Users get best of two OSes on a Power Mac G3

Box Score

Power Macintosh G3
Apple Computer Inc.. Cupertino, Calif.; tel. 408-996-1010
GSA price: $1,863 with 32M RAM, 4G hard drive, 24X CD-ROM drive and Zip drive; no monitor

Pros and cons:
+ Fast performance for optimized apps
+ Moderate performance for PC software
– Very slow for some PC apps and Java

Think of buying the Apple Power Macintosh G3 as buying one computer and getting half of
a second computer free. It is equally at home running native Mac programs or emulating
Microsoft Windows 95 applications.

The 266-MHz system will appeal to loyal Mac users, which comes as no surprise. But the
G3 also reaches out to the universe of Windows users, and it just might convert a few.

I tested the G3 two ways. First, I looked at performance in native mode under Mac OS
8.1. Then I installed Virtual PC from Connectix Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., and loaded
Win95. Needless to say, the system worked a lot better in native mode. But Win95
performance was better than I expected.

The Mac has always been known for its friendly interface, and the G3 is no exception.
It comes with lots of extras you don’t get on any standard PC, such as voice
accompaniment to error messages, easy memory configuration and a Zip drive from Iomega
Corp. of Roy, Utah.

My test G3 had only 32M of RAM. That’s a shame, because it would have performed
much better with 64M. I’ve never been a big fan of virtual memory.

The Mac versions of Microsoft Office 98 and other apps ran faster than I’ve seen
on any other Mac. Word counts of really long files went a little faster on the G3 than on
a comparable 266-MHz Intel system.

In nearly every word processing and graphics application optimized for the Mac, the G3
performed as well as a high-end PC or better. But as soon as I moved away from optimized
Mac programs, performance dropped significantly.

Java was a particularly weak area. I found the G3 handled Java worse than even a 75-MHz
Pentium PC. Apple officials acknowledged this and told me they are working on the problem.

I also had printing troubles. The GCN Lab network’s Hewlett-Packard LaserJet
printer kept outputting color pages in black and white. Also, the G3 took forever to send
a page because it must use emulation software, and the interface between computer and
printer is convoluted. Pages eventually printed, but not at top quality.

The G3 with Virtual PC did run Win95 apps smoothly, though slower than in native
Windows mode. Except for the lengthy bootup and the Apple logo, you might not even notice
you were running Windows on a Mac.

But the G3 gave me far from 266-MHz performance. The GCNdex32TM benchmark suite in
Virtual PC mode clocked the G3 about the same as a 133-MHz Pentium. That is admirable when
you consider the tests were running under Win95 on top of Mac OS 8.1.

The G3 won’t be a good choice for users accustomed to fast-performing PC
applications. But if you already use a Mac, or you can work with optimized Mac apps, the
G3 has full Mac functionality plus the ability to run all kinds of PC applications without
high-end requirements. That’s impressive. 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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