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Mac Titanium PowerBook G4 review
While I was in Germany in September 2009, I crossed the central streets of Munich several times for the cool museums and attractive views. During one of the nights, I walked on the Adalbertstrasse and saw exposed old Mac laptops for sale in a shop. Unfortunately, the shop was closed, and I did not have the chance to see the machines in action. Some days later, before going to the Oktoberfest, I decided to pay a visit to the shop, to have a look what Macs are there. I said that I was interested in old PPC Mac for my coding needs and that it does not need to be fast. Also, it shall be not so expensive, so I can invest the difference if I gamble on my next Las Vegas vacation or forget gambling completely and just take off and stay at Turks and Caicos hotels for a nice relaxing break. My attention was taken at the one of the laptops exposed, which turned out to be what I was looking for:
An old Mac Titanium PowerBook G4.
As I did not know much about the Macintosh (now Mac), except my experience with MacOS on the Amiga under the ShapeShifter and Fusion emulators, I simply
asked the seller to open me the
The computer have nice metallic color. It has dimensions of 34 x 23.3 cm and is only 2.6 cm thick when closed. It is not heavy to lift.
Almost the entire cover is made from metal which have its pluses, but also minuses. The plus is that it takes the heat from the motherboard, very easy. But in cold ambient temperature, it is not very nice to touch. Also, if it is not properly seated, sometime I can feel the electric flow on my hand, because I am becoming the mass of the computer. On the back are the I/O ports which can be hidden under a cover if they are not used. Also, on the back is the power jack, which is also available, separately from the ports. From left to right the ports on the back are: AC power port, FireWire port, Ethernet port, USB port, another USB port, VGA port, S-Video output port, Sound In port and Modem port. On the right side of the computer is one hole marked with locker. On the left side is the expansion port with an eject button and audio out port for headphones. On the front is the CD/DVD drive door. The CD or DVD is directly injected in the drive and there is no button for eject. The keyboard is located on the top in the upper part. Under the Space key is the mouse touchpanel and the mouse button. The keyboard is semitransparent, but I did not see the keyboard light, which means that it is not sure if this feature is working at all on my machine. On the both sides of the keyboard are the loudspeakers. On the upper-right corner is the power button. On the back of the LCD is a big white apple logo, which is light when the screen is light. It uses the same bulb as the one in the LCD. The machine looks very nice, and the design is not outdated even by today standards.
The machine is very nice and easy to use. Simply open the LCD cover, press the power button and there you go. If the computer is in sleep mode, it will enter its previous state almost immediately. There is small diode under the PowerBook G4 text, which slowly fades in and out, when the computer is in sleep mode, indicating that it uses some battery or electricity for the sleep. If it is turned from off mode, a short sound indicated that everything is okay. The keyboard keys are easy to press. Typing fast with the keyboard is easy to accomplish. The mouse touchpanel is easy to use, but there is no option on press twice on it as a replacement for the button. The button is only one and there is not difference if it will be pressed on the left or the right side. The display supports resolutions from 640 x 480 to 1280 x 854. Because there is not eject button, the disc in the CD/DVD drive can be ejected only by software. The computer have very nice microphone built-in and it can be used for Skype, speech operating the OS or simply as audio input in the computer. It works very good even when the sound source is far away from the computer.
Here are the results provided when testing the machine, by using Xbench 1.3 on MacOS X Tiger:
Results 38.40 System Info Xbench Version 1.3 System Version 10.4.11 (8S165) Physical RAM 768 MB Model PowerBook3,4 Processor PowerPC G4 @ 667 MHz Version 7455 (Apollo) v2.1 L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data) L2 Cache 256K @ 667 MHz L3 Cache 1024K @ 167 MHz Bus Frequency 134 MHz Video Card ATY,RageM7 Drive Type IBM-IC25N030ATCS04-0 CPU Test 34.89 GCD Loop 57.21 3.02 Mops/sec Floating Point Basic 23.19 550.95 Mflop/sec AltiVec Basic 131.54 5.24 Gflop/sec vecLib FFT 37.03 1.22 Gflop/sec Floating Point Library 20.79 3.62 Mops/sec Thread Test 29.40 Computation 28.39 575.21 Kops/sec, 4 threads Lock Contention 30.49 1.31 Mlocks/sec, 4 threads Memory Test 27.28 System 24.55 Allocate 64.74 237.73 Kalloc/sec Fill 22.02 1070.54 MB/sec Copy 16.30 336.69 MB/sec Stream 30.71 Copy 32.64 674.24 MB/sec [altivec] Scale 32.73 676.09 MB/sec [altivec] Add 29.85 635.80 MB/sec [altivec] Triad 28.12 601.50 MB/sec [altivec] Quartz Graphics Test 31.70 Line 29.66 1.97 Klines/sec [50% alpha] Rectangle 30.44 9.09 Krects/sec [50% alpha] Circle 29.95 2.44 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha] Bezier 39.10 986.26 beziers/sec [50% alpha] Text 31.03 1.94 Kchars/sec OpenGL Graphics Test 47.67 Spinning Squares 47.67 60.47 frames/sec User Interface Test 16.43 Elements 16.43 75.40 refresh/sec Disk Test 13.97 Sequential 24.66 Uncached Write 20.89 12.83 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Write 22.10 12.50 MB/sec [256K blocks] Uncached Read 41.28 12.08 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Read 22.28 11.20 MB/sec [256K blocks] Random 9.75 Uncached Write 3.08 0.33 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Write 24.07 7.71 MB/sec [256K blocks] Uncached Read 47.70 0.34 MB/sec [4K blocks] Uncached Read 43.89 8.14 MB/sec [256K blocks]
These benchmarks tend to be very relative. Because the programs can not take over the whole OS, the results vary when the computer is started for first time and there is nothing running at the moment. Different results are reported after the computer was used and some programs have already worked in it. Overall, strong parts of the computer are the G4 CPU with the Altivec unit and the big physical RAM size (768 MB). Weak part is the small L2 Cache (256K).
Even if I was told that it is very hard and expensive to upgrade the machine, I was able to add some attachments to it, which enhanced my Mac experience and
made it better. Because the internal disk space is relatively small for today standards (30GB), I have connected 1 TB SATA drive via USB
The computer came with MacOS X Tiger installed. But it was good that I got the install DVD, so I was able to change the password and set my user, without the
need to install all the applications again. MacOS X is very good looking operating system, but in functionality and speed wise, it is not my kind of OS for everyday
use. It has lots of software, but on my Mac machine it was very slow. Even with 768 MB physical RAM, I can hear the internal hard drive working, and this after startup, when the memory is supposed to be empty. This is not very nice to
hear, especially on a laptop machine, where every bit of energy is important, and losing it for hard drive spindling is bad. This permanent spindling also reduces the hard drive life considerably, and I would not be happy to invest in another drive.
There are some nice features like the
With the latest Snow Leopard version of MacOS X, Apple officially announced that they will no longer support PowerPC based machines.
But this does not mean that there is no new software developments for my machine.
There are thousand of applications released in Universal Binary format, which work fine on PPC and Intel based Mac machines.
The games are not strongly present on the Mac, but there are still some. I have tried some pretty nice freeware or shareware games, but some of the new releases were very slow on my machine.
There are lots of emulators for classic machines - Apple II, Super Nintendo Entertainment System and PC DOS - they worked smoothly, but not as smooth as on my AmigaOne.
I do not regret buying the machine. Even if old, it is capable of many daily computer tasks, like Surfing the web with latest technology browsers (Safari and FireFox), watching movies (MPlayer plays without skips), listening to online radio and MP3 tunes, editing photos and coding with XCode. It provides me with alternative PPC hardware, and the mobility of it, is a feature not to be omitted. When I travel, I can always transfer some of my projects on removable USB storage and continue to work on them. There are games which can be played on it. The OS is not going to be updated much, except for security fixes, but this is not my goal either. MacOS X is nice, but for my daily computer use, I will continue to use microAmigaOne with AmigaOS 4.1.
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