What's not to like about Zif slot processor upgrades? They
are exceptionally easy to install, relatively trouble free
and will give your aging G3 machine a wallop of oomph.
There are both G3 and G4 upgrades, for G3 Macs. This covers
both Beige G3's and Blue & White G3 Macintoshes. Our review
will cover most of the G4 Zif upgrades from the following
We have had all the cards for about a month now, putting
them through our battery of tests, and are pleased to report
that they all passed with flying colors.
You will, however, pay a premium to enter the G4 club. And
unless you are using, or plan to use in the future, one
of the programs that takes advantage of the AltiVec instructions
(Velocity Engine) of the G4 processor, you may be better off
purchasing a less expensive G3
Apple: Beige Power Macintosh G3's, All-In-One G3, Blue
& White G3's (Sonnet also supports first generation
Power Mac G4s)
Mac OS 8.5 to OS 9.0.4 supported, but 8.6 or higher
is highly recommended to see the most performance gain.
Installation: Getting in and out of the machines these G4
upgrades are meant for couldn't be easier, with one exception.
In the case of the Beige Desktop and Tower Macs you basically
remove the cover and unroll
your computer. The Blue & White machines are even
easier; just lift a latch and the hinged side of the computer
swings down exposing the austere guts of the machine. The
one exception to ease of access is the All-In-One
Mac. The AIO was the precursor to the iMac and was sold
mainly to education institutions. Upgrading it is complex
and requires many steps. Oddly enough, even though it is the
most difficult to upgrade, only Sonnet's installation manual
covers the process, although all the processor upgrades support
the machine. So hats off to Sonnet for supplying this additional
Speaking of manuals, Newer, Sonnet & XLR8 all provide
very slick comprehensive manuals that will walk you though
the installation process. The PowerLogix manual is a little
anemic but still provides you with the vital info you need.
It would be nice to see them beef the manual up, including
larger images of the installation process and to also more
info on over-clocking their upgrade.
Great Prices On Upgrades Check The Vendors Below
Newer, XLR8 and Sonnet provide you with a grounding strap
to be worn while installing the upgrade, PowerLogix does not.
Overall XLR8's packaging was the slickest, providing not only
a high quality, reusable grounding strap but also a small
screwdriver, which is a necessary tool for removing the clip
holding the processor's heatsink in place.
All the G4 upgrades require you to install software to enable
the new processor and its backside cache. You should install
the software before installing the upgrade card. If you are
installing the card in a Blue & White Power Mac you will
also need to update the firmware, if you haven't done so already.
The Apple firmware has a G4 block that will not allow the
Blue & White machines to boot with a G4 upgrade installed.
To get around this, all the upgrades come with software that
will patch the firmware update, allowing the machine to operate
normally with a G4 upgrade card installed. If you have a beige
machine you get to skip this onerous step.
For Newer, PowerLogix & XLR8 the installation software
includes both an extension and a control panel. Sonnet simple
installs an extension and a utility called Metronome. Metronome
gets installed into the Apple Menu folder and displays the
proper functioning of your upgrade card and its current operating
parameters (temperature, speed etc.) - other manufacturers
display this information in a Control panel.
Once you have the software installed getting into your machine,
other than the All-In-One, is very easy. We installed the
upgrades into a Beige Desktop G3/266 machine, which meant
that we basically had to unroll our machine to get access
to the processor card. Once you have the heatsink exposed
you will need a small screwdriver to remove the clip holding
the heatsink in place. This clip was well engineered by Apple,
and is easy to remove - if you have a small screwdriver which
fits into a hole on the clip. You basically push down and
out and the clip comes right off. Thoughtfully XLR8 and PowerLogix
include a small screwdriver with their upgrade, for the others
you will need to provide your own.
Before installing a Newer upgrade you need to make sure that
some dip switches on the card are set properly for your machine's
System bus speed - either 66MHz (Beige) or 100MHz (Blue &
The XLR8 cards have jumpers. These are set at the factory
for the stock speed of the card, but XLR8 encourages you to
fiddle with them to see if you can squeeze a little extra
speed out of the card. We were able to over-clock the XLR8
card up to 533MHz but as you'll see below that did not result
in a better score for all tests.
PowerLogix cards have a switch on them that allows you set
the bus speed (for either the 66 MHz bus of the Beige machines
or 100 MHz bus of the Blue and Whites) and to play with over-clocking
the processor speed itself.
After the heatsink is put to one side (it remains tethered
to the logic board by a grounding wire) you simply lift up
a lever, gently lift the old processor out and drop the new
G4 upgrade in. The pins on the upgrade should easily slide
into the Zif socket and it should take only very gentle pressure
to make the upgrade card seat all the way. If there is any
resistance you have the card aligned improperly and should
take a look again at your instruction manual to get the orientation
If you have the card seated properly, put the lever down,
close up the machine and fire that baby up. You can use the
control panel or gauge utility, whichever was installed, to
check that the upgrade is operating properly.On the Newer,
PowerLogix and XLR8 cards you can set the backside cache speed
in each card's respective control panel. In most cases it
is best to leave the cache speed at half the processor's speed,
Sonnet's cards have no control panel and cache speed is set
at 2:1 automatically by the Encore software.
Note to OS 9 users: If you have been running OS 9 under G3
conditions you will be missing some essential AltiVec libraries
in your extension folder. You will need to install these libraries
from your OS 9 CD install disk to take full advantage of the
G4 upgrade. You can do this by doing a custom install of the
"Core System Software" after the G4 upgrade is installed.
You can also use the Tome
Viewer application. Point Tome Viewer to Software Installers
--> System Software --> Mac OS 9 Additions, on your
Mac OS install CD, and drag the extracted extensions to your
Performance and Stability: All these cards performed without
a hitch in our Beige
G3/266 desktop machine. There were no startup problems,
random freezes or unexplained program quits during the time
we put each card through its paces. Of course applications
engineered to take advantage of the AltiVec instructions of
the G4, such as QuickTime, showed the most performance improvement.
Our QuickTime encode test showed around a doubling of performance
with a G4 clocked at the same speed as the original G3/266.
For the high-end G4/500MHz cards, the QuickTime test showed
an almost quadrupling of performance over the stock machine.
If you are using applications that take advantage of the AltiVec
"Velocity Engine" and are using those applications
to do heavy duty work, it really pays to have a G4 card.
For those doing more general computing and light work with
their Mac, the choice between a G4 or G3 upgrade is less clear.
Basically similarly clocked G3s and G4s will perform close
to the same when running applications that have not been accelerated
for the G4. So paying the extra premium for a G4 may not be
the wisest choice. For example you may be better off buying
a high-end G3 instead of a low-end G4, both of which are priced
A processor upgrade has very little effect on drive performance,
however we were pleasantly surprised by the pickup in video
performance when running with a G4/500MHz card installed.
We saw an improvement of almost 30% in scrolling speed and
a 50% improvement in frames per second when running Quake
III at its fastest setting. However hardcore gamers, that
want quality along with speed, will have to breakdown and
get a high-performance video card- if they don't already have
Unexplained is the poor showing of the PowerLogix 400 MHz
card and the XLR8 card (when over-clocked to 533MHz) - in
our Search & Replace test. We ran the test 4 times, to
double-check our results, and came up with the same score
each time. If anyone has an explanation for this please post
Conclusions: So what card should you get. All these cards
performed well for their rated speed. If you are doing heavy
work in applications
that stress the extra power of the G4 processor, the additional
cost of a G4 upgrade will more than pay for itself in time
saved. As far as what speed G4 to get, we give the nod to
the 400 MHz cards as being the most cost efficient. These
cheaper cards will give you good performance and you won't
have to pay the extra premium that a high-end G4 will cost
you. From our testing the G4/500 cards will give you a 14%
speed improvement over the G4/400 cards for both AltiVec and
non-AltiVec processing. The G4/450 from 8-10%. So you can
make up your own mind, depending on the speed of your base
machine, what speed card will work best for you. Even when
upgrading a Blue and White G3/350, your best bang for the
buck may be a G4/400, if most of what you are going to do
is use it to render using G4 savvy applications.
Do you need a G4 upgrade at all? Well that is a good question
to ask yourself. If you are not going to be using one of the
audio, graphics or multi-media programs
that take advantage of the G4, or only use them on a casual
basis, then you might be better off getting a high-end G3,
which will perform pretty much on par with a G4 at the same
clock-speed. A Sonnet Encore G3/500 will cost you $400. A
Encore G4/500 costs $700 - quite a premium to pay for that
extra performance, if you are not going to use it.
Ok there are some of you, hobbiest that just have to have
the fastest thing possible, no matter what the cost. There
is nothing wrong with that. Go ahead and give in to your guilty
pleasure ... the economy will thank you!
If you are a tweaker and enjoy playing with your upgrade
to see how far you can push it, XLR8 or PowerLogix is the
way to go - you can spend half your productive time playing
with the jumpers/switches and experimenting with back-side
cache speeds. If you want simplicity Sonnet is the way to
go - just install a simple extension, install the card and
you don't have to think about your upgrade ever again - hopefully.
Newer allows you to adjust the cache speed but not much else.
As far as the out of the box experience for the consumer,
XLR8 really goes the extra mile, providing a great manual,
professional grounding strap, essential screwdriver, a in-house
developed AltiVec plug-in for Photoshop 3 & 4 users (downloadable
from their web site) and even a little daub of thermal grease.
Newer and Sonnet are not far behind in consumer experience
with quality manuals and good web sites complete with online
tech support. PowerLogix lags a little behind in out of the
box consumer experience, but they do provide a copy of the
Linux operating system on the software install CD, if you
are interested in playing with that.
Below in our ratings we give a slight nod to the XLR8 card
at the high-end. This is primarily due to the extra efforts
they have taken to make the installation of the upgrade, and
its support, easy. For a low-end card, the Newer G4/400MHz
gets high scores from us. This is, again, mainly because of
Newer's attention to the consumer experience and the fact
that it performed slightly better on some tests, over the
PowerLogix card. The Newer G4/450 is a good middle of the
road card but will only run at 433 MHz in Beige machines.
It may appeal to those with G3 machines that already have
a relatively high clock speed (300 MHz or better).
It should be mentioned that Newer also has a G4/500 MHz card,
PowerLogix has a G4/450 MHz card, Sonnet has a G4/400 MHz
card and XLR8 also has G4/350, 400 &450 MHz cards for
sale, however none of these cards were available for us to
test. (For the additional XLR8 scores below we either clocked
down or clocked up the stock G4/500 card that XLR8 provided
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
"Real World" Tests
The tests below are from our newly revised 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 machine
set to 100%. Lower numbers indicate a better score.
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