If you missed Steve Jobs's announcement at Macworld in January about Apple's new Intel-powered iMac Core Duo
desktops and MacBook Pro
notebooks, the short story is that Apple recently partnered with Intel to sell computers with Intel Core Duo chips in them. The new iMac and the new MacBook Pro are the first products to result from that partnership. Apple also announced a new Intel-based Mac Mini
yesterday. It hasn't been out long enough to run the early-adopter gauntlet, so while some of what we're about to talk about applies to all of the new Intel-based Apple systems, we won't be able to speak about issues specific to the new Mac Minis for a little while. Here's what we know so far.
By switching chip makers (Apple formerly partnered with IBM on the PowerPC G-Series CPUs), Apple gains processors that squeeze out more performance, consume less energy, and have a better growth path for future releases. You, the consumer, will win out, too: the iMac Core Duo costs the same as the previous-generation iMac G5, yet delivers faster performance (roughly 35 percent faster in native applications--more on that later). We have hopes that the MacBook Pro will outperform its predecessor, the PowerBook G4
, as well.
Apple's new iMac Core Duo is not without a few early-day issues.
Like the iMac, the Intel-based MacBook Pro needs updated Mac apps to achieve its full potential.
Apple would like users to view the transition from a PowerPC Mac to an Intel Core Duo Mac as a seamless operation, and for less-demanding users, it probably will be. There are a variety of known issues and newly discovered bugs that you should consider, however, before you make the switch. Chief among them is that software has to be completely recompiled or rewritten to run on the Intel chips.
Older software that hasn't been ported over will still run in most cases, thanks to a built-in program called Rosetta that emulates the processing environment of the older PowerPC chips. The apps won't be as fast as they were on a PowerPC-based Mac, though. In our review of the Intel-based iMac Core Duo
, we found that professional-level programs such as Sorenson Squeeze could be mind-numbingly slow when run in emulation.
Besides software issues, new users are discovering that the iMac Core Duo has problems with video glitches and with maintaining a wireless connection. As more vendors port their software to run on the Intel chip, the possibility of more errors turning up is also ever-present. If you aren't in desperate need of a new computer and you can hold off on your purchase, we recommend that you wait for ports of your favorite apps to show up, and then, as with all new software, be ready to deal with the occasional headache after their initial release.