You can stop taking Steve Jobs' name in vain: An independent study has determined that while the PowerPC G3 chip used in Macintoshes is indeed faster in many ways than similar Intel chips, in real-world use, Intel-based are the top performers. This conclusion was reached by NSTL, an international testing organization, which tested Macintoshes and PCs head-to-head.

Apple Computer has been using the so-called BYTEMark tests lately to show that even its mid-line Macs are faster than the fastest Pentium II systems. And the NSTL tests do show that PowerPC G3 chips do outperform Intel Pentium II chips. Mind you, it's not the insane blow-out claimed in many of the mails I got after my iMac stories, but a 300 MHz G3 is about 40% faster than a 400 MHz Pentium II in CPU-intensive tasks.

"The G3 is faster than the Pentium II when running very processor-intensive activities," said Stephen Platt, director of technical services at NSTL.

However, processor performance is but one of the many issues that affects overall system performance and in real-world tests, the PC came out ahead. One surprising win for the PC: Graphics performance. Micron and IBM PCs, which were used in the comparison, soundly beat all Macintosh G3 systems in such tasks as scrolling and repainting. Applications such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and even Apple's FileMaker Pro run faster on PCs. The low-level Intermark Video Test proves that PC video performance is superior to Macs, regardless of the video card used.

"When replaying sequences of graphics commands, the Mac is much slower than the PC," said Platt.

Overall, Platt says that Apple's claims for the G3 are accurate if you forget about the rest of the system. When comparing system-to-system, however, Apple's claims of Macintosh superiority fall flat.

"G3-based PowerMacs' performance, from the user's perspective, is not fantastically superior to that of comparable Pentium II-based systems," he said. "While its core performance is faster than that of the corresponding Intel Pentium II-based system, this is more than offset by its slower graphics performance, resulting in lesser real-world performance."