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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Mac Desktops > 1.7 GHz Power Mac G4 - HD or h.264?

1.7 GHz Power Mac G4 - HD or h.264?
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Mar 19, 2012, 11:01 AM
 
Can a G4 play HD video? I have an upgraded Power Mac G4 (1.7GHz Sonnet CPU card, 1.5GB RAM, and a Radeon 7000) that unsurprisingly chokes when playing HD stuff.

Is it even possible to get a G4 to play HD smoothly? Anyone figured out a way to do this?
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 11:22 AM
 
No, not HD H.264.

BTW, the Radeon 7000 doesn't support Core Image if that matters to you.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 02:28 PM
 
The best chance for HD playback would probably be MPEG2.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 03:25 PM
 
It should play 720p ok, 1080p might be asking a bit much. Mp4 will be better than h264. If you can find another 512MB RAM for it that won't hurt either.

I did some experimenting ages ago with a G4 Cube running a 1.7GHz upgrade card, 1080p is too much for it sadly.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 04:38 PM
 
I have iTheater running on my Sawtooth G4 (with 1GHz upgrade card and a Radeon GPU - forgot model #) and I play downsampled DVD quality exercise videos on it in the basement. MPEG2 is probably your best bet and XVID should be better than H.264.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 04:58 PM
 
Elgato made a hardware decoder on a USB stick for a while. That may make it possible. I don't know if it works with other software though.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 05:13 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
It should play 720p ok, 1080p might be asking a bit much. Mp4 will be better than h264.
MP4 is a container, not a codec. An MP4 can contain H.264 streams, among other things.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 05:39 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
It should play 720p ok, 1080p might be asking a bit much. Mp4 will be better than h264. If you can find another 512MB RAM for it that won't hurt either.

I did some experimenting ages ago with a G4 Cube running a 1.7GHz upgrade card, 1080p is too much for it sadly.
The Cube is even worse than the more recent Power Macs even at the same clock speed, because of the 100 MHz bus.

I have a 1.7 GHz Cube with GeForce 6200, and it is totally useless for H.264. It'd be slightly better on a 133 or 167 MHz bus. However, slightly better than totally useless is still pretty useless.
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 06:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by mduell View Post
MP4 is a container, not a codec. An MP4 can contain H.264 streams, among other things.
mp4 is a container and a codec.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 19, 2012, 08:32 PM
 
Unfortunately, this is the Digital Audio model with only three RAM slots - 1.5GB is as high as it'll go.

I was thinking I might hook it up somewhere in the house to use as an HTPC with Front Row and my old ATI Remote Wonder. Is there a specific video card anyone here would recommend for getting the most out of the machine?

All told, it's a pretty solid desktop that runs very fast for its age. I've added bluetooth and USB 2.0 to it by way of a PCI card, which helped a lot with moving data around and stuff - I also added a Zip 250 drive and a DVD+/-RW, so at this point I wouldn't mind spending a little to get a better video card for it...
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 05:17 AM
 
I just bought a Radeon 9800 for my MDD G4, it is the best GPU you can get, and I bet, the noisiest.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 06:22 AM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
mp4 is a container and a codec.
Well if you want to be picky...

The extension .mp4 represents the container. The "MPEG 4" codec can refer to just about anything, in my experience (even H.264), but usually refers to MPEG4 ASP, what DivX & Xvid implements. There is also MS-MPEG4 v1 and v2, which is Microsoft doing MPEG 4 the way they wanted it in .asf. It formed the basis of the first two versions of DivX (someone hacked Media Player to accept those codecs with arbitrary bitrates when the input came in an .avi).
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 07:06 AM
 
So which one does FFMpeg/Handbrake/VLC use to encode mp4?
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 11:11 AM
 
A G4 is a decade old machine - is it even worth the time and effort and hassle? Mine was retired in the mid-2000s. Get a new machine - or even buy a used modern device for pennies on the dollar. Wouldn't that make more sense?
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 11:16 AM
 
DrSkywalker, meet Shifuimam, who likes to tinker. Even so, not everyone can afford the latest and greatest.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 11:40 AM
 
Try XBMC. In my experience, XBMC is the best decoding and playback application on the mac for HD H.264 video. I can play 720p H.264 videos easily on a G4 with XBMC, and even BluRay on a Quad G5 with the nVidia 7800. Every other application I have tried chokes on these streams with these machines. You'll probably want to also upgrade to the Radeon 9800 if you can find it. I have a Dual G4 1.25GHz MDD and the Radeon 9800 is the fastest card you can get for the G4-series machines.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 11:54 AM
 
Use the mac to stream the movies to another device, use Rivet free to dl and use [Rivet – Stream media from your Mac to your devices – The Little App Factory ] to stream movies to a PS3 or get hold of a Raspberry Pi [http://www.raspberrypi.org/] if you really want to tinker and install rasbmc [http://www.raspbmc.com/] again this software will be free and will then run XBMC in 1080p on an HD TV and will stream the data from your mac.
I use Rivet on an old imac 800mhz g4 to stream SD and full 1080pHD via wireles G to a PS3, the imac is wired via ethernet to the router and the PS3 is wireless and that works faultlessly, I wanted to use my Cube but rivet requires leopard and the cube wont run it.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 01:53 PM
 
The CPU clock plays a big part in HD playback. The quad G5 ran 2.5GHz which seems to be over the threshold for acceptable playback. 3rd party G4s never got to 2GHz and the Apple ones never topped 1.7GHz so they'll never cut it sadly.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 02:14 PM
 
Originally Posted by csimon2 View Post
Try XBMC. (…)
Thanks for the heads-up, just tried it with some title sequences and a 720p episode of Mad Men and it plays them just fine.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 03:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
So which one does FFMpeg/Handbrake/VLC use to encode mp4?
HandBrake can emit MPEG4 Part 2 if you choose "ffmpeg" or MPEG4 Part 10/AVC/H.264 if you choose "x264" inside an MP4 container.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 06:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by Waragainstsleep View Post
The CPU clock plays a big part in HD playback. The quad G5 ran 2.5GHz which seems to be over the threshold for acceptable playback. 3rd party G4s never got to 2GHz and the Apple ones never topped 1.7GHz so they'll never cut it sadly.
Any decoding on the main CPU requires good floating point performance and high memory bandwidth. The G5 was very good at both those things - best in class for its time, in fact (although the integer performance and memory latency was less than awesome). The G4 was only good at floating point if you made good use of Altivec and it was absolutely the worst when it came to memory bandwidth - even the G3 was better, although Apple never made use of that for marketing reasons.

In short: yes, clock speed matters, but the G4 was infamously terrible. An Opteron of half the clock speed would have beat a G4 - would, if AMD had ever made any that slow.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 09:27 PM
 
Give it its due though, when you could put Altivec to good use the G4 could crap on other chips from a great height. At certain tasks it outshone P3s that ticked over two or three times faster.
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 20, 2012, 10:24 PM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
Any decoding on the main CPU requires good floating point performance and high memory bandwidth. The G5 was very good at both those things - best in class for its time, in fact (although the integer performance and memory latency was less than awesome). The G4 was only good at floating point if you made good use of Altivec and it was absolutely the worst when it came to memory bandwidth - even the G3 was better, although Apple never made use of that for marketing reasons.
Video encode/decode is almost all integer math (fixed point decimal where appropriate) because it's so much faster than floating point and the accuracy of fp is unnecessary.
     
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Mar 21, 2012, 08:33 AM
 
It might be worth installing VLC and using that for playback if you are determined to playback on the G4.

I have found it uses far less resources than quicktime and might be able to do it.
     
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Mar 22, 2012, 09:46 AM
 
Originally Posted by DrSkywalker View Post
A G4 is a decade old machine - is it even worth the time and effort and hassle? Mine was retired in the mid-2000s. Get a new machine - or even buy a used modern device for pennies on the dollar. Wouldn't that make more sense?
Heck no. Old Macs are awesome and have a hell of a lot more character than all the new models! My G4 is heavily upgraded and runs as fast as my MacBook in Leopard now, aside from the HD video thing.

Originally Posted by andi*pandi View Post
DrSkywalker, meet Shifuimam, who likes to tinker. Even so, not everyone can afford the latest and greatest.
They'll probably have to pry a torx screwdriver out of my cold, dead hand some day...

Originally Posted by csimon2 View Post
Try XBMC. In my experience, XBMC is the best decoding and playback application on the mac for HD H.264 video. I can play 720p H.264 videos easily on a G4 with XBMC, and even BluRay on a Quad G5 with the nVidia 7800. Every other application I have tried chokes on these streams with these machines. You'll probably want to also upgrade to the Radeon 9800 if you can find it. I have a Dual G4 1.25GHz MDD and the Radeon 9800 is the fastest card you can get for the G4-series machines.
Good call - I haven't tried XMBC yet. We're using Plex at home for all our HTPCs, but I will definitely give that a shot and see how it behaves.

Mac video cards are so flipping expensive...I'll keep my eyes out for a Radeon 9800. I used to have a non-Mac one that I was going to flash, but the GPU burned out before I ever had a chance to try.

Originally Posted by edjonesy View Post
It might be worth installing VLC and using that for playback if you are determined to playback on the G4.

I have found it uses far less resources than quicktime and might be able to do it.
I can't remember if I've tried VLC before - I'll definitely give it another go.

I should know this, but does Leopard come with a codec for MKV, or do I need to install Perian or something?
     
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Mar 22, 2012, 09:55 AM
 
What G4 are you running Shif? My MDD has a GeForce 5200 (from a G5) with a slight modification to it to make it fit and work. I also strapped a fan on it and overclocked it a bit.

I went for the 5200 because it was £10 on eBay (it was the cheapest card that came in the G5s) I had toyed with the idea of doing the same thing with one of the 6800 Ultras I had but they were still worth cash and my MBP still would have been better with its 9600M so I sold them instead. I also would have had to hack the MDD into another case since the 6800 was a giant beast of a card.

9800 were top of the line for G4s so they still cost more but maybe you could hack something from an early G5 to fit?
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
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Mar 22, 2012, 10:33 AM
 
Speaking of hacked video cards, here is my very own favourite Cube hack of all time. I used a hack saw on this Mac-flashed PC GeForce 2 MX, to make it fit in the tight confines of a Cube.





I run a Mac-flashed PC GeForce 6200 in it now though, to get that Dashboard ripple.



...or actually I don't. It just sits on the shelf now and looks pretty. It's really too slow for modern usage IMO. High rez H.264 is useless on the thing, and even Flash (if you use it) slows the machine way down. You can use it for basic surfing and email, if you kill Flash an avoid H.264, but I replaced it with an Atom ION machine that works with Flash and HD H.264 just fine.
     
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Mar 23, 2012, 05:59 AM
 
I think VLC will play MKV files but you would need Perian for the codec. VLC seems to be capable of playing pretty much anything.
     
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Mar 23, 2012, 06:55 AM
 
You're mixing things up a bit. VLC can play MKV without Perian, or you can install Perian and play most things in Quicktime.
The new Mac Pro has up to 30 MB of cache inside the processor itself. That's more than the HD in my first Mac. Somehow I'm still running out of space.
     
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Mar 23, 2012, 07:34 AM
 
Originally Posted by P View Post
You're mixing things up a bit. VLC can play MKV without Perian, or you can install Perian and play most things in Quicktime.
thanks for the clarification
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 12:42 AM
 
I've got a Digital Audio G4 with upgrades to RAM and CPU. I haven't priced used video cards for these things in awhile...I'll have to see what G5 cards are easily hackable to put into a G4.

Thanks for all the info, everyone!
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 01:02 AM
 
I played with 720p (h264) a bit in my Sawtooth upgraded to 1.2 GHz. RAM didn't seem to matter, there just wasn't enough CPU to keep up with the decode. My scaling efforts suggested a dual G4 might have managed it. MplayerOSXextended can split video decode across multiple CPUs, which suggested a dual G4 at 1.25 would have a good chance on 720p.
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 01:20 AM
 
Ironically you can buy $130 tablets that play 1080p H.264 just fine. Even MKVs, natively. And they'll surf as about as well as a fast G4, if not better.

So personally I think that in 2012 it's a waste of time and money to upgrade a G4 Mac unless you just enjoy doing that for nostalgic reasons, or you have a very specific use for it (like OS 9 applications or whatever).
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 03:12 PM
 
Originally, I bought it on eBay so that I'd have something that could take an internal ZIP drive, which I needed for transferring files between the Classic II I found in a dumpster and, you know...the Internet. The only other Macs I had at the time had USB 1.1, so I wanted something faster.

That's less of an issue now, since we're heavily modding the Classic II, my SE/30 has ethernet, and I have several Macs with USB 2.0. That said, I still like outfitting old Macs to be as future-friendly as possible...
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 07:40 PM
 
My G4 still has an internal Zip drive and I've got a pile of those 250MB and 100MB discs lying around here somewhere (one has iTunes 1.x on it).
     
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Mar 25, 2012, 07:42 PM
 
Originally Posted by cgc View Post
My G4 still has an internal Zip drive and I've got a pile of those 250MB and 100MB discs lying around here somewhere (one has iTunes 1.x on it).
I had a USB drive, but I had long since just copied the discs over to hard disc or optical discs.

Those zip drives were too unreliable for my tastes.
     
   
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