The Mac I Want

The Mac I Want

MacBook ProIt has been 14 years since I’ve wanted an Apple for its sexy hardware. I’m not talking, mind you, about Apple’s industrial design (when Jobs is in charge). Nor am I talking about Mac OS X, which continues to delight me. I’m talking about the guts: the processor, memory bus, video card, and integration with the operating system.

Finally, the first Mac I could buy without feeling ripped-off on performance is here: The MacBook Pro, with Intel Inside. Glee!

Now, I am not saying that Intel Rules over PPC… the Intel architecture is rather kludgy compared to, say, the much-loved Motorola 68000 series of the original Macs. However, the Mac has been trailing PC hardware (not the OS, the hardware) for over a decade. In 1992, when the first 486-DX2 PCs because available at 2x the performance for 1/2 the price, the Macintosh has been outclassed in terms of raw speed. I should know…I was facing that decision in 1992, and reluctantly went with the PC. Full disclosure: The LucasArts game X-Wing was only available on PC at the time…that may have had something to do with my decision as well :-)

Anyway, speed still didn’t matter as much because all the good graphics software was still Mac, but around 1995 things started to turn the other way when Adobe made a usable version of Photoshop (version 4) available. The rise of 3D gaming and the Internet further pushed the Mac into a game of catch-up. Great software design and a loyal user base is what kept the ball alive, not speedy hardware.

Despite all that, I’ve always wanted a G5 box. They just look so cool, and OS X is so sexy. But as soon as I touched the mouse and felt the lag, I just walked away and kept my money. I did succumb once and bought the cheapest PowerBook I could (a 12″ 1GHz G4), and it’s easily my favorite machine in terms of personality. But fast it ain’t. My 1GHz Compaq Presario notebook is noticeably faster.

No more! The MacBook has a dual-core Intel processor in it (2 processors in one = faster data processing), a faster frontside bus (better cpu-to-memory speed = faster data handling) , and PCI express (quicker graphics transfer = faster screen refreshes). I imagine that some of those sluggish 3D acceleration issues will go away too, because now 3rd party vendors can incorporate portions of Intel-native hand-optimized driver code. It’s all good…hooray! Mac OS X and speed. Together at last. At a competitive price. Someone pinch me.

I see that there’s a new iMac too too, that’s supposed to be 2x faster. The cynic in me was analyzing the ad copy on the iMac page: it sounds like with the dual-core CPU, it’s of course 2x faster than the single-processor version. But there are so many fundamental improvements under the hood, I’m wondering if it’s actually capable of more speed than they’re willing to admit to, say, people who just bought a PowerBook or G5; sorry if that’s you…it’s one of the hazards of being an Apple person! And think of this: the 2x speed may be referring to emulated PPC code, not Intel-native versions of your favorite apps. I eagerly await benchmark results of a totally-native software suite. There will be dozens of announcements over the next few weeks.

Now it feels like 2006! There are new Macs! Will 2006 will be the year to switch?

9 Comments

  1. Daniel Nicolas 14 years ago

    I want to see the line of computers that replace the G5s, and how much faster/better they are than the Quad G5 system.

    I think the only than that is not as good as the G5s is that they had 1024 FSB with each processor(am I remembering this correctly?), but since they have only released the consumer desktop, things should look better.

    however, I’d just like to say that…

    There has got to be a way to game SEO so that we see a regular page and the bots see all those lovely bolded words.

    Of course, with your CSS it’s a tad easier on the eyes than it is in my newsreader, but still….

    ——-

  2. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Hey Dan,

    You’re probably right on the G5s FSB actually being 1GHz…that sounds familiar. The G5 architecture was very respectable when it was announced. The prices on those actually seem pretty reasonable. I can’t wait to see what a real Intel-based desktop replacement would be like.

    Incidentally, I don’t bold the words in my posts for SEO. My reasoning is that it’s easier to skim long articles by bolding a few key words. Some people find it a little odd I’m sure, but you’re the first to actually say something. I sometimes use it just for vocal emphasis, as I am imagining how I’d say things if I were saying them aloud. When I first started blogging I spent some time balancing the contrast between bold and text so it wouldn’t be quite so jarring, but I guess you can’t please everyone :-) At the time I started this practice, I didn’t consider that RSS newsreaders would screw up all the formatting; I’m surprised it isn’t all stripped out (I don’t use RSS myself, though I occassionally view my feed through bloglines to check if it’s working). Surely that’s an option in your newsreader to kill all the formatting?

  3. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    I went back over this article and de-bolded a lot of keyphrases that weren’t really that key. I did go a little overboard :-) Thanks for the heads-up!

  4. Chris Meisenzahl 14 years ago

    I’m w/ you, I have an iBook that I love, but I want a macbook pro badly.  ;-)

  5. Ahmad Zaki 14 years ago

    Let’s see. I’m starting college in the next year or two. Going to take graphic design or multimedia course. Will need a good, fast computer for it (prefereably portable). Yup, the MacBook Pro will do.. :)

  6. Matt Jones 14 years ago

    I’m looking to get a laptop in the near future and have been considering getting a mac. Up until a year ago I couldn’t see why anyone would want a mac but lately I’ve been really impressed with macs and the number of people that are starting to use them. Thanks for the article Dave.

  7. Beth 14 years ago

    I’ve been strongly considering putting my tax return this year towards a MacBook Pro. Unfortunately I have this gut feeling they’ll probably overhaul it at least twice in the next year, and I’t my policy never to buy first generation Apple products.  So perhaps this summer I’ll pick one up, only to have a newer better one come out the next month like when I bought the iPod photo a month before the iPod video was out.

  8. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Beth: Yah, with Apple, waiting never seems to hurt, unless it’s December 23rd and you’re trying to buy an iPod.

  9. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    This Penny Arcade Strip and the accompanying article is on my wavelength.