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To G4 or not to G4

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I mentioned a few entries ago about getting a Mac so that I could port my games. I looked at older machines (like those blue ones with the hideous bulgy cases) because they're pretty cheap now and they still run OSX. Only problem is that once you've got the memory and drive updated to modern standards, they're in Mac Mini price territory.

Used minis are also a pretty poor lot because they're just not depreciating all that fast. Even the pre-Intel ones aren't going for much of a discount. Buying one used just isn't much of a break --not enough to cover getting a warranty and the latest OS that I'd get with a new Mac.

Now then, I just noticed Micro Center has G4 minis on clearance for $450. That's not a huge discount from the Intel mini's price of $600, so my question is this. Given that the sum-total of my work with this Mac will be the following:

1. Porting my games.
2. Ensuring that my web-games look right on Mac browsers.

Would I be better served getting a $450 G4 Mini or a $600 Intel Mini?

Also, what's a good KVM switch that'll let me use the Mini with my existing Dell 20-inch monitor(s) and USB mouse and USB keyboard?
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Used Macs have amazing resale value. I can hock my $2000 12" Powerbook that I bought two years ago for $1500 today.

The G4 mini is a solid machine, but the price is not that much different from the low-end Intel machine they are selling.

Shell out the extra dough for the Intel mini; you'll get much better graphics performance and the ability to virtualize and dual boot with Windows in case you need an extra Windows box. You not only get a new OS X version, but an improved version of the "iLife" tools that come with it (Garage Band, etc) and a cool little remote for use with their Front Row media centre interface. And dual channel RAM, which really improves overall performance (though you may wish to upgrade this later, I don't know off the top of my head how much RAM the low-end Intel Mini ships with).

It should work with almost any KVM switch; you can buy PS2/USB adaptors that will work fine with a cheap switch like I have. IIRC, it plugs into DVI but comes with a VGA adaptor in the box.

Give me a PM if you have any more Mac questions, but the Intel mini is substantially faster and a nicer rig overall.

Oh! Almost forgot: If you subscribe to Apple's Developer Program ($100/yr) you can get a substantial hardware discount along with it, as well as beta versions of the new tools and operating system stuff as it arrives, and access to Apple's software testing labs. It may be worth your time and money.

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I'd shell out the extra $150 for the Intel version. It's a much better machine and more importantly for your purposes if you run into an Intel specific problem you're stuck if you have a G4 mac mini. If you run into a PowerPC based problem you have a chance of reproducing/fixing it by running safari/firefox/whatever under Rosetta.

Another thing your might want to consider. After setting it up just connect it to your network and use VNC to remote desktop to it. Since your games are not high end that might be good enough.

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I would have to disagree with the above replies, if money is a large concern to you, I would go with the G4. The web games will not look any different when viewed from an Intel or a PowerPC machine because the browser is the same. Also, the PowerPC machines can build "Universal Binaries," code that can run on both Intel and PowerPC macs. In addition, you won't get much better graphics performance on an Intel mini because it has integrated graphics, whereas the G4 machines, even though the memory is small, at least have their own graphics cards.

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Well I definitely agree that the G4 Mac will be good enough but I still stand by my recommendation.

Rob Griffins of MacWorld was fixated on the integrated GMA950 graphics but later said:


Setting aside the performance question for the moment, my second mistake was a classic “can’t see the forest for the trees” mentality. By focusing on the graphics change, I missed everything else that Apple seems to have done right with the new mini:

* Intel Core Duo chip is significantly faster than previous G4.
* 2MB shared L2 cache vs. 512KB on-chip cache.
* 512MB DDR2 RAM at 667MHz vs. 256MB DDR RAM at 333MHz.
* Serial ATA hard drives instead of Ultra ATA (and the low-level machine has a 60GB drive, up from 40GB).
* 667MHz system bus vs. 167MHz system bus.
* Composite and S-Video outputs.
* Gigabit ethernet vs. 10/100 Ethernet.
* Built-in AirPort Extreme vs. extra-cost option.
* Combined optical digital audio input/line in and output/headphone out vs. headphone out.
* Four USB ports vs. two USB ports.

For all of that, the cost increased $100 for the base model. The AirPort card alone is a $99 retail item, so they’ve clearly added a lot of value and performance to the machine.

Clearly the Intel Mac mini is a superior machine in almost all respects. As for the integrated graphics, the Intel Mac Mini can run Core Image accelerated. The G4 Mac Mini's Radeon 9200 cannot. The Intel Mac Mini can decode H.264 in hardware, the Radeon 9200 cannot.

With all of that said I think the main reason that's relevent to John's requirements is support. I realize that a G4 can make a universal binary but it cannot run the intel side of it. If John buys a G4 based mac and has a customer who runs into an intel specific problem he will not be able to reproduce it. If he has an Intel based mac and has a customer that runs into a PowerPC specific problem he can run his standalone program/Safari/Firefox/whatever under Rosetta by simply toggling a checkbox and will have a decent chance of duplicating the problem.

So I still think that for the reasons of it
* being faster
* having more features
* being more future proof
* having a better chance of supporting both mac platforms (Intel and PowerPC)
it's worth the $150.

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