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For Upgrading An iMac You Only Have One Choice - The PowerLogix iForce Reviewed - Is There An iMac G4 Upgrade On The Way?

by David Engstrom

Newer Tech's PowerBook upgrade cardThe recently defunct Newer was the first to come out with an upgrade for the iMac, the G3 iMAXpowr which ran at 466MHz. They followed up this unique upgrade with a G4 upgrade for the iMac (A-D). Alas some months later Newer shut its doors and these upgrades are no more.

Luckily PowerLogix stepped into the breach with their own iMac upgrade, the iForce G3/466, and it has some distinct advantages over the previous Newer offerings.

Though Newer was hailed for coming out with an upgrade for the iMac their upgrades were expensive and you had to send in your old processor in a short time frame, if you wanted a rebate off the price of the upgrade. Basically what Newer was doing was refitting old slow iMac processor cards (the ones customers sent in when they bought an iMAXpowr), with faster processors, and then reselling them. This was how they legally provided the special proprietary instructions that reside in the ROM chip which Apple placed on the iMac's processor card - basically by retrofitting stock cards.

It was a cumbersome process and, if you sent in your old card for the rebate, you would not have it to reinstall should something go wrong with the new upgrade.

Supported Models

Apple: iMacs A (233MHz), B (233MHz), C (266MHz) and D (333MHz)

Mac OS 8.1 to OS 9.1 supported

Well PowerLogix came up with a devilishly simple solution! Why not, since you already own the ROM information on your current iMac's processor card, transfer it to the iForce upgrade card. And that is just what they made possible. The software that comes with the iForce card, copies your current ROM instructions to your hard drive. You then install the upgrade card and the software copies the instructions into the ROM chip on the new iForce card. Very clever, and you get to keep your old card.

We found the iForce card to be extremely stable during its three week stay in our G3/233 iMac. Its performance was close to double the stock iMac in processor intensive tasks. For the moment the iForce is the only game in town for iMac owner's wanting to upgrade their machine's processors.
For Great Prices On Upgrades Check The Vendors Below
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SCSI, Firewire USB Cards
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ebay Small Dog

Installation: The CD that comes with iForce upgrade contains a 'chaplinesque' silent QuickTime movie that gives you a visual overview of how to perform the installation. It is worthwhile watching the movie, if you have never taken apart your iMac before. If you have installed additional RAM into your machine, you will have no problems installing the iForce upgrade, which involves a similar procedure. If you haven't gotten into the guts of your iMac previously, taking apart your iMac may seem daunting. It really isn't that bad but if you're not mechanically inclined let a professional install the iForce for you.

The iForce comes with PowerLogix's traditionally minimalist installation manual. Though it won't win any publishing prizes, it does cover all the pertinent information you need to know in a clear concise manner. As mentioned above, you will need to run a software utility that will copy your original ROM instructions to the hard drive and then back to the iForce upgrade once you have it installed. It is important when first starting up the iMac, once the upgrade is installed, that you do not interrupt the process of the ROM instructions being copied to the iForce card.This process occurs automatically and if interrupted will make the iForce card inoperable.

Other than that, installing the upgrade is fairly straight-forward. You need to remove the logic board from the iMac, remove the old processor card, transfer the RAM from the old card onto the iForce card, install the iForce card onto the logic board, put the logic board back into the iMac and boot your new raging beast up. The iForce requires no enabling software - in other words no extension or control panel - to operate. It does come with a software utility that will tell you the speed of the processor and its backside cache. The utility will also show the operating temperature of the upgrade. Interestingly the iForce ran much cooler that the original processor - 31C as opposed to 55C for the stock processor.

A couple of points to make before leaving the installation section. PowerLogix, in their installation instructions, have you boot the upgraded iMac, with all its cables and cords connected, while the machine is still apart (the logic board still out of the machine). Not only did we find this very difficult to do but we also think that this is not wise from a safety standpoint. We strongly recommend that you do not follow this part of their instructions. Put everything back in its place and then boot the machine for the first time. The only advantage we can see to the PowerLogix method is that, if something goes wrong you don't have to take the whole machine apart again. Spend the extra few minutes and put it back together.

Also PowerLogix recommends that you use a screwdriver to pry your old processor card from the logic board. We suggest using the heatsink clip, which is ideally suited for performing this task. As always, take the precaution of removing any static electricity that may be built up in your body before handling the logic board or its components.

Performance and Stability: The stability of the iForce upgrade was excellent. We had zero problems with it!

In the performance arena, the card showed an almost doubling of speed in processor intensive tasks over our stock iMac G3/233. Graphics performance was also improved, showing a 45% improvement in scrolling speed and 25% in Quake III FPS in fastest mode. Of course if you have the 333MHz version of the iMac your performance boost will be less dramatic .... more like 50% performance improvement in processor intensive tasks.

Conclusions: PowerLogix no longer manufactures the 466MHz version of the iForce. Instead they have 400MHz and 500MHz versions. You can assume for the 500MHz cards that the scores below will be 7 - 10% faster, and for the 400MHz card 15 - 20% slower, on processor intensive tasks. The iForce upgrade performed extremely well and we can wholeheartedly recommend it on this point. If you rely on heavy-duty processing power to get you through the day, the iForce will certainly help you out - in a big way. However the top of the line 500MHz card is expensive at $500. You may be better off selling your aging iMac and buying a new machine. A new 450MHz iMac with all the new technology should run you a little over $1,000 which would be just about be the cost of the iForce card plus what you could get for your old iMac. The 500MHz card will become a more attractive buy as its price drops ... which it inevitably will.

For owners of 233MHz iMacs the 400MHz iForce card may be a better deal. For $300 you will see an improvement of between 60 to 70% in processing power.

PowerLogix says that they have a G4 upgrade under development for the iMac which may be announced at Macworld Tokyo.

.Post your comments on this article/card on our discussion board below.

Product: iForce G3/466//187/1MB
Company: PowerLogix
Rating: Not Rated    Reader Reviews

Hits: Very Good performance, very stable, good technological implementation

Misses: Manual could be beefed up, installation advice more cumbersome than it needs to be, successor card is expensive

SRP: This card is no longer sold. Technologically similar iForce cards running at 500MHz and 400MHz cost $500 and $300 respectively

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 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%. Higher0 numbers indicate a better score.

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


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


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

Higher scores are better

PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score


PowerBook G3/466 upgrade card - processor score



Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support


iForce G3 466/187/1MB
iMac processor replacement Heat Sink


e-mail or toll free phone. 877-849-2504 3 Years
iForce G3 400/200/512
iMac processor replacemen Heat Sink


e-mail or toll free phone. 877-849-2504 3 Years
iForce G3 500/200/1MB
iMac processor replacemen Heat Sink


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

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