The Performance Edge: Getting B&W G3/400Mhz Performance Out Of Your Pokey 603e Based Machine

By MacSpeedZone Staff

Sonnet sent a note from Germany last night letting us know that they have come out with a faster Crescendo G3/L2 card for certain "Upgrade Challenged" Macs. These are the clever cards that fit into the L2 cache slots of some machines that have their processors soldered to the logic board. The new card runs at 400Mhz and has 1MB of backside cache running at 200Mhz. The card will run at 400Mhz only on the specified machines that have a 50Mhz bus. These include:

  • Power Macintosh 5500, 6500
  • 20th Anniversary Macintosh
  • Motorola StarMax 5000, 5500
  • The Sonnet cards are a snap to to install and come with a simple 'no fuss' extension that enables the upgrade. When the Crescendo G3/L2 is installed the machine initially boots off the original processor, when it hits the Crescendo extension the upgrade card is enabled, a G3 environment created and the Crescendo G3/L2 usurps control of the machine. The boot process continues to proceed seamlessly, now on the Sonnet upgrade.

    Sonnet also manufactures three other versions of the card that operate in both machines with 40Mhz buses and 50Mhz buses,

  • Crescendo G3/L2 250 MHz-512K cache
  • Crescendo G3/L2 300 MHz-512K cache
  • Crescendo G3/L2 300 MHz-1MB cache
  • which we reviewed earlier. We experienced some glitches with the earlier cards during the boot process. Sonnet has since updated their Crescendo extension which has apparently cleared up this boot problem for some people, though for us the problem still persists.

    Performance-wise the Crescendo G3/L2 400Mhz benchmarks as high as Apple's high-end Blue and White G3/400 machine, in MacBench processor score. However real world performance may be slightly less depending on what is being done, given the Blue and White's faster (100Mhz) bus speed. Also drive and graphics performance will be much better on the Blue and White unless you upgrade those aspect of your machine as well.

    A new G3/400 machine will cost you around $3,000. The Sonnet Crescendo G3/L2 400 has a suggested retail price of around $1,000, which will get you G3/400 Blue and White 'like' performance. If you are in the market for one of these cards we recommend that your purchase it from a reputable retailer that offers a generous return policy, should you experience any problems or compatibility issues (this should be standard operating procedure whenever and wherever you buy something for use with your computer). Rumor has it that MacCPU has some of these just released cards in stock so you might want to knock on their door and ask (if it doesn't appear in their product listing email them about it - I hear that rumors are found on the back shelf).

    Below you will find MacBench 4.0 Processor results for the Crescendo G3/L2 cards compared to some of the base machines they are designed to be installed into. The benchmark results for the cards were supplied by Sonnet. Hopefully they will send us a 400Mhz unit soon and we will do a proper review of the card.



    Question: To upgrade or to upgrade? That is the question! What do you think is it better to update your current machine with a $1,000 upgrade card or to shell out $3,000 for a whole new machine? What makes more sense? Let us know what you would do! Do you have a Sonnet card? How do you like it?

    The Performance Edge Index

    Internal Links

  • Upgrade results by machine
  • Processor Upgrade Index
  • Graphics Card Upgrades
  • External Links

  • Sonnet website
  • MacReviewZone - Processor upgrade reviews
  • All online Macintosh hardware and software reviews