Most of Illustrator is not multi-threaded. This means that you won't get any increase running a multi-processor machine (Mac or PC).
The only real way to improve performance is to have a dedicated scratch disk, not just a partition, and as much RAM as possible and a faster processor. Illustrator, still being a 32bit application, can't access any RAM above 3.3GB however having more RAM than that will allow the overall operating system to run faster. Of course, looking forward, if CS5 is 64bit then the apps will be able to access more RAM.
AI will pretty much run the same on a 8-core machine as it does on a single core machine if the RAM, processor speed, and scratch disk are the same.
I think Indesign may make better use of a more beefy system. But I'm not certain to what degree.
About 9 months ago, my Dell Precision died a rather dramatic death. After a considerable amount of investigation of my options, prices, features, etc., I opted to let XI Computer build a Core i7-based 64-bit system to my liking, and have been very satisfied. Without doubt, the least hassle and best value in a primary computer I've ever purchased.
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First you are correct and you made a typo, you mean 2 GB of memory.
In your case i would think about getting a MacPro with 16 GB of RAM and a 2.9GHz 8 core. The 8 core is not really for illustrator but for the sytem and Photoshop and other things.
Now I hear good things about running Windows 7 on an 8 core Dell and HP with I think a 3.06 GZ processor with 32 GB of memory and an exterior RAID 0 array with a 6T capacity. It cost a pretty penny. This type of configuration is used a lot for Video but the users use Illustrator and Photoshop for making elements for their videos a lot as well.
You might no need 32GB as of yet but you will eventually need it.
But what is Holding you up is the amount of RAM you have which has to be increased to 8 GB at least, a faster CPU and much more storage and a partition or dedicated hard disk other than the start up disk for your scratch.
18 GB of available space is not quite as big as you think.
I was typing as James was i can report I have never meet anyone that was u happy with a computer that XI built for them.
Always super fast reliable and easy to service if it ever needs to be services. Definitely tell them what you need and they will get you what will work for you.
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OK first off, if you want to unbox and go, Mac is best. If you have some computer know how, or a good friend willing to help, build a PC.
That being said the OS controls memory allocation AFAIK, not the program, and Ive been told by at least one Adobe employee that helped my company host an Adobe seminar that CS4 really should have 6 gigs of ram to work with.
As for cores, alone the previous poster is correct, however your OS can asign different apps to use different corse and as such if you are multitasking 2 cores would be the minimum i would consider.
All that being said
Mac with Intel Processor, running Snow Leapord and 8 gigs of ram would be my choice of mac.
Azus Motherboard, Antec p180 Case, two 10k Raptors in a raid for your HDs, and 8 gigs of ram would be a good start for a PC:)
And dont buy a cheap power supply
The scratch disk helps as well (i use an HD just for that and BU images.)