Let’s have a look at the Apple Power Macintosh G5, a weighty space heater that can also perform computing tasks. Apple launched the G5 in 2003 with great fanfare, but nowadays it has a decidedly mixed legacy. In 2003 it was a desktop supercomputer that was supposed to form the basis of Apple’s product range for years to come, but within three years it had been discontinued, along with the entire PowerPC range, in favour of a completely new computing architecture. The G5 puts me in mind of an ageing footballer who finally has a chance to play a World Cup match; he is called up from the substitute’s bench, entertains the crowd for twenty minutes, but the team loses, and by the time of the next World Cup the uniform is the same but the players are all different. Our time in the sun is brief, the G5’s time especially so.
I’ve long been a PC person, and from my point of view the G5 came and went in the blink of an eye. I knew that it had a striking case and a reputation for high power consumption and heat output, and for being 64-bit at a time when that was rare in the PC world, but that’s about it. Almost fifteen years later G5s are available on the used market for almost nothing – postage is incredibly awkward – so I decided to try one out. Mine is a 2.0ghz dual-processor model, the flagship of the first wave of G5s. Back in 2003 this very machine was, in Apple’s words, “the world’s fastest, most powerful personal computer”.
Once I move into a bigger house (hopefully soon), the PowerMac G5 (and its successor, the tower Mac Pro) are definitely high on the list of computers I want to own just for the sake of owning them. These things are beautiful, and thermally speaking, incredibly well designed. I plan on building my own dual-Xeon machine somewhere next year, and I find it incredibly frustrating that nobody seems to sell computer cases with proper thermal channels, or “wind tunnels” if you will, that physically seperate the CPU airflow from the GPU airflow, PSU airflow, and possibly even hard drive air flow. Proper workstations do this – things like the PowerMac G5, tower Mac Pro, HP Z workstations, and so on – but cases for self-built PCs just do not offer this kind of functionality.