manhattan, comparing Macs and PCs is a long-established yet meaningless tradition, especially to his customers.

"I don't think that the PC market is their competition, in that sense," said Mr Cohen. "The performance and the ease-of-use of a Mac operating system is at the forefront of his argument."

Apple is currently on a roll after recovering from such problematic products as the Cube computer.

They now have a growing list of recent achievements which customers crave. It goes on with Apple's online music store iTunes and its chain of US stores have also been doing very well.

"When Apple agree that a standard makes sense, they embrace it," said Mr Cohen.

"I'm actually quite impressed that Apple is able to innovate new standards that they then make accessible to the rest of the computing community as well."

Challenges ahead

Just days before the official launch of the G5, details of the new machine were posted on the Apple website for a few seconds.

But Mr Jobs even turned that major blunder into a promotional slogan calling it a premature specification.

Apple's CEO delivered his presentation as if no-one in the audience had heard the rumours.

Yet the biggest question still remains - can Apple generate enough excitement in the coming months from developments such as its new Panther operating system and its iSight video web camera to increase market share from a minuscule 3.5%?

That is where big announcements and banner headlines really play their part.

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