What's there to say but the obvious: The fastest dual processor Mac has been soundly thumped by one of the fastest single processor PCs. If this report had included a dual processor PC, the PC's margin of victory could have been even greater (at least in the multitasking tests, and for other PC software that may be optimized for multiple processors). Even the Dell, a modestly equipped desktop by current standards, matches or bests the dual 1.25GHz desktop Mac in numerous benchmarks. And the recently discontinued Powerbook G4/800 trails by a significant margin throughout.
When the idea for this report was conceived, I'd assumed there would be more performance give and take across Mac and PC. Since the Mac is currently my primary computing platform, I'd certainly hoped this would be the case. But, the overall speed superiority of the PC is impossible to ignore: If the processing of RAW photos in particular is where your workflow hangs up, a Pentium 4-equipped single processor PC offers a compelling solution. Whether it's because of Mac hardware limitations or software that's not optimized for the Mac, the net result is a variety of professional digital photography processing tasks will take a lot longer to complete on even a top-of-the-line Mac.
The same applies to Photoshop batch processing and card to computer transfer speed: except for certain Photoshop functions that appear to explicitly be tuned to take advantage of the G4 processor architecture, a P4 PC is simply a lot faster. If the Mac is your platform now, and you want to stay there, this week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco is a good place to let Apple know that a lot more speed is what you need. In the unlikely event that the Alienware 3.06GHz P4 isn't fast enough for you, consider stepping up to a dual processor PC.
January 12, 2003: This report, originally posted on January 7, 2003, has elicited a strong response from the Mac community, both in private emails and in the forums on this site. To read what some photographers have to say, see here.