processor upgrades Graphics Cards

"Render This Baby" - Vimage's G3 Upgrade Shows Impressive Performance

General Impressions: The Vpower PF G3/325/320 is Vimage's current high-end offering for L2 cache slot G3 upgrade cards. Vimage is the company that pioneered the L2 cache slot G3 upgrade, bringing G3 upgradeability to, presumed, non-upgradeable Macs. Engineered for many machines that have their processors soldered to the motherboard (instead of on a separate, replaceable daughter card), these G3 upgrades fit in the L2 cache slot of the computer. There they usurp control of the machine from the original processor giving your Mac a tremendous boost in processing power.
Supported Models

Apple: 20th Anniversary Macintosh, 5400s, 6360, 6400s and 6500s
Akia: MicroBookPower 603e/240
UMAX SuperMac C500s and Apus 2000s & 3000s

Mac OS 7.5.3 - 8.6 supported

The Vpower PF G3 card comes in a very small form factor. It is about the same length as the cache card it replaces and about twice the width. It has a small heat sink that runs aproximately half the top of the card and which adds somewhat to the thickness of the card. The card is extremely tightly engineered and it is amazing that so much power can fit in such a small package. If you are used to regular G3 processor upgrades you'll be surprised by this petite card which can't weigh more that a couple ounces.

Intallation: Installation is straightforward and simple. If you have ever installed RAM or a cache card you will have no problem installing the Vpower PF. First you install the software, which includes an extension to enable the card, a control panel which offers you two settings: "Faster" and "More Compatible" and the Vpower Info application with which you can check on the operation of the Vpower card. Unless you run into problems you should normally set the control panel to "Faster". After

the the software is installed, shut down the machine, attach yourself to the included grounding strap and gain access to the motherboard. (How you access the motherboard will depend on the machine that you are working with - consult your manual). Once you have the motherboard exposed you will need to locate the L2 cache and remove it. The manual goes into detail for each model type how to do this. You will find that the cache card likes being attached to your computer. You will need to pull firmly and consistently to get it to come out. If your cache card has hole on either corner you can hook something in them to help you get the card out. We used a paper clip gently (yet firmly) pulling at one corner and then the other until it popped out. Remember to pull straight up and not at an angle.

Installing the G3 card is easier than pulling the cache card out. Line the card up properly in the cache slot and push firmly on the edge of the card (not on the heatsink) and the upgrade should pop right in. Replace the cover of your computer, restart your machine, use the Vpower Info application to make sure your new G3 card is operating correctly ...... and you are ready to rock!

There is another step for those installing this upgrade in a Mac clone. If you have a clone you will have to (according to the manual) attach a fan to the heat sink before installing the card. This is a simple step, well described in the manual, but does require some assembly on your part.

Stability: We installed the Vpower PF card in a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh (TAM) for 3 weeks and experienced no stability issues with the upgrade. Vimage does note in their documentation that you may experience some compatibility issues with third party PCI cards (they specifically mention the Avid Cinema card, the Xclaim GA and Twin Turbo graphics cards). Check with Vimage's technical support for the latest on compatibility issues.

Performance: We experienced anywhere from a 50% to 700% speed improvement over the base TAM performance, depending on the task being undertaken (see benchmarks below). If you are doing any type of heavy lifting with your Mac the Vpower PF will definitely get you to where you are going a lot faster. However even those that use their machines for lighter tasks will find that the G3 upgrade will make their systems much more responsive and agile. Removing the Vpower from our TAM was like being suddenly dropped into a bowl of pudding, as the comparative sluggishness of the machine returned.

One thing to note is that the Vpower PF card causes your Mac to go through a double boot process as it starts up. It first starts to boot up off the original processor. Then it loads the Vpower extension (first) and immediately reboots again, this time using the Vpower PF card. This adds a handful of seconds to the boot process. Also the card runs at 325Mhz in machines with a 50Mhz system bus and at 320Mhz in machines with a 40Mhz bus.

Conclusion: The Vpower PF 325/320 is a good performer and solidly engineered. We had some problems with other L2 cache slot G3 upgrade cards but experienced none with the Vpower. Whether you need more performance for heavy lifting or just enjoy the pure pleasure of extra speed and the agility it brings, the Vpower should be just the ticket to change the appellation of your machine from "non-upgradeable" to "upgraded"!

Product: Vpower PF 325/320
Company: Vimage
Rating: (5 possible)

Hits: Excellent performance, good stability, easy installation

Misses: Compatibility issues with some third party PCI cards, some assembly required for clone owners, manual needs to be updated

MacBench 5.0 Results





"Real World" Tests
(Shorter bars are better)

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"


Actual Unreal Frame Rates: iMac 19.4, Vpower 9.3, Base TAM 5.7 (longer bars above are better)

Actual Render Boy Render Times: Vpower 137 seconds, iMac 185 seconds, Base TAM 340 seconds

PhotoShop 5.0.2 "Real World" Test results






Vpower Card Stats



Cooling System

Variable/Fixed Clock Rate

Tech Support


Price Information

Vpower PF

L2 Cache Slot

Heat Sink


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