My Turn

Used Intel Mac mini vs. 867 MHz Power Mac G4 Dual

- 2008.04.07

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I have just purchased a used Mac mini via LEM Swap List and would like to present some comparison between the mini I got and my Dual 867 MHz Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4. I have long searched for a site that would provide some practical comparison that average Joe could use to decide if it's right to move from their G4 to an Intel-based Mac.

Data collected includes some most common applications that I use, and I would hope it would help some folks out there to make a decision. This does not include any other reasons that people may have, like needing to run Windows or desperately wanting a quiet machine that cannot be heard in the middle of the night running in a room on the opposite side of the house.

Both systems are quite close in value (I paid $450 for MDD and spent $50 on RAM and $499 shipped on mini), which should make it an interesting shootout.

  • PowerPC Mac: Dual 867 MHz G4, 2 GB RAM, 250 GB HD 7200 RPM, Pioneer DL SuperDrive, stock video card, AirPort, Bluetooth, USB 2.0 card
  • Intel Mac: Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz, 2 GB RAM, 80 GB HD 5400 RPM, SuperDrive, AirPort, Bluetooth.

Both systems run Mac OS X 10.5.2 with all latest updates installed and the same versions of software used during testing.

Tests Performed

1. Extracting five chapters from a DVD movie to the hard drive using MacTheRipper (I own the movie)

mini: 3:34 seconds
MDD: 2:36 seconds

2. Encoding those five chapters (22 minutes and 31 seconds) to MP4 to be played on Apple TV, average bitrate 1500 kbps, framerate 23.976 FPS, input resolution 720 x 480, output 720 x 478, 2 pass, video format MP4.

This was a sad one for PPC, while it was trying to keep a constant rate of 10 fps, mini was hitting 47 fps, with constant rate of about 42-43.

mini: 38 min total (12 min first turbo pass)
MDD: 162 minutes total (57 min first turbo pass)

3. Importing 13 track CD to iTunes

mini: 6:32 seconds
MDD: 6:20 seconds

4. Opening Firefox to the Google homepage

mini: 7 seconds
MDD: 17 seconds

5. Opening Safari to Apple's website:

mini: 4 seconds
MDD: 20 seconds

6. Opening Mail:

mini: 3 seconds
MDD: 6 seconds

7. Launching iTunes

mini: 5 seconds
MDD: 15 seconds

8. Launching MS Word (Office 2004)

mini: 12 seconds
MDD: 6 seconds

With the exception of video encoding, both systems appeared to perform very closely in most applications once they were launched. Although launching browsers took twice as long on the MDD, once they loaded, changing pages seemed just about the same.

Mirror Drive Door Power Mac G4It was hard for me to make a choice between the two. Video performance and whisper quiet operation is what made me go with mini, yet I keep looking at the MDD sitting right next to it waiting to be packaged and shipped away to it's new home, and I can't help but feel a bit sad.

MDD in my opinion has one of the nicest looking cases in Apples desktop history; it looks rich, classy, and hip even though it's a 5-year-old machine. You can pack 4 hard drives inside, 2 optical drives, there are plenty of PCI slots to install whatever one may desire.

I'm going to miss you, old friend, and I hope that your new owner will enjoy you as much as I did.

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