Top-of-the-G3-Line Processor Upgrades

SAN FRANCISCO (07/05/2000) - Apple Computer Inc. has moved on -- from beige to blue to the latest graphite-and-white G4 systems -- but you and your older Power Mac G3 may not be prepared to follow. If a new Power Mac G4, or even a G4 processor upgrade for your beige or blue-and-white Power Mac G3, would bust your budget, consider a less-expensive G3 upgrade. Macworld Lab tested four 500MHz G3 accelerators -- Newer Technology Inc.'s Maxpowr G3-G3, PowerLogix's PowerForce G3, Sonnet Technologies' Encore G3, and XLR8's Mach Carrier G3 -- and found that, once again, our test results favored the Newer accelerator by a very slight margin.

All of the cards except for XLR8's Mach Carrier G3 install in the Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) sockets of the desktop and minitower beige Power Mac G3, all-in-one G3, and blue-and-white Power Mac G3. Although we received XLR8's 500MHz G3 processor bundled with the CarrierZIF Upgrade Adapter, you can get the processor-only Mach Speed G3z for US$50 less.

Installation is a simple affair with all four cards. The Newer, PowerLogix, and XLR8 upgrades come with some kind of driver and control panel for configuring their backside-cache speed. The Sonnet upgrade doesn't require additional software, but you also can't configure it. After installing the software for those upgrades that require it, you simply swap the old processor for the new one. Newer's and Sonnet's manuals offer the clearest instructions for installing the card.

There's very little real-world difference between these upgrades. Each of the four accelerators runs at 500MHz and carries a 1MB backside cache, so it's not surprising that they all yielded similar results. The Newer upgrade produced the best scores, with the PowerLogix and XLR8 cards close on its heels. The Sonnet accelerator consistently lagged behind the other three. All four significantly outperformed a 350MHz blue-and-white Power Mac G3.

Those who wish to overclock the processors will find the difference between upgrades most apparent. XLR8 provides extensive charts for setting jumpers and switches to increase processor speed. The PowerLogix card sports a dial for this purpose but offers fewer settings. Newer provides no information for overclocking its upgrades via the four DIP switches, while Sonnet actually prevents you from changing the processor speed.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Given its relatively low price and slightly better performance, we favor Newer Technology's Maxpowr G3-G3. The PowerLogix PowerForce G3 performs nearly as well but is a bit more expensive. If XLR8 offered its highly configurable 500MHz Mach Carrier G3 (or Mach Speed G3z) upgrade at a lower price, it would be worth a look. The Sonnet Encore G3, although it's the easiest to install and the least expensive, is our last pick due to its slow speed and lack of software and hardware configuration options.

Encore G3

RATING: 3.0 mice

PROS: Least expensive; completely plug-and-play.

CONS: Slower than its rivals; not configurable.

COMPANY: Sonnet Technologies (800/786-6260, http://www.sonnettech.com).

COMPANY'S

ESTIMATED PRICE: $500.

Mach Carrier G3

RATING: 3.5 mice

PROS: Fast; configurable.

CONS: Expensive.

COMPANY: XLR8 (770/564-5682, http://www.xlr8.com). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $779.

Maxpowr G3-G3

RATING: 4.0 mice

PROS: Fast; competitively priced.

CONS: Difficult to overclock.

COMPANY: Newer Technology (316/943-0222, http://www.newertech.com). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $549.

PowerForce G3

RATING: 3.5 mice

PROS: Fast.

CONS: Expensive.

COMPANY: PowerLogix (877/849-2504, http://www.powerlogix.com). COMPANY'S ESTIMATED PRICE: $590.

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