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
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/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
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.
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
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
SoundJam MP3 Encode
Time to encode a CD track 4 minutes 26 seconds
Variable/Fixed Clock Rate
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