Buy A New Mac or Upgrade The Old One? - A Perspective On The Perennial Question

by Gary Dailey

I need performance but...

Why Upgrade?

As a leading manufacturer of G3 upgrades for PowerPC« Macs«, we are often asked by prospective customers, "Why should I upgrade if a new Mac is less than $3,000?"

Only you can answer that question. We can provide factual information to help you make a truly educated decision.

First you need to ask yourself some questions.

If you answer yes, then an upgrade is the best choice.

Do you need more than two PCI Expansion Slots?

The PowerMac« G3 ships with four slots. One is dedicated to graphics. The second is intended for normal SCSI. If you choose to buy a new system and you use high-end video, tape backups, Jaz«, multiple U2, secondary displays, or dedicated PCI devices, you'll need to make some difficult decisions. You'll need to decide what to keep and what to discard. If you choose to upgrade, you just plug in the card and go.

Do you have a large investment in RAM?

The new PowerMac G3 does not support the same RAM as existing systems. At over $2 per megabyte, you need to decide if you can justify liquidating your existing RAM to purchase new RAM.

Do you need expanded RAM capacity?

If you use Photoshop, you better review this one well. The PowerMac G3 only has four DIMM sockets compared to the 12 on the 9600 or 9500. Your 9500 can expand to 1.5 gigabytes of RAM. You can load up to 1 gig in the new PowerMac G3 using 256 MB DIMMs, but you'll need to discard the existing RAM first. Remember, with the newer, robust OS and expanded applications, 128 MB doesn't go as far as it used to.

Do you have a large investment in SCSI?

To use SCSI peripherals on the PowerMac G3, you'll have to purchase a third party SCSI PCI card. This will make troubleshooting and booting a little more complex as well, nothing is as robust as SCSI from the motherboard, like on your current PowerMac.

Do you use Floppies?

Like the iMac, the Floppy drive is now a third party product. If you use floppies, you'll need to add the cost for third party floppy drive. And since it's high powered USB, add the cost of a USB powered hub (ours of course) to power the floppy drive.

Do you need 100% up-time on your system?

Buying a new system is more than just moving one box out, and another in. With new peripherals, a new OS, radically new hardware and new expansions specifications there will be incompatibilities.

New systems offer a lot of benefits, but will have more downtime than a simple upgrade. You can either upgrade the entire environment (with the hope of increased productivity later) or upgrade with a single CPU card, which will limit the variables and hidden costs.

New systems have new needs as well. Like optional bezels and unique expansion cables. These will follow in time. But if you want to expand today, be sure that all the pieces you need are available today.

Do you have software that is not yet ready for System 8.5.1?

The PowerMac ships with System 8.5.1. Many older applications and games may have some incompatibilities. Check out your software first. Then budget for all the latest software updates that are needed.

Are you happy with your current monitor?

Check with your display's manufacturer on this one. You know the color of the case is different. But with new, faster refresh rates, you'll need to make sure that your monitor is supported as well. Or you can always budget for a new monitor to sync up with the PowerMac G3.

Do you prefer Apple Platinumto the new translucent colors on your desktop?

Not to be forgotten--buying the new PowerMac G3 may be like repainting your walls. Everything else will look very outdated. You may want to budget for some new USB or Firewire peripherals as well.

Will you need to be upgraded to the next CPU (G4) when it comes out?

Apple has made a pretty clear statement by imbedding the G3 logo in the case. You'll need to buy another PowerMac to get G4 from Apple. If you're still not sure which route to take; take the safe bet upgrade your existing system now (it will pay for itself in a couple weeks), wait for the next rev of systems with the new CPU (late this summer?), then make the move.

The Bottom Line

Add up the hidden costs, then evaluate the benefits. In many cases an upgrade is nearly half the cost of an equivalent new system purchase. With so many changes coming by the end of the year, the safe money is to extend your investment by upgrading now and immediately doubling your productivity, then move up on the next system, CPU modification late 1999

Gary Dailey. Product Manager, XLR8

[Editor's Note: With new Macs coming out XLR8 naturally wants to pull you in their direction. Think you should be? If you have a similar perspective to the one above or think that buying a new Mac makes much more sense put your arguments into article form, send them to us and we just might publish them in this space]

XLR8 Suggested Retail Price List Effective 1/25/99*

Product   Product No.   Old SRP   New SRP*

MACh Speed G3 CPU for PCI Based PowerMacs and Clones

220 MHz w/ 512K, 110 MHz Cache .....MACh/G220/5.....$ 359 .....$ 359

233 MHz w/ 512K, 117 MHz Cache .....MACh/G233/5..... 399..... 379

266 MHz w/ 512K, 133 MHz Cache .....MACh/G266/5..... 449..... 429

300 MHz w/ 512K, 120 MHz Cache .....MACh/G300/5..... 579..... 529

300 MHz w/ 1MB, 200 MHz Cache .....MACh/G300/1..... 699..... 679

333 MHz w/ 1MB, 167 MHz Cache .....MACh/G333/1..... 999..... 899

366 MHz w/ 1MB, 183 MHz Cache .....MACh/G366/1..... 1,299..... 1,099

400 MHz w/ 1MB, 200 MHz Cache .....MACh/G400/1..... 1,649..... 1,399

MACh Speed G3Z CPU Upgrade for G3 Desktop, Minitower and All-in-one PowerMacs

300 MHz w/ 512K, 120 MHz Cache .....MACh/G3Z300/5........$ 599.....$ 549

300 MHz w/ 1MB, 200 MHz Cache .....MACh/G3Z300/1........ 899..... 579

333 MHz w/ 1MB, 167 MHz Cache .....MACh/G3Z333/1........ 1,099..... 819

366 MHz w/ 1MB, 183 MHz Cache .........MACh/G3Z366/1........ 1,349..... 1,049

400 MHz w/ 1MB, 200 MHz Cache .....MACh/G3Z400/1........ 1,599..... 1,349

MACh Speed 604e CPU Upgrades for PCI-based PowerMacs and Clones

180 MHz 604e for 7500 - 9500 and UMAX...MACh/180......$ 99 ........ $ 79

180 MHz for Power Computing (limited).....MACh/180S..... 99 ..... 89

Level 2 Cache Memory for PowerMacs

256K SIMM for X100 Series.........XL2-256S....................$ 39

256K DIMM for 7200, 7500, 8500........X2-256D.................... 99

*Suggested Retail Pricing reflects XLR8's manufacturer recommended pricing for the world market and does not include special reseller promotions or incentives. SRP should not be compared to Estimated Street Pricing as provided by other manufacturers. Actual street pricing will vary. For actual pricing, please contact your reseller.


Internal Links

  • Yosemite G3/300 - Information Page
  • Yosemite G3/350 - Information Page
  • Yosemite G3/350 DVD - Information Page
  • Yosemite G3/400 - Information Page
  • MacSpeedZone's CPU Upgrade Page
  • MacSpeedZone's Graphics Card Upgrade Page
  • MacSpeedZone's Machine Upgrade Page Index
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