processor upgrades Graphics Cards

Last Out of the Gate But Still in the Race MaxPowr G4/400 Upgrade Card Reviewed

Overview: The upgrade industry is a highly competitive one. Practically every manufacturer has claimed to be first at something whether it is a fix for the B&W G4 block, AltiVec enabling extensions, Photoshop plug-ins or an actual G4 upgrade card. Newer didn't manage to plant its flag on the mountain top first, but a couple of months down the road will it really make a difference? On their product information page, Newer makes the bold statement "We did it right." This is most likely in reference to the fact that Newer uses a hardware fix for the speculative addressing issue they raised a while back in a white paper. Is the hardware approach superior to the software approach used by the other upgrade manufacturers? Read on to find out.

 

Supported Models

Apple: 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500, 9600
Power Computing: Power Tower Pro, PowerWave
UMAX SuperMac S900 and J700.

Installation: The installer places several items on your hard drive including the obligatory extension and control panel. Interestingly, the information available in the control panel is on the sparse side. Options you can set in the MaxPowr control panel include:

  • Backside cache - Ratio (2:1, 200MHz is the default)
  • Backside cache - Write-back (faster) or write-through
  • Motherboard cache - On or off
  • Memory timing - off, for 70ns or for 60ns (faster)

Lacking from the control panel is information about the card's current operating speed and temperature. To find this information you will need to run the separate Gauge Pro application, also part of the standard install. Gauge Pro not only reports the card's speed and temp, but also CPU version, system bus speed, CPU multiplier and detailed cache information. I appreciated this information but would like to see it incorporated into the control panel for easier access. If you turn off virtual memory you can also use Gauge Pro to test your RAM.

Hardware installation went smoothly as it has with all other full sized PCI cards in our 9500. Our review unit arrived sans manual so we can't comment on the quality or clarity of the instructions.

Stability/Performance: We experienced some problems early on getting the system to boot completely. Extensions and control panels would load but the boot process would stall when trying to load the finder. Booting with extensions (and therefore the card's backside cache) off was not a problem but hardly a solution. Turning on the 9500's motherboard cache fixed the boot problem. Newer Tech sent us beta drivers (1.4b4) which allowed the card to run with the motherboard cache disabled. We expected running with the motherboard cache enabled to cause a performance hit but the MacBench scores below show no significant differences running with the motherboard cache on or off. This is the software we used for our "real world" tests. Beyond the initial boot issues we didn't experience any stability problems. We were unable to push the backside cache beyond the default 2:1 ratio but the performance gains at this setting should keep you quite happy. Owners of Photoshop 5.5 should also note that adobe has finally made their AltiVec plug-ins available to the public. We don't have a copy of Photoshop 5.5 but the speed gain should be most impressive. Adobe has a disclaimer about using their AltiVec software with G4 upgrade cards but I would assume they are just covering themselves legally. If you are using the new adobe software with a G4 upgrade card let us know what you experience has been. Post a note on our discussion board or drop me a line. As for the hardware approach Newer takes to dealing with the speculative addressing issue, it appears to work fine. Then again, we reviewed several G4 cards that use a software/firmware fix and we didn't experience any major problems. The sole exception was XLR8's G4/350 carrier card where buggy drivers hampered performance.


Product: MaxPowr G4/400/200/1MB
Company: Newer Technology
MSRP: $799.00
Rating: (5 possible)
Hits: Excellent performance and stability.
Misses: Fixed speed, can't be upgraded, control panel lacks comprehensive information.


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

SoundJam MP3 Encode

Time to encode a CD track 4 minutes 29 seconds in length. For this test we set score relative to a G3/400/200/1MB upgrade card.



Card Stats.

-Card

Type

Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support

Warranty

Price Information

Newer Technology
MaxPowr
G4/400/200/1MB
PCI Heat Sink Fixed Web Based
Toll Free Phone
1-888-656-8324
E-mail
2 Years

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