processor upgrades Graphics Cards

Processor Upgrade For First Generation Power Macs Gets The Job Done! - A Review Of The Newer PDS G3 Upgrade

by David Engstrom

Thursday, October 12, 2000

Supported Models

Apple:For the Power Mac 7100/66, 7100/66AV, 7100/80, 7100/80AV, 8100/80, 8100/80AV, 8100/100, 8100/100AV, 8100/110, 8100/110AV, 8115/110AV

Mac OS 7.5.1 to OS 9.0.4 supported


General Impressions: Only two processor upgrade manufacturers make upgrades for NuBus based Macs - Sonnet and Newer. Several months ago we did a complete review of all Sonnet's offerings for these machines - which included both G3 and G4 upgrades. At that time Newer was not able to provide us with their upgrade.

This was rectified several weeks ago when Newer sent us their MAXpowr G3/300/200/1MB for us to review. Whereas Sonnet has 5 NuBus upgrades to choose from (including a G4 upgrade) Newer has only one. (Newer also makes a version of the MAXpowr PDS for 6100 Power Macs and Performas as well ).

Design-wise the Newer and Sonnet cards are similar. They both are installed into the PDS slot of your machine. They both have a pass-through cable and adapter enabling you to continue to use your PDS based HPV or AV video card (Newer provides the adapter & cable with the upgrade, with Sonnet these two items are an additional purchase).

In construction, however the Newer card is quite different from the Sonnet cards. The Sonnet cards are narrow with a arresting purple heatsink running down nearly the full length of the card. Newer's card is a full size card (about the same size as the HPV video card) with a small heatsink over the G3 processor and 1MB backside cache.

The Newer card performance was good...on par with the Sonnet card of similar speed and somewhat better in a few scores.

Intallation: If you have a video card in your PDS slot (such as the HPV or AV card) the installation of the MAXpowr is one of the most complex we have encountered. It is slightly more complex than the similar Sonnet card, but the end result is a better fit than we found with Sonnet's cards.If you don't have a video card in the PDS slot installation is a breeze and quite similar to L2 cache slot upgrades or installing additional RAM.

First thing is to install the MAXpowr software. This includes an extension, control panel and a utility for monitoring the proper functioning of the upgrade card (speed, temperature etc.). The software comes on a floppy as well as a CD-ROM which is quite convenient since many of these earlier machines did not ship with an internal CD-ROM drive.

Next turn off both the machine and monitor, disconnect the monitor if you are using a PDS video card and open up the machine. All the machines that this card is made for are easy to open up and access. After the machine is open connect the grounding strap to your wrist and the other end to a metal part of the computer's framework (such as the power supply housing). Remove the video card from the PDS slot (if there is one installed). You should also remove the L2 cache. The Newer software will disable the L2 cache but best practice is to remove it completely.

You can now install the Newer upgrade into the PDS slot - press firmly on the top of the card without forcing it. If it doesn't seem to fit make sure that you have the card aligned correctly and try again. If you don't have a video card or don't want to reinstall the one you have, your work is done. Put the computer's casing back on, fire the old machine up and enjoy the enhanced performance. If you have a PDS video card you would like to reinstall your work is just beginning.

You will need to attach the HPV or AV video card to the caddy that ships with the MAXpowr 7100/8100 upgrade. This involves removing screws, screwing on standoffs, attaching the video card to the caddy and adding an extension to the video card. The caddy comes with detailed instructions on how to go about this proceedure. This should all be done before you install the processor upgrade so that you can install both the upgrade card and video card caddy at the same time.

The caddy has a "dumb" NuBus connector attached to one end and this is inserted into the middle NuBus slot of your machine. The result is an inverted video card to which you attach the pass-through cable from the MAXpowr upgrade. We recommend that you unplug the machine before connecting the video pass-through cable to the video card as there is a possibility that the machine will spontaneously startup when you make this connection.

The manual that ships with the Newer upgrade card walks you through the install procedure for all pertinent machines. But it falls a little short on explaining some of the options you have for setting the backside cache in the MAXpowr control panel.

Stability And Operation: When we first installed the MAXpowr G3/300/200/1MB into our PowerMac 7100/80 running 9.0 we experienced random freezes either during the boot process or within the first few minutes of using the machine. The card became more stable when we used the control panel to turn the backside cache down from its default setting of 200MHz to 150MHz.

We still had some stability problems even at this setting, but not as bad as previously. Disconnecting all external SCSI devices connected to the 7100 cleared up the random freezes completely.

We contacted Newer to see if they had some idea of why we were having these problems. They, at first, were surprised that we had encountered difficulties, but after they duplicated our setup in their labs they found that they could reproduced the same stability issues we had run into. The solution they came up with was to update from Mac OS 9.0 to Mac OS version 9.0.4.

This did the trick. In over a week of heavy usage and constant reboots our upgraded 7100 had no stability problems once we updated our system software. The OS 9.0.4 update is a free download from Apple.

Newer said they are looking into the compatibility issues with OS 9.0 but for the moment are advising people to install the free OS update. It is important that you install this update before you install the Newer card. Also check the Newer site for their latest MAXpowr driver software.

One additional problem we had is when we first installed the upgrades card and the video card adapter we had no signal to the Monitor through the HPV video card. In other word we had no picture. Close inspection found that the pass through cable had become partially disconnected from the MAXpowr card. It was either this way when we received it or occurred during the installation process. It was simple to connect the cable completely to the card, but if you buy the card and have no video signal check that the cable connection is completely seated.

Performance: The performance of this card is quite good and on par with the similar 300MHz PDS card offered by Sonnet. As the test results below show what the processor upgrade will do for a vintage Mac, such as the 7100, is to greatly increase the raw processing power of the machine. In the case of the MAXpowr G3/300 we saw an up to 650% increase over the base machine for certain tests requiring raw processing power. Less effected are graphics and disk performance, which saw only modest gains.

For curiosities sake we used the MAXpowr control panel to slow the backside cache down to 150MHz (half the processor speed) to see how this would effect performance. Interestingly most scores were unaffected except for the search and replace test in which the 150MHz setting saw less than half the performance of the card when the cache was set to 200MHz.

Conclusion: Who should buy this card? Those that are doing real work with their first generation PowerMac will benefit greatly from the increase in raw processing a price. For the casual user a processor upgrade for such an old machine makes less sense. You will see some speed up in the basic operation of your machine but if you are just surfing the Web or doing a little word processing you would be better off to save your pennies for a new or used Mac or iMac. Also a faster/larger hard drive may make more sense for your aging machine rather than a processor upgrade. $400 is a lot of money to sink into a machine that is probably worth little more than $100.

Product: MAXpowr G3/300/200/1MB
Company: NewerTech
Rating: (5 possible)   Reader Reviews

Hits: Good preformance, Includes video pass-through hardware, Good Implementation, Good printed installation manual

Misses: Expensive, Not compatible with OS version 9.0 (must upgrade to 9.0.4) Manual does not cover MAXpowr Control panel settings

SRP: $399

MacBench 5.0 Results

Longer bars = better performance





"Real World" Tests
(Shorter bars are better scores and are expressed as a percentage of the base machine)

Time to Scroll a 500 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"



Render Boy

PhotoShop 5.5 "Real World" Test results






MAXpowr Card Stats



Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support


Newer Technology
PDS Heat Sink


(Cache Speed Adjustable)

Web Based
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