Journal, Reviews, Technology

PowerMac Quad G5

My PowerMac Quad G5 arrived less than a week ago. This review covers my experiences the past week that I have had the Quad. My installation checklist went as follows. As you will soon learn, this was not the way it should have been done.

  1. Open Box
  2. Install RAM
  3. Migrate Data
  4. Software Update

“Out-of-Box” Experience

I was very excited for my first new Macintosh purchase in nearly three years, and I was very much looking forward to Apple’s well-crafted out-of-box experience. One of the best in the business in packaging and presenting their products, Apple is showing more and more people how it should be done due to the iPod halo effect.

Initial Glitches

Not all was smooth in the initial installation. The first thing that I did after removing the computer and display from their respective boxes was to install 4GB of third-party RAM. I have read that the PowerMac G5-series is very finicky when it comes to RAM. Perhaps that’s why Apple charges so much for RAM on its online store! The problems soon started appearing once I booted the computer up and began putting it through its paces.

One of the first things that I tried was playing a DVD on the Quad and the 30-inch Cinema Display. For home movies, this is an unbeatable combination. That said, I experienced strange video glitches shortly after inserting, and the DVD never got to its main menu screen. At first, I chalked this up to the fact that I was running Mac OS 10.4.2 and needed to update to later versions of the OS and QuickTime. I also installed iView Media Pro to run through a recent photoshoot of 2,400 images. I ran into errors with viewing my 1D Mark II RAW files over Gigabit Ethernet on my NAS box. Again, this never happened on the Quicksilver, and I thought an eventual Software Update would resolve these issues.

Migrating Data

Migration Assistant

The process to transfer data from my Quicksilver PowerMac G4 to the Quad was a little more convoluted than I anticipated. Migration Assistant is a feature of Mac OS X that facilitates the transfer of user information, applications, and settings from one computer to another. My old PowerMac, an 867MHz Quicksilver, is equipped with 120GB and a 60GB internal hard drives. After connecting the computers via FireWire, I was surprised to see that Migration Assistant did not recognize the QuickSilver, saying there was no computer with Mac OS X installed!

The problem involved the jumper settings on the hard drives. When I first bought the computer, it came with a 60GB internal hard drive. Some years later, I installed a 120GB hard drive and made it the startup volume. What I neglected to do, however, was turn the 120GB drive into the Master volume and the 60GB drive into a Slave volume. Apparently, Migration Assistant looks for the Master volume only.

I suspect many PowerMac G4 owners will be upgrading to the Quad. If you are going to use Migration Assistant, make sure you check your drive jumper settings!

The migration time remaining fluctuated greatly during the process. Copying large files is a lot faster than copying a lot of small files. My Documents folder has accumulated tens of thousands of documents over the past few years, so the overall migration took several hours to complete.

Major Problems

Things took a turn for the worse after data migration was complete. I ran Software Update, and it choked on the Pages and Mac OS 10.4.3 updates. Thinking I would rerun Software Update after a restart, I was again surprised that the computer would not get past the “Starting Mac OS X” loading screen.

At this point, I should have realized that the RAM was the culprit. Having had good experiences with third-party RAM in the past, I didn’t think I could be one of those people with RAM issues. I concluded that the best course of action would be to reinstall the system and migrate the data manually.

So began a day and a half of constant installing and reinstalling the system. The installation of the core Mac OS X components on Install Disc 1 went smoothly enough, but there were many problems with Install Disc 2. This disc contains iLife, trial software, and third-party applications. During installation, it gave me errors when trying to install Pages, Keynote, or GarageBand. I figured that the disc was bad, so I started the reinstall process one last time, unchecking all third-party software to prevent Disc 2 from being used.

This was certainly not the out-of-box experience that I was looking for!

Friends Rush In To Save Me

Thankfully, my friends were here to save me from Groundhog Day. At the suggestion of Victor, I removed the four 1GB sticks from the computer before reinstalling the system for the last time. Surprise, surprise, there were no problems installing files on Disc 2. The Mac OS X installer makes use of all available RAM, so if there’s any problem with the sticks, there’s a good bet that the installer will choke and error out. The RAM is also the likely culprit for my DVD-playback issues and other assorted glitches I came across during the initial two days.

My new procedure for configuring a new computer is:

  1. Open Box
  2. Software Update
  3. Migrate Data Manually
  4. Install Third-Party Hardware

RMA the RAM

The next morning, I called up OWC to RMA the RAM. I had called the previous afternoon but was told to try running the computer with just the third-party RAM and with pairs of sticks installed. After reinstalling the system, I did in fact try putting pairs of sticks in to see if I could reproduce the problem. Victor noted that since I had already duplicated the bad RAM problem, it would just waste my time to identify which stick was bad. He was right, and I mentioned that to the OWC person on the phone the next day. He was quick to issue an RMA number, and I was quicker yet to mail the RAM back to Illinois.

I got the new RAM about a week later, and everything has been running smoothly ever since.

Migrating Data the Manual Way

Alex, recommended that I avoid using Migration Assistant and instead reinstall everything manually. Since I had come this far, I agreed with his suggestion and began the time-consuming process of installing my applications one at a time. Alex will be doing this as well when his Quad arrives in a few weeks. I would first run through the list of programs in your Applications folder. For those apps that you can get via the Web, check VersionTracker or the author’s website to ensure you have the latest version. For those applications that you are installing from CD, check to see if any updates have been released. I also wrote down in a text document everything that I installed or updated on the computer.

Programs like Creative Suite, Office, and Canon utilities had several important updates, and tracking all of these files was very time-consuming. Also tedious was locating the registration codes was very time-consuming.

I have yet to transfer all of my other documents and settings over to the computer. Mail is obviously the most important to transfer. Perhaps this is the time to make the permanent switch to using IMAP mail over POP?

.Mac Sync

I’m a .Mac user, and it certainly came in handy to transfer and keep synchronized data such as my Address Book, Transmit Favorites, Safari Bookmarks, and iCal calendars. I have not had much success transferring my Keychain from the Quicksilver to the Quad. Does this make .Mac worth $99 a year? I don’t know, but it was one less headache to worry about.

Assorted Tidbits

You’ve made it this far, congratulations! There’s just a few more comments I’d like to make before moving onto speed tests.

Fans

There are times when all of the system fans turn on, and the machine becomes very loud. I thought that my Quicksilver was loud, but this is easily twice as noisy! Fortunately, the computer isn’t running full blast all of the time. In typical day-to-day usage, the Quad is quieter than the Quicksilver. That said, the Quad is way louder than Dell towers that Eric has at his place.

If you want to hear how loud the box can get, boot up the machine in single-user mode by holding down Command-S at startup. I tested the RAM using memtester in this mode, and the computer matched the washing machine noise for noise!

Phantom Display

Before I identified the RAM as the source of my problems, the Quad was showing that I had an extra 1024×768 monitor connected to the computer. Victor noted that the bad RAM could have been the source for this phantom monitor. After removing the RAM, all I see in Displays is the 30-inch Cinema Display. My 17-inch Studio Display looks tiny compared to this beast of a monitor!


Speed Tests

Now that my Mac is running relatively smoothly, I can finally perform some speed tests. I am only running with 512MB of RAM, so these results may change once I get my new 4GB sticks. I used my cellphone’s stopwatch to time the tests.

Horse Radial Blur Test

On [H]ard Forum, there is a Photoshop test to see how fast your computer is. From the site:

  1. Download the test image from http://www.quicklance.com/test.jpg
  2. Open the file in Photoshop
  3. Filter / Blur / Radial Blur with the following settings:
    • Amount = 100
    • Blur Method = Spin
    • Quality = Best

On my Quicksilver, it took about five and a half minutes to complete the radial blur. On the Quad G5, it was a shy under 20 seconds. That’s 16 times faster than the Quicksilver! Radial blur makes use of multiprocessors, so this is a good test for the Quad’s two dual-core G5 processors.

Radial Blur G5 Test

Check out the processing usage percentages on that test! There is a Processor System Preference that lets you enable or disable the processor cores on the Quad. When I have only one core running, it takes about 80 seconds to complete the radial blur. This coincides nicely with the 20 seconds it takes with 4 cores enabled. If more applications were multiprocessor aware, I think we would see dramatic speed increases with the Quad over the previous generation of PowerMacs.

xBench 1.2

xBench is a benchmarking application for Mac OS X. With 512MB of RAM, it gives the Quad with a speed rating of 122.42. 100 is the rating for a Dual 2GHz G5 PowerMac. The speed rating takes the average of CPU, Thread, Memory, Disk, Quartz Graphics, OpenGL, and User Interface tests.

RAW Conversions

I currently shoot with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II that creates 9MB RAW files. With CaptureOne, my Quicksilver takes on average 60 seconds to process one 16-bit TIFF image, with minimal sharpening and no noise reduction. On the Quad, the same file takes less than 7 seconds! If I turn on noise reduction or sharpening, the processing time increases to around 15 seconds. I’m hopeful that this time will go down further once I get my 4GB of RAM installed.

Photoshop CS takes even less time to process the same image, about 4 seconds. Though, I prefer CaptureOne or DPP’s RAW processing results to those from CS, I do use Camera RAW when I need to process a single file quickly. NoiseNinja reduces noise in a file in less than 8 seconds. I’m happy to see that my RAW conversion and processing times will be much faster than before. What used to be an overnight session can now be accomplished in just a few hours!

Update 11/27/2005: I recently completed processing 800 images using Capture One and NoiseNinja in three hours. Processing time alone on my Quicksilver would have taken over 24 hours at nearly two minutes per image!

Einstein Newton Emulator

Einstein is a Newton emulator for Mac OS X. Frank Gruendel created NewtTest, a benchmark application for the Newton.

NewtTest running on Einstein

On the Quad G5, NewtTest’s Loop Iterations test shows an average of nearly 7,000 iterations/sec. A MessagePad 2100 clocks in between 8,000-11,000 iterations/sec. Given that Paul has yet to do some major optimizations of the code, that’s pretty good. Playing around in Einstein, the emulated Newton certainly feels pretty quick.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this far. The process of setting up the Quad G5 has taken longer than I originally anticipated. Things are running relatively smoothly now, and I will be happy to relegate the Quicksilver to secondary computer status. It has served me well for the past four and a half years, and will continue to function as a server in the future!

Here are some photos of the out-of-box experience with the Quad G5 and the 30-inch Cinema Display.

Standard

41 thoughts on “PowerMac Quad G5

  1. sd says:

    Wow Adam, how cool is that? Nice setup but what on earth are you going to do with that 30″ display? Hang it on the wall or get a huge desk? Isn’t it a bit cumbersome?

  2. Will probably get a bigger desk eventually. I won’t have my 17-inch Studio Display on here once I have finished configuring the system. I have used it enough to find it cumbersome. It is a huge monitor, but I once thought that of the 17-inch. I have a feeling I’ll quickly get used to it!

  3. Adam,

    The problems related to not being able to boot and install of known good discs (ie. ones that came in the box) indicate an issue with hardware. Since the only 3rd party hardware (I believe) you have installed in the machine is RAM, I’d remove that and then proceed witha re-install. You’ll find it goes much more smoothly. There is likely a stick in your additional RAM that is causing issues. You may want to consider (if the install goes without issue) RMA-ing the RAM back to the retailer for a new set.

    Hope that helps.

  4. Could it be that the DVD is bad? I just completed the install without using Disk 2 (by unchecking all the third-party software). After performing all the necessary OS updates, DVD’s and QuickTime play correctly. Last night, I ran the hardware diagnostics and the RAM passed the tests.

  5. Hey Adam,

    It is highly unlikely the DVD is bad (unless the surface is dirty, I supposed). It is more likely that asking to install those addional packages requires more memory and the system ends up having to access a RAM module that can’t perform to spec. You are welcome to use RAM testers but I have found at least one case where no diagnostic tools have turned up RAM problems, yet removing the bad sticks in question, stopped all install and related issues.

    YMMV, but the issue you are having smells all to familiar to me. Again, I’d remove the 3rd party RAM for the time being, and get your box up and running. In a couple day, install the RAM and see if you have issues (especially when running apps that consume most of the sytem memory). RAM/hardware problems often result in mysterious app crashes and even kernel panics. Kernel panics really are long past issue and are today, quite rare – so they often point to bad hardware.

    Anyhoo – good luck with it. Once you are running, I’d love a demo :-)

  6. I took out the third-party RAM, restarted the computer, and tried to install GarageBand from Install Disk 2 (using the Terminal to go into the hidden Packages directory).

    I bow down to Victor and his suggestion! Lo and behold, GarageBand installed properly. I guess what I’ll do now is reinstall the system one more time and give a call to OWC to get an RMA on the RAM that I bought.

  7. Hey Adam,

    Good to hear that the strange behaviours are no longer happening with the OWC RAM pulled. It is unlikely the RAM was not seated properly (you’d get a POST error or the RAM simply would not be availalble to the system).

    Re you comment “As a sidenote, this is certainly not the out-of-box experience that I was looking for!”

    Well technically its not quite a true/pristine ‘out-of-box’ experience because the 3rd party RAM threw a wrench in the works. Without in involved in the mix, I think you’d have been golden.

  8. Brad says:

    If you’re looking for new memory, Chip Merchant (http://www.chipmerchant.com) has always had good prices and a lifetime return policy. This helped one time when an OS update disabled memory I bought from them. They happily exchanged it for modules that worked about a year after purchase.

    Glad to see you’re enjoying your new toys…30″ monitors are the only way to fly.

  9. When I lived in San Diego, I used to buy memory from the local Chip Merchant store. A few years back, they ran into some financial difficulties, so I switched to other providers like OWC. Looks like they are back on their feet.

  10. RA Platt says:

    Impressive stats for the quad. I ran the Radial Blur test on my 2.7 dual and it took about 30 sec (I used my digital wrist watch to time it so the run time is probably accurate within +- 2 sec.).

  11. Larry Gottschalk says:

    Interesting story Adam. Question…have you simply returned the RAM to OWC, or are you exchanging it? Since that was the culprit, it would be interesting to know the final solution and the details of the issue…did they ship you the wrong type, was it just “broken”, etc.

    Also thought of you when sorting through some junk tucked away on a remote HD:

    http://www.digitalfields.com/miscimages/simpsons-newton.mov

  12. Paul Ingraham says:

    My deepest sympathies that you suffered such a painful installation process. RAM should always go in LAST, once you have already established that everything else is workingly nicely. That way, if you get some bad RAM, you’re going to see the change from a functional to a dysfunctional system. It also won’t have an opportunity to mess up your entire installation!

    I believe that System Updates should be installed immediately, right after the initial setup, before you start cluttering up your hard drive with your data, preferences, and application installations. System updates are notoriously flaky, and can virtually be relied upon to break some things while fixing others. The good news is that they tend to work best with a nice, clean system installation. So the great thing about having a new machine is that you have the opportunity install a problematic OS update like 10.4.3 while your system is still pristine. Also, starting with the system updates eliminates that exasperating troubleshooting question you had: “Will this problem go away once I install the system update?”

    If updates are first and RAM is last, that puts data migration in the middle, and I’ll echo Victor’s advice: next time, avoid the Migration Assistant! Do it by hand. Docs, Music, Photos can all be moved en masse easily enough. But install every application on your new system manually. If you have valuable preference files, move them manually, leaving the rest to be regenerated from scratch on the new system. Pick and choose. Add one thing at a time and test it. Go slow so that you have a shot at spotting problems as they emerge. Migration Assistant tries to oversimplify the process and do so many things at once that troubleshooting afterwards is much more difficult! It seems slow to install things gradually, but it’s a lot more fun than what happened to you! :-)

    Hope this helps for the next time.

  13. Your experience sounds like deja vu for me as I just went through a similar experience with my Quad on the migration assistant except I was using a dual G4 500 with two drives one a 40GB and the other a 120GB. The jumpers were correct so I had to do a initial install and then afterwood I did a migration from my powerbook G4 with all the rest of my Apps and settings.
    Everything else was stored on other drives and was much brought over as backup on the second drive on the new machine.
    I still had to reinstall all Adobe CS2 Apps because of their Copy protection scheme.
    Luckily I have not experienced RAM issues with my 4GB (4-1GB non ECC sticks) in addition to the Paltry 512MB from Apple.
    I however still await the Wireless kit which was still not shippping on 11-23 the day I got my Quad.
    Opening RAW 7.7MB NEF images in Photoshop is as fast as 100KB JPEGs on my old machine.
    Mark Forman

  14. Greg says:

    It’s not Migration Assistant that wouldn’t see your OS X drive in slave mode, it’s Firewire Target Mode, it only does the master drive.

  15. Adam – my $650 2.8Ghz Dual-Core Dell (the cheapie dual-core ship) did the radial blur test in 52 seconds. I added $80 worth of RAM, so it was actually closer to $730 (shipped).

  16. Gregory says:

    thanks for the information…..have a rev A dual2g w. 3.5g ram and the blur in photoshop elements took 58 seconds….did you do the blur with anything else running and with or without the additional ram?

  17. Congrats on the Quad! I decided to bite the bullet and pick one up last weekend — Nice early Christmas present!

    My out-of-the-box experience was nowhere near the struggle yours was. I was moving from a six-month-old iMac G5 (yeah, short upgrade cycle — I’m an idiot!), and used Migration Assistant to handle the movement of my iMac’s personality to the Quad. It took a long time (3+ hours) to move a pretty full 250Gb drive across the firewire connection, but it did work, and when I booted the Quad after the transfer, it was just like being on my iMac…. only waaaaay faster. The only glitches I’ve found so far were with Photoshop CS2 needed to re-activate and Office not realizing it was a full version.

    I also installed 2GB of 3rd party memory, purchased locally from CompUSA. Bandits, I know, but I knew I wanted more than the 1GB that came in the Quad. Future RAM purchases will be a little better planned! :-)

    I’ve also noticed the fan noise. I’m doing a big file copy right now (a backup copy of about 34Gb of photos), and the fans are quite a bit louder than I’ve noticed them being through this week. I’m sure they’ll settle down shortly after the copy is complete, but I do definitely notice ‘em.

    Anyway, thanks for the info on your migration path — I’ll be back to see how things are going!

  18. John H says:

    Great to read about a fellow Bay Area Mac quad user.

    I just recieved a Quad G5 (BTO with wireless and GF7800), it will replace/augment my 12″ G41.2 powerbook as my main home work system. Your procedure for a new computer is wise, I don’t like to use the Apple Migration Assistant. I have found, after setting up several Mac systems over the years, that some things are best done by manually. I have taken advantage of Fry’s sale Dec 26th on Corsair (value select) 2GB ram upgrades to put in an additional 4 gb of ram. So far so good, I have run the memtest app and also a couple DVDs without problems. Hopefullly the memory is ok, time will tell.

  19. Just an update on my fan noise issue…. I had the Quad G5 slightly tipped forward when I first installed it in my desk (I had some cable management issue that required this at first). Once I levelled the Quad though, the fan noise all but disappeared. I know the user manual says not to put the beast on its side, but I was surprised that a few inches of tilt would make that big a difference (apparently) in the fan operation.

    All is quiet now, and I barely know the thing is there. It’s not as quiet as the iMac, but it’s way quieter than an Wintel tower I’ve had in my office.

  20. Matt says:

    Adam

    good luck with the new RAM, I got 4gb through OWC and been getting a lot of kernel panics on the Quad, I RMA’d it and I got a replacement, same deal

    I spoke with them and they told me they got a “few” situations like mine (yours too? I guess) the OWC guy told me he would ship 4 – 1GB sticks (samsung) instead of 2 – 2gb sticks (OWC) and that should take of the problem

    I guess its just some compatibility issue.. is your ram working ok?

    Matt

  21. Hamish says:

    Hi Adam,

    I got my Quad a few weeks ago, and I enjoyed reading your work here as I waited for its delivery!

    In your picture for the blur test, I noticed that you have system moniter graphs and percentages of CPU load in the top menu bar. Could anyone tell me how to activate this? Is it third party or an apple thing?

    Cheers!

  22. Hey,
    How can you want to put that kind of shitty memory into a £2000 Quad G5. Also, how can you want to install emulators when you have a top spec mac, you should just go out and buy a Farrari Enzo and put chip fat in the petrol tank!
    Sounds like you are a pc user. Go back and use your pc.

  23. I too have a G5 Quad and have had NO problems what so ever, and I too installed 3rd party memory (Crucial)… and had NO problems. To me this article, no offence, was pointless. Its full of dappy mistakes. Common sense suggests you should turn the computer on, let the OSX configure your settings/put your details in for registering etc.. making sure everything works, THEN install more memory. This was the process I followed. Maybe it was because this was the first Mac ive had and I wanted to see what it was like out of the box… I dunno, but to me, the process I followed was a very sensible one.

    Also, the Mac screens are poo. 400:1 contast ratio!? Dont go there. Get a Dell 2405 HD screen or a Formac 21″ Raven or similar screen. Dell is 1000:1 and Formac is 700:1 – still far better, and way cheaper than Apple monitors.

    Sorry for all the dissing, but its all truth from what I can see. Good luck in the future with the Mac, you’ll love it, I do! Bill Gates can get screwed as far as im concerned haha!

  24. turandota says:

    Nice setup. So I was thinking of getting a Quad upgrade. I currently run 10.4.3 on a Dual 2.5 g5; Can I just take my SATA hard drives out and put them into the Quad? Wouldn’t that eliminate all of the file transfer headaches? I’ve done that with other Macs before and never had a problem….Just wondering…?

  25. John P Sable says:

    Hello

    Yes, with all due respect these were errors due to inexperience but they were not silly or ignorant errors and i think your work in preparing this document deserves some compliments because you took the time to link utility software that you discussed within ths document.

    Many people would have felt silly and just deleted the errors and discussion in order to not look inexperienced, but if you can help one person not make the same errors as you did, this was all worth it. I have also been bitten by the bad ram bug in rthe past while running Pro Tools on a Quicksilver and it was no fun. Since 2001, I have tested all ram upon installing each pair.

    I have 2 new dual 2.7’s as well as 2 Quads that I just purchased and received- and I would like to know if any other Quad owners are experiencing some issues that I have noticed.

    First- I have read about some blue video artifacts.

    I have rectangles. If one looks in the apple menu one can also see duplicate commands listed such as:

    force quit
    restart
    shutdown
    logout

    These are all listed twice. I have just upgraded to 10.4.5. and the ptoblem did not go away. I will begin to trouble shoot this now. I suspect it is a defective vid card –

    NVIDIA GeForce 6600 with 256MB GDDR SDRAM

    Thanks.

    I also have another issue that Apple seems to know about but they won’t let on (so far) to what it is and what will be done about it. Thery have only asked if it is negatively impacting one’s computer experience or end product.

    Here is the issue:

    There is a noise. it is intermittant and seems to happen randomly. The duration of the noise is less than two seconds and sounds like a “whirring sound”. I piut “whirring sound” in quotes because that is what apple called it.

    The noise sounds like one of my 1990 macs- quadra used to sound but this noise last just inder two seconds. it sounds like a motor trying to start up such as that of a CD ROM wanting to spin but unable to do so or beginning to spin and then aborting its misson.

    Thanks

  26. Sure the noise is not the hard drive wirring as the mac accesses the information?

    To try and ilimiate problems such as those you are having you must download onyx (do a search on google or downloads.com and ensure you get the right version for your operating system, panther, tiger etc)

    Use this software to clean ALL cache, and restart

    Then reenter the software and go to ‘maintenance’ and verify and repair all permissions, and click all the updates.

    Always verify and repair permissions after every mac update and after every new software update or install.

    This should help stop system glitches. if you still have a problem then you need to start looking deeper but for now, try these things.

  27. Jim Goldstein says:

    Great info. I have a new Quad sitting in a box in my living room. It just arrived today. My 4GB of RAM arrive tomorrow. Your experience will no doubt help me in my setup. Thanks for the write up.

  28. curt says:

    I’m having a problem with my G5 iMac similar to your phantom monitor problem. Did you ever get this resolved? My RAM is from Apple, so hopefully it is not the issue.

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