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G3/300 or G3/500? Two PowerLogix Upgrade Options Explored

Don Engstrom, Reviews Editor

Overview: Even though we have reviewed several G3 and G4 upgrade cards from PowerLogix in recent months, I am still thrown off by their small size. Wrapped up in their static bag it is easy to mistake them for ZIF upgrades cards. In this latest review, we look at the PowerForce G3/300 and PowerForce G3/500 upgrade cards for PCI based Macs and clones.

Installation: The only drawback to the compact design is that it doesn't provide a lot of operating room during the install process. This became an issue when installing the G3/300 which refused to seat properly at first. After exerting a fair amount of force it finally appeared to be seated all the way. Attempting to boot the 9500 proved this was not the case. No startup chime or video. Removing the card was even more problematic as there is no free space on the card for

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handling. The replacement card PowerLogix provided seated without a problem as did the G3/500. A small extension bar, however, would make both installation and removal less awkward. PowerLogix provides a CD with the needed drivers and an "emergency" boot floppy. Also provided on the CD is a full copy of Linux PPC in case you want to explore this OS which is growing in popularity. The "Cache Profiler" control panel includes support for Linux if you opted to install it as well as the usual array of feedback and configuration options.

The manual includes clear instructions for all of the supported machines. Eight dip switches on the card allows you to adjust the the card's speed. The switches are strategically located so they can be reached and adjusted without removing the card from the processor slot. This is especially helpful if you plan on playing with different settings to push the card's performance.

Performance/Stability: The replacement G3/300 installed and ran without a hitch, even when overclocked to 350MHz. I ran into an interesting problem when testing the G3/500. The 9500 would freeze when trying to load the PowerLogix extension. Booting with extensions (and hence the backside cache) disabled worked fine. It turns out the control panel was still set at the 2:1 (250MHz) ratio used for the G3/300 tests. The G3/500 only supports a 5:2 (200MHz) cache ratio. Setting the card to this ratio proved difficult however, as the adjustment made via the control panel constantly reverted to 2:1 on reboot. Zapping the PRAM (and NVRAM) eventually did the trick. After their initial glitches, both cards proved stable through our suite of tests which includes several reboots. The cards' performance varied depending on the task performed. The G3/500 yielded the best performance, of course, with some of our real world tasks completing in 1/3 the time of the stock 9500. The G3/300 managed to complete some tasks about twice as fast as the 9500. The G3/500's performance is hampered somewhat by its slower 5:2 backside cache ratio, evident in the MacBench scores below.

Test Machine Configuration

Our test machine was a 9500/200 with 96MB RAM and OS 9 installed. We tested with an extension set comprised of all OS extensions plus those installed by PowerLogix. For the MacBench tests virtual memory was turned off and disk cache was set to 512k. These settings are consistent with those used on the MacBench base reference machine, a beige G3/300. For the real world tests we turned virtual memory on and set it to 97MB. We have included scores from past and upcoming card reviews to provide some additional context for the G3/500 card.


Product: PowerForce G3/300/150/1MB

PowerForce G3/500/200/1MB

Company: PowerLogix PowerLogix
Rating: (5 possible) (5 possible)
Hits: Stable after initial glitches, overclocked to 350MHz while maintaining 2:1 cache ratio, easy access to dip switches, 3 year warranty. Easy access to dip switches, 3 year warranty, stable after initial issues.
Misses: Small size and lack of extension bar makes it awkward to install/remove. Small size and lack of extension bar makes it awkward to install, backside cache limited to slower 5:2 ratio rather than 2:1.


MacBench 5.0 Scores

MacBench 5.0 is a subsystem-level benchmark that measures the performance of a Mac's processor, disk, and graphics subsystems to name a few. MacBench normalizes all scores relative to the base machine, a Power Macintosh G3/300. The base machine receives a score of 1000. For all MacBench tests, higher numbers mean better performance. For more detailed information on MacBench click here.

 

 

 

"Real World" Tests
(Shorter bars are better)

Time to Scroll a 574 page AppleWorks document from top to bottom. (Percentage)

Using the same document as above we did a search/replace command to replace the word "the" with the word "macbench," over 12,900 occurrences total! (Percentage)

Photoshop 5.5 "Real World" Test Results

As these are the first cards we have tested using Photoshop 5.5, we ran the tests on our stock 9500 once again to establish a new baseline. This yielded some surprising results. Several filter operations have been noticeably sped up. To give you an idea of the differences, we have included both 4.0 and 5.5 scores below. The PowerLogix cards were only tested under 5.5. All scores are relative to the stock 9500 running Photoshop 5.5 which was assigned a score of 100. Lower numbers and shorter bars are better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Render Boy 2.2.0

Time to render "Pool Table" example file

SoundJam MP3 Encode

Time to encode a CD track 4 minutes 26 seconds in length.


Card Stats.

Manufacturer -Card

Type

Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support

Warranty

PowerLogix PowerForce G3/300/150/1MB PCI Heat Sink Variable Toll Free Phone
877-466-0904
E-mail
3 Years
PowerLogix PowerForce G3/500/200/1MB PCI Heat Sink Variable Toll Free Phone
877-466-0904
E-mail
3 Years


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