Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Macworld Prediction Scoring

by Tom Bozzo

I lose on the iMac. (Anticipatory comments from last night are here.) New models are available today in the outgoing G5's new form factor but with a dual-core Intel CPU.

Updates to come as the Steve Jobs keynote progresses.

Update 12:35. He's showing a new portable called the MacBook Pro. The naming convention suggests that I'll win on the PowerBook (i.e., higher-end laptop) front, though dumping the PowerBook brand is questionable.

Update 12:41. The MacBook occupies the old 15" PowerBook price points: two grand with a 1.67-GHz dual-core chip, two-and-a-half with 1.83-GHz. It has a built-in video camera and is reportedly slenderer than the very thin 17" PowerBook, though the industrial design is as yet unmentioned. Weight is in the mid-fives, still more than the first TiBooks, though I should weigh mine with its new high-capacity battery.

Update 12:46. Here's Apple's MacBook Pro page. The rest of the Apple site should be updated soon.

Update 1:17. MacGamer quotes Jobs saying, "We're done with 'power.'" It's understandable that they'd want to minimize the possibility of confusion between their Intel and G4-based laptops, though the basic form appears to carry over from the 15" aluminum PowerBook, and the iMac is still just the iMac. Presumably, the iBook will be the iBook, since it would be more confusing to drop the obnoxious "Pro" from the MacBook's moniker. Moreover, the "PowerBook" name predates the switch of the Mac from the Motorola 680X0 chips to the PowerPC. Well, that's life in the Reality Distortion Field for you.
It's 4x the speed of the normal Powerbook...it is interesting that for a company that made such a big deal about how the G4 chips were "equivalent or better" than Intel's can suddenly make a huge speed increase with the new dual core Intel chipset.
The G4 chips were faster than Intel chips under certain benchmarks, but that was a long time ago. Motorola and IBM failed to deliver improvements in speed to the G4 chip and over time Intel blew by them. The G5 started out as a great chip, but again, IBM has not been able to increase speed and power of the G5 as much as what Apple had hoped for. We were supposed to see 3 GHz G5 chips last summer, and the fastest available is 2.5 GHz right now. Intel has been doing a much better job with their architecture. In addition, there was just no way to get a G5 into a powerbook.
As a sometime professional geek, I'd done some low-level testing of my G4 vs the quad-P4-based Linux box in our office with non-MP-aware software I could compile and run on both. The G4 was typically performing as a P4 of about 1.5 times its clock rate, lending some credence to the old claims.

I think there are big architectural differences between the very high clock rate P4s and the more modestly clocked low-power chips a la the Core Duo that even the 'MHz myth' gap -- hence much less clock speed advertising on the PC side. System bus and memory bandwidth are hugely improved (which makes G5s like my iMac disproportionately snappier than late-model G4s vs. the clock speed gap), as is the graphics accelerator, which will contribute something. So, I'd expect easily parallelized tasks, like some Photoshop filters, will support the 'up to' claim, though typical experience will probably be more like 1.5-2x with x86-native apps.
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