Is G5 to new Mac Mini a downgrade or upgrade?
March 6, 2006 9:32 AM   Subscribe

The wife and I have a Mac G5 tower, the PowerPC single processor, only 800Mhz (yes, we got caught--bought it a month too soon--damn you, Jobs!). It's 2 years old. We have a cinema display (sweet) and all the stuff we need, but now that the new Intel Mac Mini is out, we're seriously considering scrapping the G5 and going with the Mini. What should we do? Which would be faster? My wife thinks the G5 would still be faster, but I think that's nonsense.
posted by sholdens12 to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
If it's really only 800Mhz, a dual-core Mini will blow the doors off that machine.

If it 1.8Ghz, the Mini will probably be faster... probably a third to a half again faster routinely, maybe as much as 3x faster in very particular things. But that's only if you have Intel binaries for your programs. If the Mini has to run your old programs through the Rosetta translation layer, it will be substantially slower than what you have now. So you're both right. :)

You might want to wait for the Intel towers, just to see what they offer. The Mini's video is very weak, and it can't be replaced or expanded. And you definitely want to wait until the programs you use come in universal binaries.
posted by Malor at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2006

You mean 1.8 GHz right? The slowest G5 they made was 1.6GHz.

The Core Duo Mac mini will definitely be faster. The Core Solo will be about the same. My Core Solo Mac mini is (according to my tests) equivalent to a 2.2GHz G4. I don't have a G5 to compare against.
posted by cillit bang at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2006

There was never an 800 MHz G5 tower. Do you mean 1.8 GHz? Or are you talking about the version with 1.6 GHz processor (but 800 MHz bus speed)?

Anyway, I doubt the Mini would be appreciably faster. Could go either way, depending on the tasks. It has comparable processor speed (not that that means a whole lot), and a slower bus speed. The HD isn't all that fast either, although I don't know how that compares to a 2-year-old desktop HD.

Also, it's pointless talking about performance without knowing what you actually DO with the computer.
posted by xil at 9:51 AM on March 6, 2006

It has comparable processor speed

Huh? You know the $799 model has [effectiviely] dual processors?
posted by cillit bang at 10:23 AM on March 6, 2006

The G5 you have has a better video card and faster hard drive than the Mini, both of which affect MacOS X performance a great deal. A Core Solo Mini would probably be a wash; the Core Duo may be faster for some things.
posted by zsazsa at 10:24 AM on March 6, 2006

It really depends on what you do. If most of the apps you use are dual binary then I imagine the Intel chip would be faster (ignoring the previously mentioned impact of video card which, depending on your workload could have major impact). However, if you run code that wasn't compiled specifically for the intel machine, then it has to run in an emulatation mode which I have read is quite slow. So the answer is... it depends.
posted by lucasks at 10:37 AM on March 6, 2006

We're talking about having open all design tools such as Photoshop, Freehand, Image Ready, Flash, etc.
posted by sholdens12 at 10:42 AM on March 6, 2006

I don't think much commercial software has Intel binaries ready yet... you'd be mostly running them through Rosetta for now, and that would be slower.

Best to wait, I think.
posted by Malor at 10:53 AM on March 6, 2006

Thanks for all your help, everyone. The wife wins again, as usual.
posted by sholdens12 at 10:55 AM on March 6, 2006

My wife just bought an Intel iMac with dual core 2.0 GHz Intel Core Duo.

If all of the binaries were converted, it would most definitely be faster than my 1.6 GHz G5 iMac.

BUT -- my G5 is still considerably faster at PPC binaries, not surprisingly. Like Photoshop. And pay careful attention to what you do to hard drive throughput and graphics performance in a change from a PowerMac to a Mini -- the PowerMacs generally come with very high-end components there, so make sure it's not too big of a hit.

I suspect that the Mini would be a mixed bag -- faster at somethings, slower at others. I don't think there'd be a clear winner. (And buy Ram -- my wife's iMac with Intel chip has 512mb, and it is really RAM starved -- much more so than 512mb on PPC, for some reason).
posted by teece at 11:03 AM on March 6, 2006

Also, if you use any Classic apps (which sounds unlikely, now that I think about it), you won't be able to use them on an Intel Mac. Just in case. I'm keeping my G5 for FrameMaker, for instance.
posted by theredpen at 11:12 AM on March 6, 2006

Some comparisons:
iMac G5 vs. Core Duo G5

a more technical showdown.

The basic summary? The Core Duo is slightly faster than a G5 at similar clock speed for Universal applications. And about half the speed at Rosetta apps (which will includes everything from Microsoft and Adobe until their next upgrade cycle.) The Core Duo and Core Solo are huge improvements over the G4s though.

The benchmarks on the GPU are also a mixed bag. The intel GPU on the new mini is better than the ATI 9200 at core OS effects and video decoding, and worse at 3D game performance. If those matter you might be better off with the iMac.

Other things to consider is that the mini uses a smaller laptop disk drive, has less memory capacity, and is not easily upgradable. I love my mini but I don't think I'd consider it as an upgrade to a tower system. (Well, I did upgrade from a tower to a mini, but that was from a homebrew Via EPIA 950.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:56 PM on March 6, 2006

Oh, just read an Ars Technica review that provides some more benchmarks. (Along with the claim that the graphics performance of the Core Solo Mini beats the graphics performance of the G4 Mini).
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:26 PM on March 6, 2006

Use the new IMac with an external firewire drive to help with the speed on your apps and files.
posted by johnd101 at 5:36 PM on March 6, 2006

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