processor upgrades Graphics Cards

Sonnet's Crescendo or XLR8's MACh Carrier Card? Two Roads To 500MHz Nirvana Mapped

11/15/99
General Impressions: When IBM came out with their most recent revision of the G3 processor, accelerator companies were quick to announce 500MHz upgrades across their product lines. We were fortunate enough to be sent two 500MHz cards for review, Sonnet's Crescendo and XLR8's MACh Carrier. While both cards fit our 9500 and a wide variety of other PCI Macs and clones (see sidebar, on right), they take radically different paths to get you to 500MHz bliss. Sonnet uses the standard PCI style upgrade with the G3 processor soldered directly on the card. XLR8 incorporated a ZIF slot on their card, allowing for further upgrades (by swapping out the ZIF daughter card) down the road at a reduced cost. Your initial cash outlay for the Carrier card will run you roughly $200 over Sonnet's Crescendo, $999 vs $799. XLR8 hopes to balance this with a trade up program that offers a 15-20% discount on a G4 daughtercard purchase in January.

Installation: Installing both cards was relatively straight forward. Sonnet's installer loads the required extension and an application called Metronome for monitoring your card's speed and temp. After installing the software, it is simply a matter of shutting down and

Supported Models
Sonnet Crescendo
Apple: 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500, 9600
Power Computing: PowerCenter, PowerCenter Pro, PowerCurve, PowerTower, Power Tower Pro, PowerWave
UMAX SuperMac S900 and J700.
DayStar Genesis
XLR8 MACh Carrier
Apple: 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500, 9600
Power Computing: PowerTower, PowerCenter, PowerTower Pro, PowerCenter Pro and PowerWave
UMAX SuperMac S900 and J700.
DayStar Genesis MP 720 up and Millennium

installing the PCI card. Sonnet provides 4 photocopied sheets describing the installation procedures for the supported Apple models. Clones are not included but as long as you have your owner's manual and can find your processor card you should be in the clear. Since both processor and backside cache speeds are fixed there are no further adjustments to make, just reboot and you are off and running!

XLR8's installer loads both an extension and control panel. The latter is used to adjust the speed of the backside cache as well as other advanced options such as enabling or disabling speculation. Also included on the installer CD is a utility called PowerControl which provides valuable information on your system as well as limited processor, SCSI and RAM tests. The manual that comes with the Carrier card includes all supported Apple models and briefly covers clones as well. The manual also covers the process of swapping out the daughtercard for that G4 upgrade down the road. This section may be a little intimidating for the non-adventurous as it involves fiddling with jumpers and dip switches. For now, however, the installation process is the same as the Crescendo's. XLR8 wins extra points for including a high quality anti-static grounding strap. Hang on to it for future RAM, processor etc. upgrades.

Stability/Bugs: Both cards performed flawlessly during their all to brief stay in our 9500. We experienced the same video oddity we noted in our previous review of the G3/400 carrier card. Switching monitor resolutions to a setting that wouldn't normally support 32 bit color ("millions") didn't drop the monitor to 16 bit ("thousands") color. Instead the desktop pattern switched to black and a horizontal grey bar appeared in the lower portion of the screen, behind which the cursor would disappear. Switching to the correct color setting returned everything to normal. Both cards were affected by this glitch and, as before, the problem was sporadic. As the scores below show, and as would be expected, both cards performed neck and neck. Both cards smoked our humble 9500...

Conclusions: Both cards are excellent perfomers and will extend the life of your Mac admirably. If you are looking for the least expensive and simplest way to join the 500MHz club then the Crescendo is the card for you. If you are looking for an upgrade with a long lifespan and don't mind the larger cash outlay, the MACh Carrier with its G4 trade up program makes an excellent choice.

Product: Crescendo G3/500/250/1MB MACh Carrier G3/500/250/1MB
Company: Sonnet Technologies XLR8/Interex
Rating: (5 possible) (5 possible)
Hits: Excellent performance/ stability, low cost, 3 year warranty Excellent performance/stability, comes with useful software, good lifespan.
Misses: Fixed speed, can't be upgraded. Higher price tag, jumpers and switches may intimidate some.


MacBench 5.0 Results

Processor

FPU

Disk

Graphics

"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"

PhotoShop 4 "Real World" Test Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

Render Boy 2.2.0

Time to render "Pool Table" Example file

Unreal Frame Rate

From opening castle fly by...

SoundJam MP3 Encode

Time to encode a CD track 4 minutes 29 seconds in length



 

-Card

Type

Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support

Warranty

Price Information

XLR8
MACh Carrier G3/500/250/1MB

PCI
With ZIF Daughtercard

Heat Sink

Variable

Toll Free Phone
800-513-9744
316-636-4616 Fax
E-mail

2 Years

OtherWorldComputing

Sonnet
Crescendo
G3/500/250/1MB
PCI Heat Sink Fixed Phone 949-261-1426
E-mail
3 Years OtherWorldComputing