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Cube is Cool

I’ve come to realise just how good my little Mac G4 Cube is! It’s a fantastic bit of kit and I really think I hit gold with this purchase. As I said last year, I installed our OS X 10.4 (Tiger) family pack on it and the thing has been running like a charm ever since. It’s got a G4 processor, running at an anemic 450MHz. It would get laughed at alongside a new 3GHz class Pentium PC!

But the thing is superb. It plays all my MP3s, DVDs, and tunes downloaded from iTunes. It runs Word, Safari and I can even edit video using Apple’s latest Final Cut Pro 5!

It’s no speed demon, but it does everything I need a computer to do.

Last week, I updated Tiger to Apple’s latest 10.4.4 version, which has apparently ironed out several bugs in the operating system. Basically, I can’t believe that such an old computer can run the latest operating system and have a response which is faster than that of the original operating system that came bundled with it in the first place.

Cube history

Originally entering the shops at the turn of the century and sold for only about a year, the Cube was iced before Mac OS X was even released.

Now imagine doing the same with a Windows computer of the same generation and putting Windows XP SP2 on it.

Oh yes, wait. I did. I have a Sony VAIO 500MHz laptop, circa 2000 which came, ironically with Windows 98 installed.

It’s RAM is maxed out to 192MB and the hard disk is a 2003, 80GB, 5400RPM unit.

So, what did I experience with the three upgrades?

  • Win 98 – Reasonably swift with the original 64MB of RAM. Increased the RAM to 192MB and things improved markedly.
  • Win 2K – Same interface but slow. Windows don’t open as quickly as before, graphics speed is poor. Multimedia performance was very stable, however and the machine had enough oomph to import and export digital video (DV) in real time with space to spare.
  • Win XP – Slower still. No longer exported Digital Video in real time, sucked over 90% CPU just to import video, too.
  • Win XP SP2 – Slowest. Can no longer import or export DV in real time, the unit suffers from occasional dropped fames, even after reinstall and defragging the hard disk.

On this G4 cube however: OS 9.5 – Quite slow, descernable lag in window response and application launching.

  • OS X 10.3 – Faster application launches, graphics speed good. Occasional beach-balling while the computer is working.
  • OS X 10.4 (Tiger) less beachballing
  • OS X 10.4.4 Latest pack fixes lots of little problems that had been annoying me. No perceived performance increase.

Well, if one makes an analogy between OS 9 / Win 98 and OS X 10.3, 10.4, 10.4.4 and Win 2K, XP, XP SP2 we can safely say that the system requirements for a useable system have skyrocketed for Windows between generations of Windows and have even increased between the basic XP install and the second service pack.

Thus, the user experience for new Windows OSes on old kit has deteriorated markedly.

This is not, however, the case for Mac OS. From 10.3 to 10.4.4 there have been numerous tweaks aimed at increasing performance and perceived performance.

The tuning is apparently more marked for those who used OS X 10.1 and 10.2!

Windows service packs on the other hand, have had to focus much more on security issues and stability and actually incur performance penalties.

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