Hardware Stability

The G5 computer

## AN IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL CONSUMERS ##

If you own a copy of OSX version 10.3.x known as 'Panther' or 10.4.x known as 'Tiger' and any G5 computer released by Apple since 2003, please reduce microprocessor speed in the Energy Saver control panel now unless you are prepared to replace your computer every 3 years or less. The latest OSX software (i.e. the Finder and the Dock) and certain hardware components (e.g. the Class 1 modems) draws unnecessarily high amounts of processing power from your G5 microprocessor than usual which forces the IBM-built G5 processors to work much harder than is considered acceptable (despite the use of video graphic cards to reduce the load on the microprocessor), resulting in extra heat being emitted from your computer and a greater chance for your computer of collapsing in a shorter period of time. We especially want to give G5 iMac users a special mention here as numerous reports have come in of excessive heat causing the iMac to draw more current from the power supply than is acceptable resulting in serious damage to various critical components of your iMac. As of March 2005, Apple is said to be replacing the power supply (but not the microprocessor). Based on current evidence, it is our belief that Apple is choosing to build products having built-in obsolescence such as regularly overheating the computers to ensure consumers continually have to replace them with new ones roughly every 3 years or less.

We also highly recommend that you go into the Monitors control panel (or appropriate button on your computer) to reduce the screen's brightness slightly as there has been numerous reports of blown pixels due to excessive power at the high brightness range to drive the screen.

About the G5 computers (PowerMacs, new G5 iMac etc)...

In almost quick succession after releasing the aluminium G4 PowerBooks (and probably to keep the Apple shareholders happy), Apple Inc. has introduced the new range of desktop G5 machines in August 2003.

As part of its aggressive marketing plan, the company has touted these new computers during their inaugural release as allegedly the world's fastest personal computers. Some supporters have even claimed the machines are mini-supercomputers capable of ripping through many graphics, video and 3D animation tasks with reasonable ease.

PC users, on the other hand, have questioned this claim now that new 64-bit microprocessors from other companies such as AMD have hit the PC market forcing Apple to introduce the dual-G5 microprocessor computers to make its claim seem more plausible.

Certainly the new dual-G5 microprocessor computers are fast. But should you go for a G5 computer at such an early stage given the long history of Apple Computer, Inc. in producing poor quality computers?

The main checklist

  • Although not technically viewed by users as a hardware instability problem, the very earliest G5 computers with their single G5 microprocessors were seen as a little on the slow side compared to the top of the range G4 computers. This would explain the difficulties Apple resellers outside of the US were having in selling G5 computers to the public.

    Then on 1 September 2003, Apple CEO Mr Steve Jobs realised Apple Computer, Inc. had been emphasising too much on the single G5 microprocessor desktop machine. Because there was not enough product differentiation from the top-of-the-range G4 machines, Jobs has decided to up the ante with the release of the dual G5 microprocessors desktop machines with a minimum 2GHz processing speed. A much better decision.

    But one can't help wondering what's wrong with using two or three cooler G4 microprocessors to achieve similar speeds on an Apple computer? What is so special about a G5 microprocessor if speed is the only factor to consider?

    ## SPECIAL NOTE ##

    The G5 microprocessor has a 64-bit core needed to run multiple 32-bit applications at 1GHz plus speeds simultaneously. For the average user wanting internet access and the ability to write letters, design some graphics, and manipulate basic video and music, you certainly won't need the extra power. Such technology is only going to interest the professional market unless as a consumer you want to run the latest 3D adventure games.

    UPDATE
    December 2003

    The latest 'Panther' OSX update is not yet designed to handle the 64-bit architecture of the G5 microprocessor. The Power Mac G5 still ships with MacOSX version 10.2.7 known as 'Jaguar'.

  • Early G5 computers released in 2003 are notoriously hot machines. The G5 microprocessors consume lots of power and will emit lots of heat to do their job. If you want a heater, you will find the G5 computer a welcome addition to your home. Because of the extra heat, Apple Computer, Inc. has stuck to the aluminium metal box design to avoid any issues of plastic warping under the heat just like the PowerBook 5300c/cs computers.

    While it is difficult to be certain how these machines are contructed, you should only buy an early model G5 computer if you are prepared to use it for a short 3 or 4 years and later purchase a newer model computer before certain electronic components suddenly collapse under the heat.

    Please note that purchasing a G5 computer in the early stages (even the 2005 models) is risky. Should one of the fans suddenly collapse, you may not be aware of it and the heat from the CPU will increase dramatically. Or if you upgrade OSX to the 'Panther' version, you may discover how the OS is placing extra burden on the CPU to perform certain tasks which again increases the heat.

    For business users and people with plenty of money, this may not be an issue. But for those who find the price of Apple computers to be expensive, you may wish to consider alternative computers such as a second-hand quality G4 machine or a quality PC. It isn't worth the money to purchase the latest G5 computers given the potential hardware problems you are likely to get within 2 to 3 years.

    UPDATE
    27 July 2004

    Apple Computer, Inc. seems determined to use poorer (and therefore cheaper) quality components in the latest G5 computers with the discovery of Class 1 modems. Modems of this type are designed to move much of the processing of fax images and other modem intensive activities directly to the CPU of your computer instead of building modem boards to do the processing on its own. This is in addition to the work the CPU already has to perform to run your computer's operating system (e.g. the Finder) and any third-party software you have launched. Expect the CPU to get even hotter during regular faxing and internet usage. How dumb can you get?

    NOTE: It makes perfect sense from a business point-of-view, but not from a customer point-of-view.

    UPDATE
    30 July 2004

    We now have official confirmation from the makers of 4-Sight Fax software — SoftSolutions, Inc. — that Apple Computer, Inc. has indeed chosen to put in the cheaper, less reliable and more CPU-intensive Class 1 modems into all of its latest range of Macintosh computers built in 2002 to this day. The quote strongly suggests Apple Computer, Inc. is cutting corners to save money, reduce lifespan of the G5 computers, and maximise profit in certain areas where consumers cannot see in the hope people will be gullible enough to buy more Macs at the same high price.

    According to the quote from SoftSolutions, Inc. received on 29 July 2004:

    "All of the modems we [SoftSolutions, Inc.] support are Class 2 fax/modems. We do not support Class 1 modems because, according to the December 18, 1995 issue of Infoworld, "A Class 2 fax/modem standard puts the workload on the modem hardware, not the computer's hardware and fax software.

    The argument in favor of Class 2 fax/modem is higher system performance as a whole because the computer handles less of the fax burden.

    Solutions that use Class 1 fax/modems, such as Global Village, will put the burden at the desktop, hanging up the system and slowing down the network until the fax has been sent. Any solution using a Class 1 fax/modem is totally unsuitable for broadcast fax applications or for use in high-volume fax environments." (1)

    In another quote from SoftSolutions, Inc. dated 30 July 2004:

    "Soft Solutions made a conscious decision to continue not supporting Class 1 modems because of their historical unreliability and flakiness. Sadly, around late 2001, early 2002, Apple switched their built-in internal Class 2 modems to Class 1. We suspect this was to save a few dollars. We don't support Apple in their decision and stayed firm in our decision not to introduce Class 1 modem support knowing the stability problems it could cause our customers." (2)

    UPDATE
    2 August 2004

    The cost-cutting program has continued at Apple Computer, Inc. with all G5 Macs no longer supplying a floppy disk drive (not even a ZIP drive). This is in stark contrast to the PC market where you can still buy the latest PC having a floppy disk drive. Is Apple Computer, Inc. financially struggling again because of some poor decisions under the CEO Mr Steve Jobs to introduce obsolescence and leave behind the loyal Apple user customer base with OS9 which the company needs to sustain profits for a long time?

    UPDATE

    The Virginia Tech University has made the brave decision to accept the likelihood of a much shorter lifespan of the G5 computers resulting from regular periods of overheating in the CPU and other internal parts if they can get a few years use out of them. With other supercomputing systems costing $100 million or more, Virginia Tech decided to purchase 1,100 G5 computers for $5.2 million and combined them to create their own supercomputing system. At first Apple Computer, Inc. initially declined to back the project because the company thought it won't work (why, because of the heat?), but after further discussions and explaining how the Virginia Tech managed to find a way to "stop the G5 battery farm overheating" and getting another company to build custom-made metal mesh-shelved racks to hold all the computers (and dissipate the heat better), Apple approved the order. Now Virginia Tech has one of the quickest supercomputing systems in the world at a bargain price. Would this be enough to increase Apple sales of G5 computers?

    UPDATE

    Apple Computer, Inc. has noticed how consumers are sticking to the cooler and cheaper titanium Apple G4 867MHz (with USB 1.1) computers. Now rumours are rife of the latest OSX version 10.3.2 and battery updates allegedly making these bottom-of-the-line professional titanium PowerBook G4 computers feel a lot more hotter than usual in areas such as the CPU. Could this be the way for Apple to make consumers think the heat generated by G4 computers will feel the same as the G5 computers and hence give the impression the latest G5 desktop machines are better value for the extra speed? It is also possible these reports are probably bogus.

    UPDATE
    14 April 2005

    Apple has released OSX version 10.3.9 update to reduce noisy fans (but not to control the heat generated by the G5 microprocessors).

    UPDATE
    5 May 2006

    The latest iMac G5 with inbuilt iSight cameras can have their excessively noisy fans reduced significantly by performing the following steps to resetting the Power Management Unit (PMU, or SMU):


    (i) Turn off the computer

    (ii) Unplug all cables, including power

    (iii) Wait up to 30 seconds (make it 1 minute).

    (iv) Now comes the tricky step of pressing the power button on the computer at the same time using your other hand to plug the power cord (make sure the AC switch is ON).

    (v) Let go of the Power button

    (vi) Press the power button again.
     

    Otherwise, for older G5 iMacs, the SMU button is inside the computer (you must open up the back end).

  • Early G5 computers released in 2003 (e.g. uniprocessor types) are known to have very noisy fans. Because the heat generated by early model G5 computers is much greater than the latest G4 machines (unless you upgrade your G4 to OSX 'Panther' version in which case you will discover extra heat coming off the CPU much more than expected), Apple Computer, Inc. has been forced to design the metal boxes to maximise the flow of cool air over the microprocessors with the help of some powerful fans. Expect the newer G5 computers in late 2004 to be a lot quieter and perhaps a little cooler to run.

    ## SPECIAL NOTE ##

    You should not expect to see a G5 PowerBook until late 2006 due to the excessive heat and power consumption of the G5 microprocessor. In fact, the PowerPC G5 microprocessor might be heading in the way of the Dodo now that Steve Jobs has announced he will switch chips for the latest, cooler Intel variety.

  • A growing number of users of the dual G5 PowerMacs are noticing random hiss and clicks in the sound output after a short period of time the computer has been turned on. Now that Apple is making it harder to have a clean built-in stereo microphone for recording on the latest Macintosh computers, the stereo output sound is suffering from a fair bit of noise. It is hard to tell whether this is a quality control problem, a design problem, or simply the possibility that Apple doesn't want people to re-record MP3 music downloaded from the Apple music store (and thereby bypassing all kinds of restrictions). Not exactly the quality digital sound you've come to expect. Just put the sound output closer to the power supply to receive all the interference it can get just to annoy the users.

    NB. Try shielding the stereo plug from the source of the interference to improve the sound output quality.

    UPDATE
    21 November 2005

    Apple is quickly catching on to the realisation people can re-record music from Apple iTunes in OSX through the computer's output stereo headphone socket to the microphone/audio-in jack, thereby bypassing all forms of restrictions. As a result, the latest PowerBook G4 laptops have a new Apple sound card capable of detecting this situation (it occurs on brand new machines proving it is not an age related or corrupt preferences thing). This time, re-record will not work or may work poorly. The only solution is to play the sound to another computer's audio-in jack and let the other computer do the recording for you.

    Also sounds can unexpectedly stutter at certain times as if the cache file for temporarily storing the music data is not turned on or is no longer kept in memory (i.e. stored on the hard disk) requiring a brief pause to find the music file and grab the extra data before playing it. It is likely the hard drive could be working on overdrive to continuously grab this important information for your music player to do its job. Again this will wear down the hard drive more quickly. If you are not sure what's causing your sound problems, try deleting ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.audio and other audio plist files in this folder. Also reset NVRAM (see below), and try turning off volume feedback in the Sound preference pane.

    UPDATE
    26 January 2006

    Funny chirping sounds in PowerMac G5 computers seems to have been resolved by Apple — try updating to OSX version 10.4.4. Or we could recommend downgrading to 10.3.9. Take your pick! Probably depends on your budget.

What you can expect from a Power Mac G5

Not worried about the overheating issue? What a brave soul you are indeed! If you want to take the risk and "bite the bullet" so to speak with Apple's latest offering, then you can expect the latest Power Mac G5 to come with the following features:

  • Two G5 microprocessors will produce a minimum speed of 2GHz. However, do not think 2GHz is slow compared to the dual-processor 3.06GHz Evesham Acumen Xeon workstation. The 64-bit processor core of the G5 handles a much greater volume of information. Combined this with the world's fastest fontside bus of 1GHz and it makes the G5 computer a very fast machine, certainly quicker than the Xeon PC.
  • The 64-bit G5 microprocessor can access up to 8GB of RAM. So for the serious professional requiring the fastest processing speed using the built-in RAM, the 8GB limit is certainly a big improvement.
  • 500GB serial ATA hard drive.
  • SuperDrive consisting of a CD and DVD burner.
  • The latest FireWire 800 connection ports, a gigabit ethernet connection, PCI-X and AGP 8X.
  • Running the older 32-bit software applications on a Power Mac G5 should be at least as fast as the best consumer PCs on the market. When the software applications are optimised to handle G5, they should run faster than all the latest PCs available today until the 64-bit processors become a standard feature of all PCs in late 2004 and 2005.

    UPDATE
    August 2004

    Apple Computer, Inc. is believed to be introducing a new G5 iMac (the flat-panel variety) running the latest G5 microprocessor sometime in October or November 2004. The move will see the company target another load of gullible first-time Mac buyers for the Christmas period with what might be another expensive and fancy "heater". Unless Apple gets its act together and produce sensible, cheaper and much cooler Macs, the sales of the latest G5 iMac is expected to be modest but not great.

    UPDATE
    17 September 2004

    Apple Computer, Inc. keeps quiet about the problems plaguing customers when updating their 1.6GHz G5 PowerMac computers using the Uniprocessor Firmware Update. This update will create significant system instability unless you realise third-party memory DIMMs (DDR333) have to be removed in favour of the Apple version. Apple will not tell you this because they don't want you to see how important it is for you to stick to Apple parts so the company can maximise their own profits.

  • More maintenance costs as usual as the heat generated by the G5 computers quickly wear down internal parts. It is highly recommended you take out an extended 3-year warranty (i.e. more money for the company) as the Apple service and repair time suddenly improves when you do. However, don't expect Apple to permanently solve the problem (that's what running a business is all about).

The latest on the G5 Macintosh front

It is now March 2005 and consumers are discovering a swathe of hardware problems with the slightly cheaper G5 iMac and Mac-minis (a small box containing everything to turn it into a Macintosh computer — all you need is a keyboard, mouse and screen). Although we must admit the top-of-the-range G5 PowerMac is not entirely free of faults, the G5 iMac in particular is getting too much criticism from consumers.

On 4 October 2004, MacFixit.com reported a loud humming or buzzing noise in the power supply of the newly shipped G5 iMacs.

As Brad Ebel said:

"We just connected our 20" G5 iMac yesterday, and today we're noticing a hum."

The reason for this problem became clearer when word came through on Apple's Discussion boards in October 2004 that the culprit is the high CPU usage. As Laurie Gallagher reported and experienced from her G5 iMac:

"I've had that nasty whine some of the time and only on some volumes. Whenever I heard the whine, Activity Monitor told me I was using 100% of the CPU. It turned out that the Dock was using as much as 91% of the processor. Quitting and restarting the Dock killed off the whine and it's share of the CPU went back to 0%. Your mileage may vary, but on every whiny volume I found the same problem and the same procedure worked."

The problem is easily repaired by replacing the power supply (not the G5 microprocessor!). Fortunately the G5 iMacs are reputed to be completely serviceable by the customer. But as a Mac user said:

"hmmmmm....APPLE seems poised once again to snatch defeat from the jaws of Victory — first the big letdown of the much heralded 'New Age' of OS 10.3 and all of the problems on release. Now we have the release of the dazzling G5 iMac and are seeing people being told to order their own stinking new power supplies.

This tells me APPLE is building these on the cheap, allowing a high percentage of "acceptable rate of returns". At these prices this is criminal and it is not good PR.

Sure, Microsoft has the same problems. But APPLE is supposed to be BETTER than MS — not simply 'as good as'. THINK DIFFERENT should be more than an empty slogan."

Then MacFixIt reader Howard Stollery discovered Apple Computer, Inc. were forcing customers to buy the more expensive 20-inch G5 iMac for the extra desktop/screen space because for some reason Apple chose to disable the extended desktop feature in OSX for this G5 model. But when Stollery downloaded and installed a small software patch available from http://macparts.de/ibook and purchased Apple VGA Display Adapter Part No.M8639G/A, he noticed his G5 iMac would allow the feature. As Stollery said to MacFixIt.com:

"Prior to my purchasing the G5 iMac 20" I had looked over the specs, noticed that mirror only was supported, called the Apple Store, and they said that was correct, extended desktop was not possible. Well it is. It's just that the operating system software has disabled this feature for some strange reason. The patch enables a VGA connection.

Had I known that extended desktop was possible, I would have bought the 17" version, because it is smaller, just as powerful, but 18.5 pounds vs. 25 pounds plus, and thus more luggable. For my purposes, spending roughly half a week at home and half at the cottage, I can lug."

The display on the G5 iMac wasn't free of flaws either. Larry Schnur experienced the following problem:

"The first time I powered up my iMac there was a dark spot on the screen, about half the size of a dime. Massaging the screen did nothing. Apple support suggested running the hardware check disk. When this didn't change anything, they told me to take it in for service. The genius at the Apple Store at the Grove (LA) powered it up, checked with another genius, and agreed something was "pinching". The unit is currently having it's screen replaced under warranty.

They offered to let me do the replacement myself, but couldn't vouch for how easy it would be, so I left the unit with them for repair."

Perhaps Apple has learned of a way to save money from repairing all these hardware problems on the latest iMac: let the customer do the repairs and if anything goes wrong, blame the customer for not doing it right and argue the warranty is void so the customer would have to pay more to get it fixed.

And now the biggest problem of all has just emerged after a batch of G5 iMacs manufactured in the period November to December 2004 suffered serious overheating problems.

The culprit is again said to be with the power supply (or is it?) except this time no noise could be heard. Instead the heat generated by the power supply and the computer is apparently forcing the computer to draw increasing amounts of current from the power supply with the increasing heat. Since the power supplies do not have a safety feature to stop the amperage reaching a critical level at a certain temperature, the mid-plane assembly consisting mainly of the motherboard and other circuitry gets overloaded with current and fail. At first the G5 iMac may suddenly shutdown and only a reset of the PMU may start it up. Later the FireWire ports may get damaged and fail to pick up external devices. And eventually the entire computer may completely collapse (a very serious problem requiring major repairs).

Or is the computer getting too hot which is the real cause for this problem, not the power supply or the motherboard? Should Apple be using a different microprocessor?

Whatever the truth, an anonymous reader wrote the following to MacFixIt.com:

"An acquaintance had a similar problem and went through two mid-plane assemblies and power supplies within two months. Candidly, one of the technicians stated that two of Apple's three power supply suppliers manufactured potentially defective parts.

There likely exists bad circuits in the power supplies from two of the manufacturers that fails to 'crowbar' or shut down when they reach a particular amperage. This in turn causes the mid-plane assembly to overload and fail.

Based on the technician's statement and the fact that Apple has detailed and automated mid-plane assembly troubleshooting instructions in its support section, Apple internally knows about this problem but, to my knowledge, has made no formal public announcements regarding the defective power supplies.

From the acquaintance's experiences and the fact that only the last technician knew the details of the manufacturing problem, it appears that Apple intended to install the potentially defective power supplies until they are no longer in stock, as the problem manifested itself only upon the running applications that demanded 100% of the machine's processing power for a sustained period.

After a bit of stonewalling from Apple, the acquaintance got a new machine."

Another anonymous Apple technician wrote:

"I'm an Apple Certified Technician, works on a Apple Authorized Service Provider and seen a lot of iMac G5s with blown power supplies and motherboards with a simple variation of voltage. Some clients complain about turning off their iMacs G5 after some work and when turning it on the machine shows smoke all over their desk.

After opening a problematic iMac G5 (almost every one that comes into our shop) and checking the power supply, we can see some blown capacitors and also the power supply.

Today I received 3 machines with the same problems."

Following this latest fiascoe with the G5 iMac, a number of Mac users are questioning the quality of Apple computers. As Gary P. said:

"Why is it that the world's best computer maker rarely gets it right? Over & over, Apple product releases are plagued with bugs & mistakes. Right now, Apple is courting a slew of first-time buyers, from the iPod halo effect. Do they think that a first-time buyer whose iMac burned up on their desk will ever buy another Mac? Apple continues to hide serious problems, pretending they don't exist. You could use that iMac for email for a year, until it was out of warranty, then install Photoshop & watch it burn up under cpu-intensive operation. Apple would say it's YOUR problem!"

Another person going by the name of Maclomania said:

"This is what you get if you have an monopoly on a certain product, in this case Apple computing hardware. If Apple didn't stop licensing its computing hardware in the 1990s we would be in a better place now since other manufacturers will be competing with Apple for quality and other features which Apple is not willing to put out for whatever reason. But now the only option is to buy from Apple for Apple computing hardware and Apple understands this and we the users are at their mercy. I hate to say [this] but Apple is slowly growing into a Microsoft style monopoly in small world and we the users of Apple hardware are suffering for it. I understand market share and other financial forces but for the users of Apple computing hardware we are the losers.

At least in operating system arena you can put Yellow Dog Linux or other forms of Linux for the operating system in Apple PPC hardware so Apple is not necessarly bad in the software."

Other people are quick to blame the component manufacturers sourced by Apple to build Apple computers and not the Apple company. The argument is essentially that some component manufacturers are cutting corners in manufacturing quality in order to be more competitive in price when winning contracts with Apple. As Lou Zer said:

"Well, that's not completely true. You'd also end up with a bunch of manufacturers using borderline materials to cut costs down as much as possible to better compete on price.

Note that all sorts of PC manufacturers have had the same issues with power supplies, capacitors, problematic 3rd party parts, etc."

Even so, you would think Apple would make the effort in the quality control department to test the components thoroughly before committing to a specific component supplier and signing the contract.

The responsibility rests on both Apple and the component manufacturers. Apple has for some time tried to avoid responsibility and at times even blamed customers for not looking after their computers. Now Apple wants to blame the component manufacturers for the problems. But the reality is Apple is not doing the quality control checks it is suppose to be doing and potentially some suppliers aren't doing the same as well.

As another Mac user said:

"Considering the high price we are paying for our Macs, this should not be an excuse.

And Apple is so afraid of the quality of its products that [it] still offers just one year of warranty."

UPDATE
21 April 2005

The iMac G5 power supply and the problem with the mid-plane assembly as it gets overheated, receive too much amperage and then damaged, is becoming widespread in the US (and possibly the rest of the world). While Apple is quickly replacing the power supply and mid-plane section (hopefully from a newer and more updated batch to permanently solve the problem), one anonymous Apple technician has openly spoken of another problem concerning damage to the speaker wires:

"I am an Apple Certified Technician working for an Apple Specialist and have been providing Mac support for 11 years and have been certified since 1998.

I have been replacing a fair number of power supplies on iMac G5s to address failures and burning smells. The known power supply issues may affect more than just the power supply itself. There has been frequent need to also replace the mid-plane assembly. As the capacitators burn out inside the power supply the heat is also damaging the speaker wires that are routed directly above the power supply.

It can be seen in a small cut-out hole in the mid-plane metal frame just below the blue tooth card. The insulation on these wires is charred and/or burned off exposing the wires. This is not always the case but readers should be aware of this issue. It has caused speaker pops and noise on the systems that have the damage."

UPDATE
4 May 2005

Apple Computer, Inc. has quickly updated the G5 iMac to a 2GHz version. Does this mean it is a better computer? Your guess is as good as ours.

UPDATE
14 February 2007

A few users may not be aware of the power supply and bad capacitors issue of the G5 iMac according to this MacFixIt article.

Once the power supply is fixed by Apple, reseat the RAM modules. They lose contact with the pins of the motherboard RAM connectors due to the excessive heat and slight warping of the tiny pins. Ideally, Apple should be replacing the motherboard. But given the age of the older G5 iMacs having this problem, you will have to make sure you gave the extended 3 year warranty card attached to your iMac.

It is no wonder Apple has decided to move away from computers and into the general entertainment market with iPhones, iPods, iTV and the works. If you can't get the computers built right, you might as well have a go at the other products!

UPDATE
June 2005

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has decided to ditch the PowerPC G5 microprocessor in favour of the Intel variety. The new Apple computers with Intel processors won't appear until late 2006. In the meantime, people are blaming the capacitors inside the power supply circuitry for all the problems. While it may be true the capacitors are probably of poor quality, the aim of a power supply is to maintain the correct current and voltage to the rest of the computer irrespective of the temperature in which the circuitry operates in. In this case, it didn't. The real cause was the excessive heat from the microprocessor and poor ventilation which eventually amplified the weakness of the power supply circuitry through the transistors and other semiconductors designed to cap the voltage and current to the correct level, thereby putting more strain on the poor quality capacitors.

The capacitors then suffer malfunction and this is where many of the complaints originate from.

UPDATE
19 August 2005

The word from Apple is that there is absolutely nothing it can do to fix the microprocessors generating the heat in the G5 iMacs. So instead, the company has announced a major iMac G5 repair extension program to replace the inbuilt power supply units of the early model G5 iMacs with a better quality version designed to withstand the heat of the microprocessor without affecting current output. The program also includes the video circuitry which may get damaged by the power supply.

So check your your serial number to see if it is an early model. The range should be within the following:


W8435xxxxxx - W8522xxxxxx

QP435xxxxxx - QP522xxxxxx

CK435xxxxxx - CK522xxxxxx

WD435xxxxxx - WD522xxxxxx
 

And if there are any signs of power failure, no video and/or a scrambling or distorted effect of the video output, please contact your nearest Apple Retail store or Apple Authorised Service Provider (AASP).

This program should also be available outside the US by the time you read this.

Further details about the problem is available from Apple's web site via http://www.apple.com/support/imac/repairextensionprogram/.

UPDATE
20 October 2005

Apple has wisely updated the G5 iMac to Revision C with built-in iSight webcam (probably to help Apple see who is complaining about their products!). It comes with a markedly quieter fan operation and experiences far less system crashes when in operation. It should also solve the power supply problem under high heat permanently.

Now that's news to one's sore ears!

The computer itself is slightly more compact allowing Apple to shave 13mm off the thickness and bringing the weight down by a mere 15 per cent compared to previous revisions. Given the problems of previous revisions, this surely has to be the least concern for the consumers. More importantly, will the computer do its job properly? It is too early to say. The computer could still fail to do its job properly because of some other hidden fault, or miraculously it might be okay. We are probably erring on the latter thanks to the critical areas internally needing improvement and now fixed.

The 51cm screen with a top resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 pixels is reasonable and fast enough for watching DVD movies in 16:10 wide-screen format.

Although only a handful of users are unhappy with the new computer, anyone wishing to purchase a G5 iMac is strongly recommended going for this model. Make sure you ask to see the words "Revision C" clearly inscribed on the computer to guarantee the latest model from Apple (and thus the least headaches for you).

As of November 2005, the latest G5 iMac is valued at A$2,649. Or better still, wait 6 to 12 months for people to sell it on eBay or other secondhand sources for a fraction of the cost. And also have the added advantage of knowing exactly just how good this product really is after people have used it for a while.

An overheating problem with the Mac-minis?

The small self-contained Macintosh computers in a box where the consumer has to buy a keyboard, screen and mouse to use it appears to get too hot for those batches containing the latest Seagate 100GB hard drives with "motion sensor" detection and protection technology. The result is too much noise from the hard drive as the read/write heads get constantly parked in a safe position.

Other users of the latest aluminium 1.5-1.67GHz laptops are claiming similar problems from those carrying the Seagate hard drives.

For further details, click here.

Another problem of the mac-minis you should be aware of is the persistent freezing when not plugged into a video monitor (try unchecking the button for putting the hard disk to sleep to solve this problem).

Beyond that, the mac-minis are not such a bad buy if you want a low-cost Macintosh computer (i.e. under A$1,000).

Actually, the biggest drawback of Macintosh computers is that they are expensive for what you get. Despite Apple adding certain features ahead of the PC market (by about 6 to 12 months), you pay mainly for the Apple logo on the Macintosh computer and the monopoly that Apple has over the OS on its own machines. As one PC user said:

"I've admired the Mac from afar, particilarly since OS X, but Mac prices put me off, mainly because of the investment I had already made in my PC equipment." (Evans, Jonny. Mac mini riding iPod wave: MacWorld. March 2005, p.20.)

Apple made a reasonable attempt to reduce the cost with the introduction of the cathode-ray tube G3 iMacs for under A$2000 around the turn of this century. In 2005, you can now use your PC flat-panel display and a USB PC keyboard (you'll just have to remember to press the Alt key when looking for the Control key) and mouse (remember to press the left button only) to plug into the mac-minis at a good price. If you have to buy a new flat-panel display and other peripherals, you are better off with a Dell computer package for the best deal. But if you must have a Macintosh computer, then you now have two choices:


(i) buy a brand new mac-minis; or

(ii) buy a quality second-hand Macintosh computer (with its own dedicated screen, keyboard and mouse/trackpad).
 

The mac-mini is looking so good in the price range that some corporate customers are considering buying hundreds of the units for companies and government departments. All is needed is to bundle it with a free Windows XP-emulator program and Windows users can be happy running Windows software on a mac-mini while knowing they have a choice to try out the Macintosh side when they want to.

If you do buy a mac-mini, make sure it comes pre-installed with a minimum of 512MB, preferably 1GB, of RAM and an 80GB hard drive (actually ask Apple to put in a decent high-speed 5,400rpm hard drive as the one installed by Apple is a bit slow for Adobe Photoshop and iMovie work). It's a bit fiddley for the user to open up and rummage from the memory slot and hard drive. For what should be a basic box enclosure, Apple has made it look like you will need an engineer to open it.

The main drawback with the mac-minis is the lack of an audio-in jack (i.e. Apple doesn't want you to re-record iTunes music to help you bypass the Rights Protection Management system).

Apple officially announces the move to Intel processors starting in late 2006

As of June 2005, Steve Jobs has officially realised there is a serious overheating problem with the latest PowerPC chips from IBM after announcing at the Apple worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco that the new Apple computers coming in late 2006 will be based on Intel processors.

For further details, click here.

UPDATE
19 January 2006

Apple releases the new iMac with Intel Core Duo microprocessors starting at A$1,975 for the 17-inch iMac and A$2,595 for the 20-inch version (housed in the familiar G5 iMac case). All prices are inclusive of GST for Australian users. In these early days, it is hard to tell if the Intel iMacs are faster than the G5 iMacs.

Later the new Intel-based Mac minis emerged in March 2006.

Apple officially announces repair program to replace power supplies for PowerMac G5

On 7 November 2006, Apple announced a repair extension program to fix the power supplies inside PowerMac G5 computers built between October 2005 and August 2006. These are the ones that come with the dual 2GHz, dual 2.3GHz and the Quad 2.5GHz PowerPC G5 processors.

If you have a problem where pressing the power button does not startup the computer and/or the LED activity is non-existent and your PowerMac G5 falls under the following serial number ranges:


CK539xxxxxx - CK608xxxxxx

G8539xxxxxx - G8608xxxxxx

YM539xxxxxx - YM608xxxxxx

RM539xxxxxx - RM608xxxxxx
 

take your computer to your nearest Apple Authorised Service Provider (AASP) where hopefilly they will do the job ASAP.

Every other PowerMac G5 exhibiting the above symptoms will have to be checked on a case-by-case basis.

The Intel Mac Pro

This PowerMac G5 has been replaced by the more powerful Intel-based Mac Pro.