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XLR8's "Two-Upgrades-In-One" Claim Put To The Test - MACh Speed G4/450 Upgrade Card Reviewed

Don Engstrom, Reviews Editor

General Impressions: XLR8 Promotes their carrier card design as having two advantages over traditional (soldered CPU) upgrade designs. The first is that you can upgrade the card with a faster (ZIF) processor daughtercard. The second advantage cited by XLR8 is that the carrier card's original ZIF daughtercard can then be put to work in a G3, extending the life, and therefore value, of the original upgrade investment. We recently added a beige G3/266 and Yosemite (Blue and White) G3/350 to our collection of test machines, allowing us to test the value of the carrier design. The bulk of our review will focus on use in our Power Mac 9500, but will cover use in the two other machines as well.

Software Installation: XLR8's installer places the usual extension and control panel in their respective folders. XLR8 also provides their own AltiVec (aka Velocity) plug-in for use with Photoshop 3.x and 4.x. Adobe now provides AltiVec software for Photoshop 5.5 so only PS 5.0 user are out of luck. XLR8's MACh Speed control panel provides information on current settings and allows you to adjust the backside cache speed. XLR8 also provides a workaround for Apple's now notorious G4 upgrade block. Both Apple's block and XLR8's solution come via a firmware patch. Installing XLR8's firmware patch installed like any other firmware update and apparently worked. We didn't have any problems booting the Yosemite Power Mac with the G4 ZIF card installed. If you are running OS 9 you will want to install four AltiVec specific extensions off the OS 9 CD using the Tome Viewer application. Point Tome Viewer to Software Installers --> System Software --> Mac OS 9 Additions and drag the extracted extensions to your extensions folder.
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Hardware Installation: The carrier card sports a series of 12 dip switches, the ZIF daughtercard 4 jumpers, both of which are adjusted to set the bus overall speed of the card. The speed of the processor is often expressed as a bus ratio with G3's maxing out at 10:1 and G4's currently maxed out at 9:1. For a machine with a 50MHz system bus (like our 9500) the best you can squeeze out of a G4 is 450MHz. You can try "pushing" your system bus over its rated speed but we didn't have any luck with this. XLR8 provides excellent documentation walking you through the install process for all of the appropriate machines. Interestingly, their chart of "standard" jumper and switch settings doesn't include those appropriate for the G4, no 9:1 ratio settings. The chart does include settings for nonexistent 550MHz and 600MHz upgrades, both at 12:1 ratios! Fortunately, the back of the manual includes a full chart of all possible settings, including those we needed for our two G3 machines. XLR8 continues with its fine tradition of including a high quality, reusable grounding strap to help avoid static mishaps. Removing the ZIF daughtercard for use in the other machines was literally a snap.

Performance/Stability: We put XLR8's G4/450 through its paces on all three machines and without exception it performed like a champ. We didn't experience any problems on any of the machines. In our 9500 we couldn't push it past its rated 450MHz and 2:1 ratio. In the Beige G3, thanks to its 66MHz system bus, the G4 ran at 468MHz. The Blue and White has a 100MHz system bus of course and this actually may have worked against us as overclocking attempts have to be made in large 50MHz increments. Not surprisingly, the G4 didn't want to make the jump to 500MHz. However, at 450MHz it didn't protest when we pushed the cache ratio up to 299MHz, a 3:2 ratio.

We ran our tests on the 9500 before the OS 9.0.4 update was released but the other two machines had the update installed. All of the real world tests were conducted on the 9500 but we have included MacBench scores from all three machines including the 3:2 cache ratio. We have also included scores from a previous review of XLR8's G3/500 carrier card for comparison.


Product: MACh Carrier G4/450/225/1MB
Company: XLR8
Rating: (5 possible)
Hits: Includes Photoshop 3.x and 4.x plugin which provides excellent performance gains, carrier design reduces future upgrade costs by allowing the use of ZIF processor cards, well written documentation.
Misses: Areas of documentation need to be updated for G4 switch/jumper settings.


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. As all three machines have different hard drives and graphics cards we have broken these scores up by machine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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 5.5 "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. All tests were run with AltiVec enabled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Render Boy 2.2.0

Time to render "Pool Table" Example file



Card Stats.

Manufacturer -Card

Type

Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support

Warranty

XLR8 MACh Carrier G4/450/225/1MB PCI
With ZIF Daughtercard
Heat Sink Variable

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

2 Years


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