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And Then There Was One... PowerLogix' G3/466 Upgrade Card Reviewed

1-23-2001
by Don Engstrom

Newer Tech's PowerBook upgrade cardThe upgrade market is certainly a volatile one. When the BlueChip first arrived at our doorstep for review, there were two manufacturers making upgrades for the G3 PowerBooks, Newer Technology and the maker of the BlueChip, PowerLogix. After numerous contributions to the upgrade market, Newer Tech has, alas, gone the way of other manufacturers like Vimage and MacTell. The BlueChip enjoys a competition free market at the moment although this is certainly subject to change. How does this card stack up? Read on to find out.

Installation: Newer's PowerBook upgrades required the user to remove and send in their original processor card for retrofitting and return, a process that necessitated some serious down time. PowerLogix simply sells new processor cards with a G3/466 or G3/500 processor on board. The BlueChip arrives without the ROM file installed. This is to avoid running afoul of Apple's legal team. Without the ROM file however, the card will not function. PowerLogix provides a flash utility for pulling the file off your original processor card and transferring it to theirs. It is essential that this process is completed without interruption. The backup and restore process went without a hitch for us. Other than the flash utility, the BlueChip does not require any control panel or extension to run.

Supported Models
BlueChip G3
PowerBook G3/233/no cache
PowerBook G3/233/117/1MB
PowerBook G3/250/125/1MB
PowerBook G3/266/133/1MB
PowerBook G3/292/146/1MB
PowerBook G3/300/150/1MB
BlueChip G3 "LS"
PowerBook G3/333/177/512K
PowerBook G3/400/200/1MB

In addition to their printed manual, PowerLogix also provides a QuickTime movie on their CD to walk you through the installation steps. While the printed manual gets the job done, there were a couple of times when I wished that it included photos instead of the drawn illustrations. The QuickTime movie helped compensate for the manual's illustrations, but there is room for improvement in this department as well, with many shots not providing enough detail to be helpful.

On the plus side, PowerLogix provides a tool for pulling your original processor card, essentially a flat metal bar with a small 90° bend at one end. This saves a couple of additional steps that would have been necessary to gain full access to the processor card. Kudos to PowerLogix for this thoughtful touch. The BlueChip also comes with a little dab of thermal grease to assure good contact between the card and heat sink. The grease comes in a small zip lock bag making it hard to remove. We checked the processor temps several times while the BlueChip was installed and it ran at or below the temps of our original processor...
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ebay Small Dog

Performance and Stability - Round I: The PowerBook G3/266 is my personal workhorse for updating and maintaining MacSpeedZone and MacReviewZone and gets a serious workout every day. During our standard run of real world benchmark tests, some serious stability issues surfaced with the BlueChip. The machine would crash consistently during our Photoshop and quake III tests and sporadically when using other applications. Each crash required a reboot to recover. As all of our tests are done with only OS extensions and control panels running, an extension conflict seemed unlikely. TechTool Pro reported several memory errors, something we had never seen before. PowerLogix tech support recommended pulling out the original 64MB RAM chip that came with the PowerBook as they had noted some compatibility problems with these modules. We tried this suggestion along with others including: resetting the power manager, re-seating the card, and re-seating both RAM modules, all without success. We eventually sent the card back to PowerLogix and had them send another review unit...

Performance and Stability - Round II: The second card arrived in short order and has been running in our PowerBook for close to a month without any of the problems we noted above. PowerLogix was unable to reproduce the problems I described with the first card. Go figure...

The additional 200 MHz over our original G3/266 made itself felt in a big way. Processor intensive tasks like Photoshop filter operations, MP3 encoding or 3D rendering all completed in roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the time of the original processor. General system responsiveness was also improved, giving the PowerBook a new sprightly feel. Check out our benchmark scores below for a full performance report. As I mentioned above, the additional processor speed thankfully didn't generate any additional heat. After my initial experience, I ran TechTool Pro again, this time without uncovering any memory errors.

Conclusions: Our initial experience with the BlueChip motivated us to run the replacement card for an extended test period. The second card didn't give us any problems over the course of its lengthy stay in our PowerBook. It is always a good idea, however, to check the return policy of your retailer. Installing any upgrade card in a PowerBook can be intimidating for the uninitiated, and PowerLogix could do a better job of walking the user through the process. If you don't feel comfortable working in cramped quarters, you might want to have the card professionally installed. If you have installed RAM in your PowerBooks lower RAM slot, you are home free because the process is essentially the same. We had initially planned on installing OS 9.1 to check compatibility, but there are apparently compatibility issues with 9.1 and DreamWeaver that render the latter next to useless. As we depend on DreamWeaver on a daily basis, I decided to skip this last test. I would assume that there would not be any problems with OS 9.1 and the BlueChip card as it is virtually indistinguishable from an Apple original G3/466.


Product: BlueChip G3/466/233/1MB
Company: PowerLogix
Rating: (5 possible)

Hits: Good preformance, includes processor puller tool, no down time associated with retrofitting, clever solution to the ROM hurdle.

Misses: Room for improvement in documentation.

MSRP: $599



MacBench 5.0 Results

The scores below are from MacBench 5.0. 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 indicate better performance.

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

"Real World" Tests

The tests below are from our new suite of real world application tests. These tests feature a diverse selection of applications commonly used by the Mac community. The test suite was designed to render an accurate and well rounded picture of an upgrade's performance. Click here for detailed information on each test and our machine's configuration. All of the tests below (with the exception of the Quake III tests) were timed with a stopwatch. The times are then converted to percentages with the unaccelerated PowerBook set to 100%. Lower numbers indicate a better score. We have recently made some adjustments to our testing procedures and, consequently, some of our standard tests are missing from this review.

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

PhotoShop 6.0 "Real World" Test results

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

Quake Tests

We made a few adjustments to our Quake III testing procedures and don't have a base PowerBook score available for comparison. we can tell you that at the "fastest" setting (16 bit) we got 20.5 FPS and a completely unusable 2.8 FPS at the "high quality" (32 bit) setting.


 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

 

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score

BlueChip G3/466 Card Stats

Card

Type

Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support

Warranty

PowerLogix
Bluechip
G3/466/233/1MB
PowerBook processor replacement PowerBook's
Heat Sink

Fixed

e-mail or toll free phone. 877-849-2504 3 years


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