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G3 ZIF Upgrades Slowly Make Their Way To The Silicon Scrap Heap - A Belated Review Of The PowerForce G3/500

10-7-2001
by David Engstrom

Though the humble G3 processor may be seeing its sunset years, it still has some kick left in it, and for those with modest computing needs it may be a better choice than a G4 upgrade. As you'll see from our performance scores below, the G4 is great for applications that can take advantage of the chip's specialized structure that significantly speeds up certain data crunching operations. These are mainly high-end graphics, sound and video applications. Also if you are running OS X, or plan to do so, you may want to consider a G4 upgrade over a G3. But for most people who use their computers to do a little word processing, check their email and surf the web, a G4 offers no real advantage over a G3, and you'll still pay a premium for a G4 processor.

With this sage advice under your belt, lets go on to the topic of this review the PowerLogix PowerForce G3/500/250/1MB,

Installation

We have gone over the drill for installing single ZIF processor upgrades many times and will only reiterate once again how easy they are to install. Apple engineered the machines that have a ZIF type processor socket, to be incredibly easy to get into and to add additional PCI cards, extra RAM, hard drives and, though it probably doesn't make Apple happy, to add processor upgrades.

Before you install a ZIF upgrade, you must install the software driver for the card. PowerLogix has you load an extension call the 'G3/G4 Cache Profiler'. This extension will enable the backside cache, and other settings, on the upgrade during your machine's boot process.
Supported Models


Compatible with the following: all Power Mac G3 minitowers and desktops, G3 "All-in-One", and Blue and White G3's.

Mac OS 8.6 to OS 9.2 supported, OS X in beta

The extension has a related application of the same name that will also get installed on your hard drive. You can use this application to monitor the functioning of your upgrade (cache speed, temperature etc.), and can change various settings, including a power management feature. The instructional pamphlet that comes in the box with the PowerForce, provides you with information on adjustments you can, and should make, using the Profiler application interface to effect the smooth running of the G3 card.

Installing the ZIF processor card itself is a piece of cake. Just gain access to the motherboard - the included instructions walk you though this simple and easy process. After grounding yourself using a grounding strap attached to the computer's power supply or a metal part of the casing, you simply lift up the lever holding the original ZIF processor in place, remove the existing processor card, take the PowerForce upgrade out of its anti-static bag, line it up correctly
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with the motherboards ZIF socket and very gently nudge it into the slot. After returning the lever to its clasping position you may need to adjust the jumper setting of the card. This determines the speed at which the new processor will run and is conveniently set using a small screwdriver on an adjustment dial. After rebooting the upgraded Power Mac, a trip to the Profiler application will determine if everything is functioning correctly.

Performance

The PowerForce G3/500 provided nearly 80% improvement in raw processing power over our test machine, a G3/266 with 512K of backside cache (the PowerForce has a full MB which was helpful in some tests). In our ZoneBench 2000 Processor score, even given the outmoded G3 processor, the PowerForce G3/500 did a good job of holding its own against the younger PowerForce G4/500. The ZoneBench 2000 Processor score is a combination of both applications that can take advantage of G4 processors and those that cannot. Of course if you are making heavy use of the kinds of multimedia applications that the G4 was designed for, you don't want to even consider getting a G3 upgrade over a G4 one.

Upgrading the processor of your machine will do almost nothing to improve your drive performance - you will need to improve your drive subsystem to do that. And will not give you much better graphics performance, including gaming performance - you will need a better graphics card to achieve this. Upgrading your processor will give you much better data crunching performance, and you will find that sluggish application performance will be much improved.

The PowerForce upgrade was completely stable and we has zero problems with it.

Our ZoneBench Processor scores for the PowerForce card and the configurations we compared it to are as follows:
Beige G3/266/133/512K (test machine) 76
Blue & White G3/350 100
iMac G3/500/500/256 122.4
PowerLogix PowerForce G3/500/250/1MB 135.4
PowerLogix PowerForce G4/500/250/1MB 144

Conclusions

In the middle of this review we were made aware that PowerLogix will no longer be making G3 processor upgrades for ZIF based machines - only G4 ones. But this review is not completely moot as we provide results below for the PowerForce G4 as well.

You may be able to pick a few remaining cards at places like the Outpost, and you can look for them on ebay as well.

In general the PowerForce G3/500 performed well. If you don't run the type of applications that benefit from a G4, a G3 will do quite well. Unfortunately you'll have trouble getting your hands on the one reviewed here. Sonnet continues to make a G3 upgrade card for ZIF based machines, as does XLR8, but they too soon may join the PowerForce on the silicon scrap heap.

If, on a regular basis, you use those applications that will show a significant performance improvement in the G4 environment, or if you are planning to upgrade to OS X sometime in the future, you really should consider a G4. The G4 is definitely the wave of the future for ZIF based machines.

Post your comments or questions about this article/upgrade card in our PowerLogix discussion forum.



Product: PowerForce G3/500/250/1MB
Company: PowerLogix
Rating:  (out of a possible 5)   Additional reviews of this upgrade

Hits: Good performance, excellent stability, easy installation, cheaper than a G4 upgrade

Misses: Minimalist manual, you must manually set the jumper setting

SRP: $350 .... Check prices at : ebay ... Outpost.com icon



"Real World" Tests

The tests below are from our suite of real world application tests. These tests feature a diverse selection of applications commonly used by the Mac community. The test suite was designed to render an accurate and well rounded picture of performance. Click here for detailed information on each test and our machine's configuration. All of the tests below (with the exception of the Quake III & Cinebench 2000 tests) were timed with a stopwatch. The times are then converted to percentages relative to our base Blue & White G3/350 machine which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better. Absolute scores for most tests can be found below this section. Our test machine was a beige G3/266 with 256 MB of RAM and running OS 9.1

ZoneBench 2000 vs 2.0 Processor Score

The reason that the iMac has a lower score above is because of the lack of a backside cache. In tests that do not rely on raw processing power alone, the iMac will run rings around the other systems above.

Finder Tests

 

As you can see there is little improvement in drive performance shown in the two scores above

AppleWorks 6 Tests

The better graphics subsystems is what is driving the higher scores of the iMac and Blue &White

A big backside cache makes a lot of difference. The PowerForce G4 was hurt here because certain settings we had to make to achieve stability, made the backside cache less efficient. When this particular setting was turned off the G4 card received a score of 159

Quake III Tests
Actual frame rates for all configurations listed below this section.

 

As the two results above show, if you are into gaming you want a fast graphics card ... before you get a processor upgrade

Photoshop 6 & Other Data Crunching Tests

 

The G4 wins this test hands down

However not all functions of Photoshop take advantage of the G4

Pure raw data processing puts the PowerForce G3 in good company

Again this test responds well to the G4 processor

Both processor and graphics card performance are at play here. The G4 card is again hurt because of the write-through setting we had to make to achieve stability

Encoding/Decoding Tests

I think that this results speaks for itself and is a fitting testimonial for the G4's potential

Again the G4 shines but the G3 PowerForce almost turns in a doubling of performance over our test machine

 

- Type Cooling System Variable/Fixed Clock Rate Tech Support Warranty Price Information
PowerLogix
PowerForce G3/500/250/1MB
ZIF Heat Sink Variable Toll Free Phone
(888) 769-9020
E-mail
3 Years : ebay
Outpost.com



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