The Power Mac G5 was introduced on 2003.06.23 – the same day Intel officially unveiled the 3.2 GHz Pentium 4. In terms of increased clock speed, that means Intel had a 6.7% speed bump the same day that Apple announced a 40% improvement in clock speed (from 1.42 GHz to 2.0 GHz), allowing it to call the Power Mac G5 the world’s fastest personal computer at the time.
Both the Power Mac G5 and the PowerPC 970 CPU were designed from the ground up to support symmetric multiprocessing (using two or more CPUs to run processes in parallel). The PPC 970 uses the same Velocity Engine instructions as the AltiVec engine in Motorola’s G4 processor, and it’s fully compatible with existing 32-bit software.
The motherboard architecture uses the new HyperTransport technology. System memory is so fast (400 MHz RAM on an 800 MHz to 1.0 GHz bus) that there’s no need for a level 3 cache.
New to Apple are Serial ATA (SATA), which supports up to 1.5 GBps bandwidth for internal hard drives, and built-in USB 2.0, which finally gives Mac users full speed access to some of those wonderful USB 2.0 peripherals developed over the previous couple years. The Power Mac G5 also adopts the new twice-as-fast AGP 8x bus for video cards.
One headphone jack, one USB 2.0 port, and one FireWire 400 port are located on the front of the G5 for easy access, something Power Mac users have been dreaming of for years.
The G5 is in a new aluminum enclosure that’s vented in the front and back. The case includes four thermal zones and nine fans to handle cooling, each independently controlled for speed. Apple claims the Power Mac G5 is “twice as quiet” as the Power Mac G4. The case is a bit taller and slightly narrower than the Power Mac G4 and just a little deeper. It’s also nearly three pounds lighter.
The 1.8 GHz single CPU model was discontinued and replaced by a Late 2003 dual processor model selling for $100 more on 2003.11.18. This model provides 90% of the raw horsepower of the 2.0 GHz model at 87% the price, making it slightly a better value for those who don’t need that last 10% of speed.
Note that the 1.6 GHz model is one of Apple’s entry-level G5s, which means it uses 33 MHz PCI expansion slots instead of 133 MHz PCI-X slots, has 4 memory slots instead of 8, and uses a 450W power supply (dual processor models have 600W).
You should have the most recent firmware installed in your Power Mac G5. The newest version is Power Mac G5 Uniprocessor Firmware Update 5.1.5f2, which is only for 1.6 GHz G5 Power Macs. Apple recommends removing any third-party RAM before installing this firmware update.
Power Mac G5 Reliability
Reliability ratings are based on statistics compiled by MacInTouch in June 2006, at which time the dual-core Power Mac G5 models had only been on the market for 8 months. Letter grades are based on failure rate: A = 0-6%, B = 7-12%, C = 13-18%, D = 19-24%, and F = 25% or higher. We also note the two components that failed most often.
- G5/1.6 single (June 2003), D- (24%, logicboard, hard drive)
- G5/1.8 single (June 2003), D+ (19%, logicboard, video card)
- G5/2.0 dual (June 2003), F (32%, video card, logicboard)
In each generation, except for the final dual-core one, the fastest model is the least reliable, while the second-fastest is the most reliable. Logicboards are the most expensive component to repair, followed by the power supply. Hard drives, optical drives, video cards, and RAM can be replaced inexpensively using third-party components.
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- announced 2003.06.23 and shipped 2003.08.18: 1.6 GHz single 256 MB/80 GB at $1,999, reduced to $1,799 on 2003.11.18; 1.8 GHz single 512 MB/160 GB at $2,399, replaced by 1.8 GHz dual 2003.11.18; 2.0 GHz dual 512 MB/160 GB at $2,999; 1.8 GHz dual 512/160 introduced 2003.11.18 at $2,599; replaced by 2004 Power Mac G5 on 2004.06.09
- Supported Mac OS Versions
- CPU: 1.6/1.8/2.0 GHz PowerPC 970
- Bus: 800 MHz to 1.0 GHz (half CPU speed)
- Geekbench 2 (Leopard): 1601 (2.0 GHz dual), 1544 (1.8 dual), 1049 (1.8 single), 860 (1.6 single)
- Geekbench 2 (Tiger): 1699 (2.0 GHz dual), 1590 (1.8 dual), 1127 (1.8 single), 968 (1.6 single)
- L2 cache: 512 KB on-chip L2 cache
- L3 cache: none, system memory is as fast as a level 3 cache on other computers
- RAM, 1.6 GHz: 256 MB, expandable to 4 GB using pairs of 333 MHz PC2700 DDR RAM, 4 RAM slots
RAM, 1.8 and 2.0 GHz: 512 MB, expandable to 8 GB using pairs of 400 MHz PC3200 DDR RAM, 8 RAM slots
- Video: AGP 8x
- 1.6 and 1.8 GHz: Nvidia GeForce FX5200
- 2.0 GHz: ATI Radeon 9600 Pro
- ATI Radeon 9800 Pro with 128 MB optional
- VRAM: 64 MB
- Hard drive bus: 1.5 Gbps SATA I
- Hard drive: 80/160 Serial ATA (SATA) 7200 rpm
- Optical drive bus: ATA/100 bus
- optical drive: 4x SuperDrive on Ultra ATA/100 bus
- 3 33 MHz 64-bit PCI slots on 1.6 GHz model
3 64-bit PCI-X slots on faster models (two 100 MHz, one 133 MHz)
- Modem: internal 56k v.92
- Microphone: standard 3.5mm minijack, compatible with line-level input, not compatible with Apple’s PlainTalk microphone
- FireWire: 2 FW400 ports (1 on front), 1 FW800 port
- USB: 3 USB 2.0 ports (1 on front)
- Ethernet: 10/100/gigabit
- WiFi: antenna and connector for 802.11g AirPort Extreme card
- PRAM battery: 3V CR2032 lithium
- power supply: 450W 661-2903 for single CPU models, 600W 661-2904 for duals
- size (HxWxD): 20.1″ x 8.1″ x 18.7″ (51.1 x 20.6 x 47.5 cm)
- Weight: 39.2 lb. (17.8 kg)
- Gestalt ID: n/a
- model number: M9020 (1.6 GHz), M9031 (1.8 GHz), M9032 (2.0 GHz)
- PRAM battery: 3.6V half-AA
Accelerators & Upgrades
- none likely
- Best Power Mac G5 Deals.
- Best Classic Mac OS Deals. Best online prices for System 6, 7.1, 7.5.x, Mac OS 7.6, 8.0, 8.1, 8.5, 9.0, 9.2.2, and other versions.
- Best Mac OS X 10.0-10.3 Deals. Best online prices for Mac OS X 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, and 10.3.
- Best Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Deals. Best online prices for Mac OS X 10.4.
- Best Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard Deals. Best online prices for Mac OS X 10.5.
- What’s the Best Version of OS X for My Mac?, Ian R Campbell, The Sensible Mac, 2008.02.28. Which version of Mac OS X is best for your hardware depends on several factors.
- How Fast Is Classic Mode on a Power Mac G5?, Dan Knight, Mac Daniel, 2014.08.21. We run several benchmark tests from the Classic Mac OS era on a dual 2.3 GHz Power Mac G5 to see how well Classic Mode fares.
- Know Your Mac’s Upgrade Options, Phil Herlihy, The Usefulness Equation, 2008.08.26. Any Mac can be upgraded, but it’s a question of what can be upgraded – RAM, hard drive, video, CPU – and how far it can be upgraded.
- The ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ Guide to Installing Mac OS X Updates, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.12.16. Most users encounter no problems using Software Update, but some preflight work and using the Combo updater means far less chance of trouble.
- Why You Should Partition Your Mac’s Hard Drive, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.12.11. “At the very least, it makes sense to have a second partition with a bootable version of the Mac OS, so if you have problems with your work partition, you can boot from the ‘emergency’ partition to run Disk Utility and other diagnostics.”
- The Future of Up-to-Date Browsers for PowerPC Macs, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2009.08.31. With Intel-only “Snow Leopard” shipping, software support for PPC Macs will continue its decline. Also, a look at SeaMonkey 2 and Camino 1.6.9.
- Optimized Software Builds Bring Out the Best in Your Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac’s Online Tech Journal, 2009.06.30. Applications compiled for your Mac’s CPU can load more quickly and run faster than ones compiled for universal use.
- Tips for Installing or Reinstalling Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, Adam Rosen, Adam’s Apple, 2009.06.10. Mac OS X 10.4 uses less memory than Leopard, supports Classic Mode on PowerPC Macs, and, unlike Leopard, is supported on G3 Macs.
- Choosing My Next Low-end Desktop Mac, John Hatchett, Recycled Computing, 2009.05.19. The recently deceased iBook G4 was going to take up desktop duty. Now the options are a G4 iMac, 17″ PowerBook, Power Mac G4, and Power Mac G5.
- PowerPC Architecture Was Not a Failure, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2009.02.16. CNET’s Brooke Crothers calls PowerPC a failed architecture, but 12 years of PowerPC Macs, IBM’s blade servers, and three game consoles tell a different story.
- Will Snow Leopard Support Some PowerPC Macs?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.11.26. It just doesn’t make sense that Apple would ship a new OS that won’t support Macs sold less than three years ago.
- The Long Term Value of a High End Mac, Andrew J Fishkin, Best Tools for the Job, 2008.11.21. Low-end Macs are more affordable up front, but the flexibility and upgrade options of a top-end Mac can make it the better value in the long run.
- Leopard runs very nicely on PowerPC Macs, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.11.19. Some claim that Mac OS X 10.5 is so optimized for Intel Macs that it runs poorly on PowerPC hardware. That’s simply not the case.
- The future of PowerPC Macs and software as ‘Snow Leopard’ approaches, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.11.13. Apple phased out Classic Mode and G3 support with ‘Leopard’ last year, and next year’s OS X 10.6 won’t support any PowerPC Macs. Will other developers abandon PowerPC as well?
- How to clone Mac OS X to a new hard drive, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.10.07. Whether you want to put a bigger, faster drive in your Mac or clone OS X for use in another Mac, here’s the simple process.
- Tiger vs. Leopard: Which is best for you?, Simon Royal, Tech Spectrum, 2008.09.22. Two great versions of Mac OS X, but unless your Mac is well above the minimum spec for Leopard and has lots of RAM, stick with Tiger.
- Apple Trumps Microsoft in Making the 64-bit Transition Transparent to Users, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.09.18. To use more than 4 GB of RAM under Windows, you need a 64-bit PC and the 64-bit version of Windows. On the Mac, OS X 10.4 and later already support it.
- SATA, SATA II, SATA 600, and Product Confusion Fatigue, Frank Fox, Stop the Noiz, 2008.09.08. In addition to the original SATA specification and the current 3 Gb/s specification, SATA revision 3.0 is just around the corner.
- Does running OS X system maintenance routines really do any good?, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.08.26. Mac OS X is designed to run certain maintenance routines daily, weekly, and monthly – but can’t if your Mac is off or asleep.
- The Compressed Air Keyboard Repair, Charles Moore, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2008.07.24. If your keyboard isn’t working as well as it once did, blasting under the keys with compressed air may be the cure.
- Mac Pro overclocking, Windependence with Darwine, Blu-ray for Macs, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.07.04. Also more on running Leopard on non-Apple hardware, Ubuntu on a Mac mini, the first autofocus webcam with Zeiss optics for Macs, and more.
- PowerPC’s last chance: The Mac’s history with the G5 CPU, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2008.06.24. The introduction of the G5 Power Mac in June 2003 promised a bright 3 GHz future, and failure to achieve that paved the way to today’s Intel Macs.
- Snow Leopard and the Death of PowerPC Support, Carl Nygren, Classic Macs in the Intel Age, 2008.06.23. It looks like Mac OS X 10.6 will only support Intel Macs – and possibly only 64-bit ones at that. Should G4 and G5 owners start looking at Linux?
- Virtual PC works with Leopard, Intel vs. PowerPC performance, beyond the Mac mini, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.05.20. Also upgrading Intel iMacs, Compact Flash in a PowerBook 2400, and thoughts on low-end Macs.
- Power Mac G5 vs. Intel Mac mini, video thumbnails lost in migration, OCR software, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.03.17. Also HARMONi compatibility with Mac OS X 10.4, a dual processor G4 auction, Internet access by digital phone, and more.
- 2.6 GHz MacBook Pro worth it?, iBook video fixed, Compact Flash vs. SSD, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.03.13. Also buying a used Power Mac G4, a Power Mac 7600 still in daily use, OCR software for modern Macs, and Leopard on a Blue and White G3.
- Leopard on a Cube, G4 CPU swap limitations, Power Mac G5 a good choice?, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2008.03.06. Also looking for a scanner that works with Panther and the hsitory of expansion slots in low-cost Macs.
- Safari 3.1 will be ‘crazy fast’, OS X 10.5.2 update, 20x SuperDrive from $35, and more, Mac News Review, 2008.02.15. Also Security Update for Tiger, Graphics Update for Leopard, Mac mini “as powerful as a larger desktop”, TechTool Deluxe update, and more.
- Restore stability to a troubled Mac with a clean system install, Keith Winston, Linux to Mac, 2008.01.15. If your Mac is misbehaving, the best fix just might be a fresh reinstallation of Mac OS X – don’t forget to backup first.
- Leopard pales before Mac OS 8.5 for Macs left behind, dual processor benefits, and more, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.10.23. Mac users may not remember that Mac OS 8.5 left behind some Macs just over two years old. Compared to that, Leopard users have it made.
- How to Upgrade a G5’s Optical Drive, Rob Griffiths, Macworld, 2007.10.17. How to replace the older, slower optical drive in a Power Mac G5 with a newer, faster, dual-layer mechanism.
- Leopard on G4 Power Macs, Quicksilver and big drives, and pros and cons of schools leasing computers, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Mailbag, 2007.10.10. Thoughts on the Mac OS X 10.5 installer, big drive support in the 2001 Quicksilver, differences between 2 GHz G5 Power Macs, and whether schools should lease computers or not.
- External $100 Sony DVD burner likes Macs, Brian Gray, Fruitful Editing, 2007.10.10. The box and manual say nothing about Mac compatibility, but this 18x USB 2.0 DVD burner is plug-and-play (at least with Tiger).
- APG Card Compatibility, The Mac Elite, 2007.08.09. Guide to which ATI and Nvidia AGP video cards are compatible with which AGP Power Macs.
- Allegro USB 2.0 a great way to add several USB 2.0 ports to your Power Mac, Dan Knight, Low End Mac Reviews, 2007.03.28. You can never have too many USB ports. Whether your Power Mac has no USB 2.0 ports or too few, this $30 card is a great way to add the ports you need.
- 11 No Cost Tips for Optimizing Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Performance, Ed Eubanks Jr, The Efficient Mac User, 2007.03.12. If your Mac is getting sluggish, here are 11 tips that can help restore its original performance.
- Region free DVD viewing options for Intel and PowerPC Macs, Andrew J Fishkin, The Mobile Mac, 2006.09.12. Several hardware and software options that will let your view ‘wrong region’ DVDs on your PowerPC or Intel Mac.
- Power Mac G5 Reliability, Robert Mohns, Macintouch, 2006.07.06. On average, 17% of Power Mac G5 units require repair within their first year of use. That drops to 9% for the second year.
- Drive matters, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2006.06.14. There’s more to picking the right hard drive than size, spindle speed, buffer size, and price. But how can a 5400 rpm drive ever outperform a 7200 rpm drive?
- Power Mac G5 Uniprocessor Firmware Update, Apple, 2004.09.13. “The Power Mac G5 Uniprocessor Firmware Update improves general system reliability and restores sleep functionality.”
- Sonata SD, Sonnet Tech, 2004.06.01. First new PCI video card for the Mac in ages sells for just US$99, supports OS 7.5.3 and later plus OS X 10.1.5 and later, works with VGA or old Mac monitors, 16 MB VRAM. Also compatible with PCI-X slots in G5.
- Blowout G4s or forthcoming G5s, which wins the value comparison?, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2003.06.25. When we look at the end-of-life pricing on the Power Mac G4s and the value of the Power Mac G5s, two models stand apart from the pack as undisputed best buys.
- The Power Mac G5 value equation, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 2003.06.24. Apple has turned things on their head when the dual 2.0 GHz machine offers 2.5x the power of the 1.6 GHz model at just 50% more money.
- Apple Specs: Power Macintosh G5
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