Test Bench:Apple Power Mac G4 Cube
$1,950*

Apple

(800) 692-7753

www.apple.com

*price does not include monitor

22′ Apple Cinema Display

$4,000

The Cube. Apple is relentless and fearless when it comes to the engineering and stylistic bravado that shapes their product line. This company is not resting on its laurels nor is it sitting on its hands, but this isnt a MacMag so lets talk about what the Cube with iMovie 2 means to video producers.


Who Needs It?

The video capability of the Cube with iMovie 2 aims at the DV-editing beginner, who wants a small self-contained, yet powerful system. The Cube is easy to set up, easy to use and solid. Because the manufacturer assembles the unit, the buyer doesnt have to worry about system conflicts or incompatibilities. In fact, we found the unit incredibly stable. Be aware that Apple doesnt recommend expansion much beyond what you get in the basic package (except for software). Everything added to the Cube will be a peripheral extension, which could begin to clutter the ergonomics of the innovative design. The Cube can support the newest LCD monitors or the standard VGA type but the price climbs dramatically with each inch of viewable area in the LCD world.


Whats in the Box?

The demo unit we tested came with the Cube and a 22-inch Apple Cinema Display that everyone in the building had to see. We know it is hard, but forget about that beautiful monitor for just a moment.

This stunning, crystal-clear little box, with a 450MHz G4 processor, 128MB of RAM and its accessories lists for $1,950. For that price, you get the Cube, an external power supply, a keyboard, an optical mouse, all the cables and two clear, eyeball-shaped Harman Kardon audio monitors with an external digital amplifier. The monitor/display that we received is NOT included at this price.

The Cubes standard configuration includes a 20GB ATA hard drive (5,400rpm) and 64MB of PC100 SDRAM, although our test unit came with 128MB installed (which added $150 to the base system price). As with any computer that is working with video or graphic intensive programs like PhotoShop, the more memory you can afford to put in, the better. In our case we had no problems with the 128MB in our demo unit using iMovie 2. A DVD-ROM slot in the top makes it look a little like a toaster, always a functional design. Apples iMovie 2 is the only video related software provided other than QuickTime.


We Can Dream Cant We?

The 22-inch Apple Cinema Display is just flat-out cool (and it costs $4,000). This monitor is hopefully the real shape of things to come. You can literally carry it under your arm and it only weighs 25 pounds. It takes up one third of the space of a 20 inch VGA and the image it produces is outstanding (and it costs $4,000). If space is an issue, large viewable screen area is requirement and money is no object (did we mention that is goes for $4,000) then this is the display for you.


Plug-n-Play

We pulled the Cube out of its box and began inspecting the terrain. The ports are all on the bottom, (see Bottoms Up sidebar) which seemed more stylistic than functional, and might take some getting used to. We FireWired a JVC DVM90U to the Cube, powered up, and went through the setup registration. Once we arrived at the desktop and launched iMovie 2 we were capturing video with flawless control of the camera. Set-up to capture took less than 20 minutes (including our ooh and ahh time).


Putting it Together

We captured a number of clips and went into the timeline view of the iMovie 2 editor. Dropping a buyout CD into the DVD slot, we selected the audio tab on the capture window and recorded our chosen music bed.

Editing in iMovie 2 is easy, yet the lack of depth to the program is frustrating. Even the most novice editor will soon tire of its simplicity and lack of user control. We placed our shots on the timeline and added transitions between each, then added fades in and out at the head and tail of the sequence. We added a couple of titles and were ready to output to tape. We noticed that although the auto render function worked well (iMovie 2s render function that automatically renders when you pause editing), simple transitions and titles seemed alittle slow for a G4 450. For example, a six second preset motion title took one minute three seconds to render.

When we finished, we output to a Canon Optura Pi with no conflicts whatsoever. We found it bothersome that when a camera is FireWired to the system, you lose audio monitoring to the speakers. The audio comes through the camera, but we feel this should be a user definable parameter.


Quiet as a Mouse (the furry kind)

The Cube is virtually silent. If you are serious about post production audio recording this can be a huge plus. Many production engineers have found the luxury of hard disk recording and editing slightly tainted by the noise factor of computer fans and spinning hard drives. Having an open mike in the vicinity is disastrous to a quality voice over. Many project studios either have spent large amounts on isolation booths or on quiet boxes to house their CPUs. These quiet boxes can cost as much as the Cube. We were impressed by the lack of noise emitted from this box.


Summary: Your Cube?

With all the cosmetic and engineering inventiveness of the Cube and the Apple LCD display, still, the Mac OS is the most attractive aspect of this system. With iMovie 2 this system is a great place to start in DV editing. The processing power of the 450MHz G4 in the Cube leaves ample room to upgrade editing software and graphic capabilities. The seasoned owner of a Cube may want to think about adding Final Cut Pro, PhotoShop or even After Effects after they have mastered and outgrown iMovie 2. If this scenario sounds likely to you, you may want to revisit your initial system configuration, and be sure to get as much storage (drive space) and memory as your budget can sustain.

TECH SPECS

Processor: 450MHz G4

RAM:64MB PC100 SDRAM(note:128MB in demo system)(max 1.5 GB)

Operating System: Mac OS 9.0.4

Hard Drive: 20GB ATA (5,400 rpm) (30&40GB drives available)

Video Card: ATI Rage 128 Pro w/16MB RAM

A/V Inputs and Outputs: FireWire

Communications: 2x USB on Cube, 2x USB on display, ADC & VGA monitor ports, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, 56K V.90 modem

Expansion Slots: none

Included Accessories: keyboard, optical mouse, Harmon Kardon speakers

STRENGTHS

  • Stylish/small footprint
  • Stylish/small footprint
  • Ease of setup & use

  • Quiet

    WEAKNESSES

  • No hardware expandability

    SUMMARY

  • Beginning editors will not be disappointed, advanced editors will want to upgrade to Final Cut Pro or Premiere.
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