Apple launches 2GHz, 64-bit Power Mac G5

And 3GHz in 12 months' time

Update Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled what he claimed was "the world's fastest personal computer" today, ending more than six months of speculation over whether the Mac maker would use IBM's 64-bit PowerPC 970 processor.

It is.

Apple will offer Power Macs based on the 2GHz processor, and Jobs boldly promised a 3GHz version this time next year.

The 970, which Apple is marketing as the G5, as per last week's web site cock-up in which specs. for new Power Macs based on the chip were revealed, is a 64-bit chip that runs 32-bit apps natively, said Jobs.

IBM will fab the 58 million transistor chip at 0.13 micron using silicon-on-insulator technology and punch them out on 300mm wafers.

The ill-posted specs. proved correct: the 970 will run at up to 2GHz with a 1GHz frontside bus. Describing its "new architecture", Jobs said it has been designed from the ground up for SMP - Apple will offer single and dual-processor systems, he added, with both chips connected to the system controller chip across independent buses. The chip can handle up to 215 in-flight instructions. It has 512KB of L2 cache, but no L3 cache support.

He also called the 970 the "first 64-bit desktop processor", which may gall AMD fans, though then Opteron was designed for servers and workstations, not desktop PCs.

Apple's first 970-based desktops will support up to 8GB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM across a 128-bit (dual channel) 6.4GBps bus. They will offer AGP 8x Pro, 133MHz PCI-X slots, 1.5GBps Serial ATA with independent interfaces to each drive, digital optical and analog audio I/O, Firewire 800 and 400, Gigabit Ethernet, AirPort Extreme, Bluetooth, and USB 2.0, as per the 'officially' leaked specification. In addition, Jobs said all models would ship with Apple's DVD-R SuperDrive.

If the system is cutting edge, the graphics cards aren't, running from Nvidia's GeForce FX 5200 Ultra (with 64MB dedicated video DRAM) at the low-end to ATI's Radeon 9600 Pro (128MB) on the top pre-specced model.

The new Power Macs' PowerBook G4-style aluminium enclosure contains nine fans - they're quiet, Jobs promised, indicating they're half as noisy as the most recent Power Mac G4s - which shows just how much heat the 970, ancillary chips and hard drive all pump out. Both the front and rear of the machine is meshed to improve air circulation.

Three models will ship in August, said Jobs: a 1.6GHz machine with 256MB SDRAM and an 80GB HDD for $1999 (£1549 in the UK), a 1.8GHz box with 512MB of memory and a 160GB hard drive for $2399 and a dual 2GHz system also with 512MB of memory and a 160GB hard drive for $2999.

Jobs compared the dual-2GHz Mac to a top-of-range Dell based on twin Intel 3GHz Xeon operating over a 533MHz FSB. The Mac won the shootout. Citing SPEC tests, Jobs said the G5 is three per cent faster on integer maths, but 41 per cent faster on FPU than the dual-Xeon system. Of course, Intel has just move the bar up to 3.2GHz, and it will be interesting to see what effects HyperThreading and an 800MHz frontside bus has on the situation. We await independently-announced test results with interest. ®

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