Engstrom, Reviews Editor
Overview: Awhile back we reviewed the PowerForce
G4/400 upgrade card from PowerLogix. This past Friday,
PowerLogix announced the following new pricing across their
- G3/300/150/1MB $299
- G3/400/200/1MB $425
- G3/500/250/1MB $735
- G4/400/200/1MB $850
This pricing scheme may may raise a few eyebrows. Is it really
worth paying twice the price to get a G4 rather than G3 processor?
We asked PowerLogix to send us their G3/400 card (along with
a few others that we will cover in the coming weeks) to help
us answer this question. Both the G3 and G4 PowerForce cards
sport a reduced form factor compared to their predecessors,
as well as the competition. Both are cooled by means of a
heat sink although the G4 upgrades make use of a fan mounted
on top of the heat sink to further aid cooling.
Software Installation:PowerLogix provides their drivers on
CD and include an emergency boot floppy as well. Also on the
CD is LinuxPPC, which will appeal to some but likely not to
most. Be sure to install the driver software first as this
will enable the backside cache on restart and install important
system patches. It is always a good idea to make sure you
have the latest version of everything as well. The "G3/G4
Profiler Init" extension configures the card with the
settings you have specified and enables the backside cache.
The "Cache Profiler" control panel provides the
usual array of feedback and control options as well as a few
related to LinuxPPC if it is installed.
Hardware Installation: Due to its compact design, handling
and installing the card was a little tricky. It was quite
a challenge to avoid touching the card's circuitry as there
is little unused space on the card. Both Sonnet Tech and XLR8
place extension bars on their cards giving you an easy and
safe place to work from. Other that this minor quibble the
process was straightforward. 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. In a nice
touch, PowerLogix pastes a chart of possible dip switch settings
on the back of the card for quick reference. 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 experimenting with different
settings to push the card's performance.
Performance/Stability: The G3/400 is a strong performer and,
with two exceptions, manages to keep up with its big G4 brother
on non-AltiVec savvy applications. The G4 is stronger in FPU
functions as reflected in the scores
below. The other big advantage of the G4 is, of course,
the presence of the AltiVec instruction set. Users of Photoshop
5.5 may still want to consider the G4 option (yes, even at
its higher price) as the speed of many operations can be increased
by up to 300%.
We overclocked the G3/400 up to 440MHz while maintaining
a 2:1 (220MHz) backside cache ratio. At this setting the card
managed to trounce the G4/400's processor score! In our review
of the G4/400 we were able to overclock that card to 450MHz
but had to reduce the backside cache to 180MHz (5:2 ratio)
to achieve stable operation. This, of course, caused a performance
hit over the faster 2:1 ratio. At both 400MHz and 440MHz the
G3 PowerForce seemed rock solid and ran all of our applications
without a hitch.
Test Machine Configuration
Our test machine was a 9500 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 PowerLogix card reviews
to provide some additional context for the G3/400 card.
ratio & stability, can be overclocked to 440MHz without
breaking a sweat, easy access to dip switches, 3 year
||Small size and lack of extension
bar makes it awkward to install.
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. Remember,
MacBench 5.0 came out well before the G4 processor and was
consequently not written to take advantage of or test the
AltiVec (AKA Velocity) instruction set.
"Real World" Tests
(Shorter bars are better)
Time to Scroll a 574 page AppleWorks document
from top to bottom.
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!
Photoshop 4 "Real World" Test Results
All scores are relative to the stock 9500 which was assigned
a score of 100. Lower numbers and shorter bars are better.
Bear in mind that we didn't use a "Velocity/AltiVec"
plugin for the G4 tests as neither PowerLogix nor Adobe provides
one for this version of Photoshop. Adobe, however, has made
their AltiVec plugin available for version 5.5. You should
see about a 300%
performance increase with certain filters in Photoshop
5.5 when using the G4
Render Boy 2.2.0
Time to render "Pool Table" example
SoundJam MP3 Encode
Time to encode a CD track 4 minutes 26 seconds in length.
Scores represent time rounded to the nearest second. SoundJam
makes use of the G4's AltiVec instruction set.
Variable/Fixed Clock Rate
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