I guess I was lucky. I thought Macs had 680x0s (as an Amiga fan, I guess I'm biased for these) until they got whatever was in the G3s.
Mac CPUs went like this :
680x0s -> PPC 601 -> PPC 603 (low end) & PPC 604 (high end) -> G3 (PPC 750) -> G4 (PPC 7400) -> G5 (PPC 970) -> Intel
There was quite a bit of overlap of generations, there were even 680x0s Macs still being made when the 603 and 604 based machines came out.
The 601 was a good design, but it was a first effort and it showed. It was quite a bit faster than the 603 that came later, but it wasn't night and day faster than the higher end 680x0s that it was replacing except it clocked much higher. It was certainly much slower than the P1, especially given how high the P1 could clock up in comparison. If Apple had gone with the 68060 then they would have probably had faster computers at the time.
The 604 was great, but only used in the highest end and most expensive (even for Apple) machines.
The 603 was the main workhorse of the Apple PowerPC era before OSX came out. It was low power, but otherwise garbage. It's claim to fame was the first desktop CPU to hit 300 MHz. Not that impressive when a P1 with half the clock could hold its own against it and P2s were already out.
The G3 was just a refined 603, a bit faster but still meant as a low power CPU.
The G4 was a good CPU, a refined 604. It had Alitvec and clock for clock was better than most x86 CPUs of the time plus lower power. However, by that time x86 was running at double or more the clocks speed and it just couldn't keep up.
The G5 was all the mistakes of the P4 without the money and manufacturing prowess of Intel backing it. A slow, hot CPU meant to clock high. The P4 did, the G5 did not.
During the 603 time, Apple cheaped out by re-using some 32 bit 680x0 motherboard designs and shoehorning the 64 bit bus 603 chips onto them. This basically resulted in a computer that had no "north bridge", most importantly the DMA controller. The CPU was used in place of the DMA controller with half the devices on one 32 bit section and the rest on the other 32 bit section. RAM was only on one half of the CPU bus. So if for example the SCSI chip wanted to DMA to RAM it would have to go through the CPU. On top of this, the CPU would have to slow down its external bus to the 8 bit 10MHz of the SCSI controller. Combined with the already anemic 603 this made for some very slow machines. I've encountered some pretty crappy low end PC gear in my time, but I've never seen one without a DMA controller.
I suspect the reason Macs seemed faster than they were is down to the apps most people ran, not the OS.
No it was not the Apps. Going back to the School I worked for, the CISC macs were the fastest at everything, wile the PPC 603 Macs had a faster OS experience than Win95 on the 486. Win95 was downright sluggish on that 33MHz 486. When it came to running Photoshop it was decidedly reversed. The 486 trounced the 603. The CISC Macs were still the fastest, but the pathetic excuse for an OS made them far less stable than even Win95, so the students preferred and fought over the PC.