A Cornucopia of Performance

I’ve just realised that, come May 2009, my Apple Power Mac G5 will be four years old. This is the longest amount of time I’ve ever gone without buying a new computer. For the previous twenty years (yes really) I’ve been chasing the performance ceiling: upgrading where necessary, but usually buying the newest, fastest, greatest machine that I could (and frequently couldn’t) afford.

Indeed the same was true when I bought the G5 back in 2005. I bought the most powerful variant available at the time. Equipped it with half a terabyte of hard disk and populated all the memory slots. Then I bought the biggest, most-badass display that I could (and installed the high-end graphics card that was needed to drive it).

Why? Because no computer ever seemed to be fast or capable enough for me. Admittedly I have been something of a power-user over the years – programming, managing databases, designing, imaging, gaming and so on. I always needed more power, more disk space, more RAM, a faster GPU…

So what changed? Why haven’t I upgraded my Power Mac to the latest all-singing and dancing multi-core Mac Pro?

Actually nothing’s changed. I’m still crafting code. I’m still designing websites. I’m still manipulating databases. I’m still gaming (although to a much lesser degree) and I’m still running dozens of images through Photoshop and Aperture on a daily basis (in fact I’m doing more photography and image-processing now than I’ve ever done). The simple, unarguable conclusion is that the dual 2.7GHz G5 processors in my Power Mac are sufficient to satisfy all my current personal computing needs.

Don’t get me wrong, Photoshop CS3 can take a few seconds to complete certain tasks and Aperture sometimes makes me wait for, well not very long really, when I’m hammering it. But, for the most part, my G5 keeps up with whatever task(s) I happen to be undertaking. And, believe me, I don’t hold back either - I multitask baby!

It’s mind-blowing to me that Moore’s Law still applies and shows no immediate sign of slowing. I expected miniaturisation or thermal barriers1 would have slowed processor development somewhat. But no, now we have multi-core with massively parallel processing and computers are still getting faster and cheaper. But I’m not buying any of it, because I don’t need it.

So is this bad news for Apple? Are they going to lose customers because they’ve provided us with machines that are more than sufficient for our needs? No, I don’t think so. Whilst I have no immediate plans to buy a new Mac I know that I will at some point. I will when Apple stops supporting the G5’s. I will when OS X becomes Intel only. I will when I want to use some of the ever-growing range of Macintosh software that relies on the Intel processor. I will when I need to dip into the world of virtualisation.

If nothing else I’ll enjoy the bragging rights of a multi-core Mac Pro and I still get a hard-on for one of those sexy little Apple laptops! I will be buying from Apple again.

For now though, the Power Mac G5 serves me perfectly well and it’s a testament to Apple, her engineers, her designers, her software developers and the plethora of third-party supporting artists that this “antique” is still a viable platform for a power-hungry user.

How about you? Are you getting by perfectly well with an older computer? Have you any plans to upgrade in the near future? Let me know in the comments.

  1. Heat was a problem even for the G5 which was why Apple worked so hard on their thermal zoning architecture. They also added temperature regulated, variable-speed, large-diameter fans to the Power Macs and, on their faster machines, introduced liquid cooling. 

4 Reader Comments for “A Cornucopia of Performance”

  1. In November I retired my aging Windows desktop that I’d been using solely as my “stereo” i.e it only ran iTunes and a last.fm scrobbler. I also semi-retired my Ubuntu laptop as well. In their place I bought one of the late 2008 model 15” MacBook Pro’s. Nice? Understatement of the year. (think Gollum voice) my precious….

  2. How do you manage with using a laptop as your primary computer? I ask only because I’m unsure what I’ll buy next - a laptop or a desktop.

  3. Because I spend my time between my house and my girlfriend’s house, having something portable is a godsend. Lack of screen real estate though is sometimes annoying. When money allows, I think I’ll buy an external monitor for those times when I’m working in my office.

    But for the most part, I’ve adjusted extremely well to having a laptop as my primary system. Having everything in one place instead of spread out over 3 or 4 systems is extremely handy actually.

  4. Yes the lack of screen real estate is what would bother me too. I must admit that the attractions of having a Mac I can take anywhere are very appealing.

    I guess I could always supplement my desktop with a laptop for the best of both worlds. I’m not sure I could completely do away with my desktop though.

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