Mac Musings

The 2005 Power Mac G5 Value Equation

Daniel Knight - 2005.04.27

Today Apple moved the Power Mac G5 one step closer to the long awaited 3.0 GHz mark. The new models ship with Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4) installed and have dual 2.0, 2.3, and 2.7 GHz CPUs.

Other than faster CPUs and the faster system bus that goes with it, the new models also have 16x SuperDrives, the largest hard drive is 250 GB, and video performance has been improved. The slower models now include the same ATI Radeon 9600 video that was used in the 2.5 GHz model, and the top-end 2.7 GHz Power Mac has Radeon 9650 graphics with 256 MB of video memory.

A less than 10% increase in CPU speed is nothing to write home about, but with no change in price and the other improvements, the Power Mac's value is better than ever. (The 1.8 GHz single CPU Power Mac G5 remains in the line and unchanged other than coming with Tiger.)

At Low End Mac, the bottom line is always value, so let's compare close-out prices on the 2004 models with what the 2005 ones offer.

The 2004 1.8 GHz dual is now selling for $1,699 (all prices in US dollars), the 2.0 GHz model for $1,899, and the 2.5 GHz model for $2,699. The new 2.0 GHz model retails for $1,999, the 2.3 GHz model for $2,499, and the 2.7 GHz one for $2,999.

At just $200 more than the single CPU 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5, the 1.8 GHz dual CPU model provides a faster system bus and nearly twice the performance at a 13% higher price. Anyone on a budget should ante up the extra $200 for this one.

For $200 difference, how do the 2004 1.8 GHz dual and 2.0 GHz dual compare? There's a 11% difference in CPU speed. The 2004 2.0 GHz model has PCI-X slots and can handle 8 GB of RAM, but those are probably not big factors at the low end. With a 12% difference in price, the 1.8 GHz dual is the better value, but just barely. Value is almost identical.

The new 2.0 GHz model has PCI expansion slots and supports up to 4 GB of RAM, while the 2004 model has PCI-X slots and can be expanded to 8 GB of RAM. For most users, that's not going to make a difference. Buy the 2004 model and save $100.

The new 2.3 GHz model has a 15% faster CPU than the 2.0 GHz model it replaces, and it retails for $600 more. That's over 30% more money for a modest improvement in performance. Our advice is to buy the 2004 2.0 GHz model while you can.

Comparing the new 2.3 GHz Power Mac with the old 2.5 GHz one, we have only an 8% difference in CPU speed but a $300 difference in price. The extra performance costs 8% more, and except for the faster SuperDrive on the 2005 model, value is essentially the same.

At the top, it's pretty close. The 2.5 GHz model saves you 10%, while the 2.7 GHz model runs 8% faster, has twice the video memory, uses an improved graphics card, and comes with a twice-as-fast SuperDrive. If you use dual monitors, run at very high resolutions, or are really into gaming, go for the 2.7 GHz Power Mac. If none of those apply, value is pretty much equal between these two models.

In short, the 2004 1.8 GHz dual is a steal at $1,700, and the 2004 2.0 GHz model is a better value than any of the 2005 Power Macs. There is basically no difference in value between the 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 2.7 GHz models at these prices.

We'll be updating our Power Mac G5 price tracker tomorrow, seeing who has the best deals on refurbished and close-out models.