The Performance Edge: Thought You Couldn't Upgrade Your iMac? Newer Tech Tells You To Think different! - Benchmarks, Information And An Interview With Newer's Point Man For The New iMaxpowr G3/466 Upgrade Card

Apple and the rest of the Mac community have always told iMac users that there was no processor upgrade path for their machines. Today, Newer Technology tells iMac owners to "Think different!" with the announcement of their iMAXpowr upgrade card. The iMAXpowr card sports a G3/466 processor with a full 1MB backside cache. Compare that with the current line of iMacs which max out at 400MHz and use a 512k cache. The iMAXpowr is designed to work with all revisions of the iMac (A, B, C & D) with the exception of Apple's newest "slot loading" iMacs.

Original processor (with RAM) on left.
Newer Tech Card on right
Click on image for larger version

Anyone who has installed RAM in their iMac will tell you that it is not an easy machine to get into. That elegant, compact design comes at the expense of navigation room. Newer helps address this issue by providing not only a written manual, but also a video tape that walks you through the installation process. If you have installed RAM in you iMac, the good news is that there is only one or two more steps involved in installing the iMAXpowr card. The iMac's RAM resides directly on its processor card. We had the card installed in roughly 1/2 hour.

The iMAXpowr card is due to ship this month (February) and has a MSRP of $499 after rebate. You earn a $200 rebate by returning your iMac's original processor within 5 days of receipt. If you return the processor after 5 days the rebate price drops to $150. We have posted MacBench scores from our preliminary testing below. We will post a full review with "real world" test results and photos of the installation process after we have had a chance to put this card fully through its paces. Be sure to keep an eye on our "What's New" page for the review. Our thanks to Newer Tech for loaning us the upgrade card for the machine that couldn't be upgraded!


MacBench 5.0 Scores

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 mean better performance. For more detailed information on MacBench click here. The iMac we used for testing was a "Rev. B" model with 96MB RAM and running OS 8.6.







We recently talked with Eric Dahlinger, Communications Director for Newer Technology, about their iMAXpowr cards.

MSZ: Most of the Mac community assumed that the iMac line was not upgradeable. Why was this and what "hurdles" did Newer have to overcome to develop an upgrade card for the iMac?

Eric: iMac CPU cards have an Apple ROM which is required for the card to boot the iMac. In order to make any progress on this product, Newer had to secure a supply of CPU cards to rework as upgrades. We take a stock iMac CPU card and add a new CPU and new cache parts. It's a lot of work because we change both the CPU and the cache parts (1/2MB to 1MB).

MSZ: We installed your upgrade card in roughly 1/2 hour but we are accustomed top tearing apart and putting together Macs on a daily basis. Do you think the install process is something that the "average user" can manage?

Eric: With the inclusion of an installation video and a printed installation manual, the average user should be able to perform the installation. If someone is uncertain as to whether or not the process is beyond them, they have simply to watch the video. If it is beyond them, they could take the upgrade to an Apple authorized dealer for installation.

MSZ: While the iMAXpowr card sports a full 1MB backside cache, the cache ratio is set to 155MHz, a 3:1 ratio rather than the 2:1 ratio common to most G3/G4 upgrade cards. Why is this?

Eric: Cost. Buy using slower cache parts we save money and by doubling the backside cache amount, we can still add plenty of horsepower with the upgrade.

MSZ: What prompted Newer to go with a G3 processor instead of a G4 and are there plans for a G4 iMAXpowr upgrade?

Eric: Again, cost. It is less costly to use G3 than G4 processors. The higher end customers who are running G4s typically want PCI expansion slots and other features that most iMac customers do not want/need. G4s would become more attractive as prices decline over time.


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