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Review: Newer Tech's MAXpowr G4/400 ZIF
G4 CPU Upgrade for AIO/Beige/B&W G3s
By Mike
Published: 12/10/99
Newer Tech's Software Control Delivers Better than Average G4 Performance
Intro | Benchmarks | Appl. Tests | Software Controls | Installation | Specs/Design | Summary
Introduction

Update: This article was written in Dec. 1999 and quotes system and upgrade pricing from that date. As noted on the 12/24/2000 news page, site sponsor Other World Computing has a limited time $299.95 Holiday special on the MAXPowr G4/400 ZIF at the site specials page.

Newer Technologies 's MAXpowr G4 ZIF upgrade allows Beige and B&W G3s to upgrade to the same CPU as in Apple's latest systems. Although the suggested list price is $799 as of this review date, my tests show it provides performance similar to a new G4 Sawtooth Mac in many applications. It certainly would exceed the $1599 G4/350 model in any application. A G4/400 CPU upgrade comes surprisingly close to the Apple G4/450 system performance in most applications and that system currently sells for approximately $2900. (I'll cover the 'Upgrade vs. New System' question on the summary page of the review.)

Newer Tech's cache control/extension is the key reason this G4/400 upgrade slightly outperformed the XLR8 G4/400 previously reviewed in many tests. Both upgrades were tested using the latest beta software from each company. (In case you're wondering - no, you can't use Newer's software on another brand of G4 upgrade. More information on this is listed on the Software Controls page of the review.)

Note for Beige G3 Owners: You should read this FAQ note on VRM (Voltage Regulator Modules) to make sure they do not have the "Royal" brand VRM which Newer Tech says can damage G4 CPU Upgrades in Beige G3s.


About G4 CPU Performance:
As mentioned in my previous G4 reviews, without software that takes advantage of the Altivec core, a G4 runs applications no faster than a G3 CPU of the same speed (all other factors being equal). This is clearly shown on the Applications Tests page of this review. Despite the faster FPU of the G4 and running OS 9 with its (limited) Altivec support, in some cases the G4 was actually a tiny bit  slower than a G3 CPU in older applications that didn't utilize Altivec. (This was consistently shown in repeated tests.) I have repeated this comment many times as I do not want buyers of G4 upgrades or systems to be disappointed that many of their existing applications don't run faster than a G3 of the same speed. Sometimes the marketing claims on the G4 leave the impression that  all programs will show dramatic gains over previous CPUs, and that simply is not true. Buy a G4 upgrade or system for the benefits you will see with Altivec supporting applications.

(Update: Although not shown in this review, I later tested G4s vs G3s using iMovie; timing now long it takes to complete the export/output to a Quicktime Movie. A G4 is almost twice as fast at this task as the same speed G3. If you do a lot of video compression or output of DV to Quicktime movies, a G4 CPU can pay for itself fairly quickly.)


What Applications Benefit from Altivec?
As far as mainstream commercial applications, SoundJam MP and Photoshop 5.5 (with Adobe's Altivec extensions) both do show a marked advantage with the G4 CPU. In retests with the latest release of the Adobe Photoshop 5.5 Altivec extensions, I saw increases of up to 4x on some filter operations - very impressive gains from the same speed CPU.

SoundJam MP showed an appx. 50% boost from the G4 over the same speed G3 CPU. Even the latest OpenGL 1.1.2 contains some Altivec optimizations and more applications should follow suit in the future. Much of the G4's power remains untapped with today's software that doesn't use Altivec extensions (currently that's about 99% of available titles). The potential for graphics applications is seen in tests like G4Timedemo that show nearly double the performance with a G4 CPU over the same speed G3. Results with all these programs and more are shown on the Applications Performance page of this review.

About OS 9 and G4 Upgrades: [NOTE: This review was written long before OS 9.1 was released - OS 9.1 does not have the extensions below (doesn't need them) and will remove them if they exist during an OS 9.1 update. For see this related article on OS 9.1.] As noted on my Nov 13th 1999 weekend news page and in the previous XLR8 G4/400 ZIF review, if you install OS 9 on a G4 CPU upgraded Mac, the 4 OS 9 Altivec extensions are not normally installed. (Note: These 4 extensions are only a part of OS 9.0 and OS 9.04 - not OS 9.1) These 4 extensions are:

  • vBasicOps
  • vBigNum
  • vectorOps
  • vMathLib

Although I'm told that selecting a customized OS 9 install and choosing a Universal OS 9 installation will install them, a better way may be using Tome Viewer to extract specific files from the installer. Point Tome Viewer at Mac OS 9:Software Installers:System Software:Mac OS 9 Additions:Tome.

As a matter of fact, OS 8.6 delivered better applications performance than OS 9 on every system I've seen so far. OS 9 provides a lot of new features, but if you don't need or use them, previous OS versions seem to provide better application performance in general. TCP/IP performance however is said to be much improved in OS 9, as is stability. From what I've read, OS 8.6 or later is required for Altivec support, although I did run OS 8.1 on the Genesis with a prototype G4 upgrade last August.


As with all my reviews, I include other systems and upgrades for comparison. In this review the Newer Tech MAXpowr G4 is compared to the stock B&W G3/400 (before the upgrade), an XLR8's G4 ZIF upgrade and an Apple G4/450 (AGP) system.


Review Tests/Ratings:

  1. BenchMark Performance: Includes MacBench 5.0, G4Timedemo, Memory Bench, Stream, and GaugePro. Although I'm no fan of Bytemark DR/3, results with it are not shown due to a G4 compatibility issue with the program (scores of 0).
  2. Applications Performance: How the upgrade performed in real world CPU intensive tests like Photoshop 5.5, SoundJam MP, Infini-D, After Effects, Bryce 2, and demanding 3D games.
  3. Software Controls: Ease of use and features of the supplied control software.
  4. Installation: This page has a complete illustrated guide to software and hardware installation. Includes information on the B&W G3 Firmware Updater (removes G4 block). This page was published earlier this month as a guide to ZIF upgrades in the B&W G3.
  5. Specs/Design: Features and details on the hardware design. Includes package contents and compatibility information.
  6. Summary: Final comments, summary and pricing/availability.


Compatibility:

The MAXpowr G4 ZIF is listed as compatible with the following Mac models:

  • Apple Blue and White (B&W) G3 (tested here)
  • Apple Beige G3

Although it's not listed on Newer Technologies product page, I suspect that the Apple All-in-One (AIO) Mac might also compatible.

I know readers will ask, but I've not verified compatibility with XLR8's or PowerLogix's ZIF socketed base cards yet, which would allow using this ZIF module in older CPU card slot Macs. (Note however that no G4 upgrade is compatible with PowerCenter/Pro and PowerTower models and other Catalyst motherboard based Macs.)



B&W G3 Firmware Notes:

As most readers know, the 1.1 Firmware update prevents a G4 CPU from working in a B&W G3 (proven here back in August, 1999). Newer Tech supplies a firmware updater that removes the G4 CPU block. Newer Tech's G4 was also fully compatible with the XLR8 firmware patch I had previously applied to my B&W G3s for the G4/400Z review last month.

Test System Hardware Summary

  • Apple B&W G3
  • Firmware v1.1f4 (Patched to remove G4 CPU block)
  • 256MB SDRAM (322 clock dimms)
  • Stock 6GB IDE hard drive (5400 rpm, 512KB cache)
  • 32x CDROM drive (OEM)
  • ATI Rage128 rev2 graphics card in 66MHz PCI Slot
    (Rage 128 Orion retail card used for game tests)
  • All OS 9 Altivec extensions were enabled for G4 CPU tests
  • OS 9.0, VM off, QT 4.0.3 Pro, QD3D 1.6., OpenGL 1.1.2, [No Libmoto]
  • Initio BlueNote PCI SCSI card and SCSI Travan Tape drive used for Retrospect Tests
  • Apple G4/450 AGP (Sawtooth) Comparison System
  • 256MB SDRAM (222 clock matched dimms)
  • OEM 20GB Western Digital Expert ATA/66 Hard Drive (7200rpm, 2MB cache)
  • OEM DVD ROM drive
  • OEM ATI Rage128 (not Pro) AGP graphics card
  • All OS 9 Altivec extensions were enabled
  • OS 9.0, VM off, QT 4.0.3 Pro, QD3D 1.6., OpenGL 1.1.2, [No Libmoto]
  • Note: Speculative Processing is apparently disabled in the current Sawtooth G4 systems.

You can follow my preferred path through the review by continuing to the next page, or use the links below to jump to a specific page.

Index of Newer Tech G4 400MHz ZIF Review Pages

Intro | Benchmarks | Appl. Tests | Software Controls | Installation | Specs/Design | Summary

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