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The Power Macintosh Picture

by Mark H. Anbinder, News Editor -- mha@baka.ithaca.ny.us

TidBITS has shared most of the relevant information about the Power Macs over the past few weeks, but this article takes a quick look at the official details from Apple.

Power Macintosh -- All three new computers introduced today bear the name "Power Macintosh," and are built around a PowerPC 601 microprocessor, the first-generation chip resulting from joint efforts among Apple, IBM, and Motorola. We'll talk about later members of that family later on.

Each Power Macintosh has a variety of input and output options, including on-board Ethernet (with an Apple FriendlyNet port); 16-bit CD-quality stereo input and output; and a GeoPort connector, which requires Apple's GeoPort Telecom Adapter to connect to the world.

Each of the machines is available in a configuration with an internal CD-ROM drive (the new tray-loading drive); each can be ordered in a bundle with Insignia's SoftWindows; and each can be purchased in an AV configuration to take advantage of video and speech capabilities.

6100/60 -- The Power Macintosh 6100/60 incorporates a 60 MHz PowerPC 601 chip into Apple's popular low-profile pizza-box case, in which we've seen the Centris and Quadra 610 and 660AV. Its low price makes up for the lesser expandability, for those who are satisfied with the computer as-is. The 6100 includes a PDS (processor-direct slot) that can accommodate a 7-inch NuBus card with the use of an additional NuBus Adapter.

Because the 6100 has only one expansion slot, it doesn't offer the out-of-the-box dual-monitor support of its larger siblings, and the AV configuration has no further expansion capability.

Upgrades to a Power Mac 6100/60 should soon be available for the Centris and Quadra 610 and 660AV, and the Workgroup Server 60.

7100/66 -- A bit faster than the low-end 6100, this Power Mac comes in the squat case that's housed the Macintosh IIvx, IIvi, Performa 600, and the Centris and Quadra 650. All of these machines may be upgraded to a 7100. Its 66 MHz processor isn't sufficiently faster than that of the 6100 to entice buyers for that reason alone, but many will go for the extra expandability: this machine has three NuBus slots.

The PDS is filled with Apple's video card, providing dual monitor support right out of the box, although AV configurations replace this card with an AV card. What might confuse some users is that the two monitor ports are different. The computer includes one DB-15 video port, much like the ones we've seen since 1987, and one new HDI-45 AudioVision connector, which requires an included adapter in order to connect to standard monitors.

8100/80 -- The 8100/80 leads the Power Mac pack, with an 80 MHz PowerPC 601 processor in a Quadra 800-style mini-tower case. Further accelerating this fast machine is a Level 2 memory cache and a dual-channel SCSI capability. This is the Power Mac for people who need the ultimate in performance in order to get the fastest possible speeds for animation, rendering, working in Photoshop, and so on.

As with the 7100, the video PDS card is included, but is replaced if you order the AV configuration.

Quadra 800 and 840AV, and Workgroup Server 80 owners can upgrade to an 8100/80

All in the Family -- Today's computers all contain the PowerPC 601 chip, the first of a family of processors bearing the PowerPC name. The processor has an integrated floating point unit and a RAM cache that helps PowerPC blaze through data efficiently. So far, PowerPC 601 chips are available in "build quantities," or quantities sufficient to make real-life products, at speeds up to 80 MHz, though there are faster chips available in small quantities.

The next PowerPC chip we're likely to see is the PowerPC 603, a smaller, low-power version of the 601. Without advancing the architecture, the 603 chip will make possible PowerPC-based notebook computers and handheld devices. PowerPowerBooks and PowerNewtons might be right around the corner! Apple plans to take advantage of the lower power needs and lower heat output from these chips on its PowerPC accelerator cards aimed at the smaller Macs, such as the Quadra 605, LC 475, and Performa 475, 476 & 550. These chips are just becoming available in sufficient quantities to consider making products out of them, so it shouldn't be long before new designs are readied.

Further in the future are the PowerPC 604 and 620, which will each be a significant step up in performance potential from its predecessor. Raw processing power is likely to be multiplied by three to five in each of these steps, so a Power Macintosh of 1995 or 1996, based on a PowerPC 620, will be quite the screamer.

On Your Desk -- If you want a Power Macintosh of your very own, the word is good; dealers report stock on their shelves as of the introduction date, though of course some stock is being snapped up quite quickly! The dealers will be able to order more for now; we'll have to see how well availability holds up.

The bad news is that the apparently-popular SoftWindows bundles are already in short supply, and separate copies of SoftWindows may be hard to come by. Each Power Macintosh ships with a demo version pre-installed on its hard disk, but that's held to relatively short work sessions and a limited number of total launches.

[Note: I've seen additional confirmation of the lack of SoftWindows copies in part because it only recently went golden, so Apple is scrambling to get it installed on hard disks. Another factor that may either improve or worsen availability, depending on your dealer, is that some dealers that normally place small orders are apparently placing much larger orders, straining the existing supplies in unanticipated ways. -Adam]

My advice? Don't wait long. Keep your eye on the networks and online services for discussions about potential compatibility problems with your favorite software, but unless you hear something scary within the next few days, chances are that the time to leap is now.

-- Information from:
Apple propaganda