Low End Mac Benchmarks

MDD Power Mac G4/1 GHz Dual

Dan Knight - 2008.01.29 (updated 2009.02.06 with Leopard results, updated 2009.03.17 with FireWire drive results) - Tip Jar

This "Mirror Drive Door" Power Mac G4 has been my workhorse for a couple years now, and it's currently outfitted with its original Radeon 9000 video card, dual 1 GHz PowerPC 7455 CPUs, a pair of 400 GB Deskstar hard drives (one for work, one for backup), and 2 GB of RAM.

The Mirror Drive Door was the last Power Mac to boot into the Classic Mac OS, and it requires Mac OS 9.2 or later (10.2 or later when running OS X). Benchmarks were run from an external FireWire drive (7200 rpm, probably a Deskstar as well), since I didn't want to mess with my normal setup on the internal hard drive.

This is the second system we've benchmarked using Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard". The first was a 500 MHz dual CPU Power Mac G4.

Let 1000 Windows Bloom

The system was tested on 29 January 2008. Running Panther (OS X 10.3.9), the Power Mac displayed 1000 windows in 28.5 seconds. The same test took only 13.4 sec. in Tiger (10.4.11). Apple definitely improved graphics performance as Mac OS X has moved forward - until Leopard, which takes 16.4 sec. to complete this benchmark.

These benchmarks run in half the time they do on our dual 500 MHz Power Mac G4.

Power Fractal

This program creates a fractal pattern, which can really tax a CPU. Under Panther, it took 2.9 seconds and scored 8,710 Mflops. Under Tiger, it ran in 3.0 seconds at 8,565 Mflops. And under Leopard, it score 8,470 Mflops. As OS X has developed, more processes are taking more CPU time away from the app running in the foreground - that's less than a 3% performance difference from 10.3 to 10.5.

Power Fractal benchmarks are 2.3x what they are on our dual 500 MHz machine.


Xbench 1.3 runs on both versions of OS X we're using for our testing. A score of 100 is the performance of a 2.0 GHz Power Mac G5. OS X 10.4 benchmarks were also run on March 6, 2009:

         10.3.9 10.4.11 3/6/09 10.5.6
Overall    42.4    50.4   54.0   47.6
CPU        66.0    54.3   54.3   54.1
Threads    61.7    71.3   71.8   53.9
Memory     38.7    38.1   38.4   43.8
Quartz     58.0    55.2   52.4   61.5
OpenGL     55.6    60.7   60.9   54.5
User Int.  26.3    57.9   53.2   27.9
Drive      31.9    35.3   59.3   59.8

We can see how OS X has become more efficient over the years. Although the CPU scores lower in Tiger, the increased performance in the Threads, OpenGL, Drive, and especially User Interface tests more than offsets it.

Leopard performance is far slower on User Interface, significantly slower on Threads, a bit slower on Open GL, virtually identical on CPU and Drive, and somewhat better on Memory and Quartz. Overall.

In comparison to our 500 MHz dual G4, the overall scores are roughly twice as high, although most of the individual tests fall behind doubling performance. The biggest difference is in the User Interface test, where the Mirror Drive Door's Radeon 9000 Pro graphics card really shines with nearly 3x the score under Panther, over 4x with Tiger, and over 3x in Leopard.

Next we compare performance with the same 400 GB Deskstar drive on the Power Mac's internal hard drive bus and in an external enclosure, the NewerTech miniStack V2, connected with FireWire.

         Internal Drive  FireWire Drive
         10.4.11 10.5.6  10.4.11 10.5.6
Overall    54.0   47.6     53.6   41.0
CPU        54.3   54.1     54.3   53.6
Threads    71.8   53.9     71.5   58.5
Memory     38.4   43.8     39.6   38.1
Quartz     52.4   61.5     52.9   53.8
OpenGL     60.9   54.5     61.2   50.5
User Int.  53.2   27.9     53.6   20.7
Drive      59.3   59.8     52.9   45.8

In theory, FireWire could be faster than UltraATA as it is a more intelligent protocol and places less demands on the computer's CPU. If this is true, scores should generally increase, but Xbench results don't give us any evidence of that - drive performance is a bit slower and the other results are almost identical under Tiger. And except for the Threads test, performance with the external drive under Leopard lags well behind the internal drive tests.

The only FireWire enclosures I have that support drives over 128 GB are NewerTech miniStacks, so I can't say whether the slower drive results are due to FireWire itself or the FireWire bridge used in the miniStack. At least in this case, the internal bus is superior.


Geekbench 2.1.2 only runs in Tiger and Leopard and only tests the CPU and memory systems. It pays no attention to graphics or hard drive performance. A 1.6 GHz Power Mac G5 would have a score of 1000.

          10.4.11  10.5.6
Overall      894     939
Integer     1159    1131
Float. Pt.  1015    1179
Memory       495     470
Stream       351     342

On average, Geekbench sees a 5% performance improvement with Leopard - very impressive. The relatively low memory and stream scores are due to the Power Mac G4 having a much slower memory bus than the baseline 1.6 GHz Power Mac G5 - 167 MHz vs. 800 MHz.

As we've often seen in our tests, benchmark scores are typically twice that of our dual 500 MHz Power Mac G4.

Now we'll compare results when running from an external FireWire hard drive, the same 400 GB Deskstar that was previously used inside this Power Mac.

          Internal Drive  FireWire Drive
          10.4.11 10.5.6  10.4.11 10.5.6
Overall      894    939      900    943
Integer     1159   1131     1169   1117
Float. Pt.  1015   1179     1026   1185
Memory       495    470      495    485
Stream       351    342      349    406

Geekbench doesn't test the hard drive, but if FireWire is less demanding of computing resources, we would expect to see an improvement in test scores - and we do. Granted, the difference is minimal, too small to notice in real world use, and thus insignificant, but it does show that as far as raw computing power goes, there's no penalty from using an external FireWire drive.


Mac OS X keeps getting better, even on old hardware like this August 2002 Power Mac. It handles Leopard quite well, although it would benefit from a better graphics card. Although we have Leopard, this machine will continue as our primary production machine running Tiger for the forseeable future, as we are hopelessly wed to Claris Home Page and thus need a Mac and Mac OS that can run Classic Mac OS apps.

Go to the Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4 profile.

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