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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
*Real World* Performance Tests
Intro | Benchmarks | Appl. Tests | Software Controls | Installation | Specs/Design | Summary
Applications and Game Performance
This page lists test results in common Mac applications like Photoshop 5.5, SoundJam MP, Word98, Bryce 2, Infini-D 4.01, After Effects 3.1, Premiere 4.2.1 and many popular 3D games like Quake1, Quake2, Q3test and Unreal. As always, a clean reboot was performed before running each test. All but the Word 98 and Premiere movie tests used the application's built-in timing function to eliminate human error variations (starting/stopping stopwatch).

Note: As I mentioned on the intro page, 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, one of the most impressive gains from a G4 I have seen. If you spend a lot of time doing video compression or output of DV to Quicktime movies, a G4 CPU can nearly cut times in half compared to a G3 cpu of the same speed, in the same system.

SoundJam MP 1.11 MP3 Encoding Tests
Casaday & Green's SoundJam MP 1.11 features Altivec support that shows a sample of what gains can be had from use of the G4's unique instruction set. Since the Apple G4/AGP system had a DVD drive and the B&W G3 system had a 32X CDROM drive, I also tested times to convert a song to MP3 format from the hard drive (removing the CDrom drive as a factor). The hard drive file was an AIFF format of the same 5 minute, 46 second song file used in the test of CD to MP3 encoding. In these tests, a G4 CPU was from 48 to 56% faster than a G3 CPU of the same speed.

The Newer Tech G4/400 was slightly faster at encoding MP3 from CDrom than the XLR8 G4. Times to encode an AIFF file from the hard drive were literally identical. BTW: The DVD drive from my original (January 1999) B&W G3 was much slower than the 32X CDROM drive from a rev 2 B&W G3 at audio extraction.

I saw occasional glitches with SoundJam MP 1.1.1 and G4 upgrades, but they were not repeatable except for the flashing play button when the cursor is moved over it. Once after encoding a file pressing the Equalizer button "On" produced audio distortion and interface glitches, but retests after a reboot didn't show the problem and it was not a consistently repeatable one.

Photoshop 5.5 Tests:
I also ran a complete PS5Bench (21 filter test) series using Photoshop v5.5 with the Altivec extensions (active for G4 CPUs only). PSBench settings are 1024x768, millions colors, VM off, Interpolation set to bicubic (better) and Photoshop should be allocated enough RAM to avoid any swap file activity from the 10MB test image filter actions. (I allocated 140MB to Photoshop 5.5 for this review.)

Unlike my past PSBench tests, to eliminate swap file/disk activity I saw even with a 10MB image file and 140MB of RAM allocated to Photoshop, I set Photoshop 5.5's 'History' settings from the default 20 to 1 and unchecked the 'automatically create snapshot' option. This dramatically lowered the filter times and removed all signs of disk activity during the filter tests (each filter is run 3 times during the test). Photoshop 5.5 showed much higher PSBench times without these changes than what I saw with Photoshop 5.02 from previous tests. v5.5 seemed to hit the scratch disk much more quickly than I'd seen with previous versions, at least with the default history settings.

Altivec Extensions Note: All G4 CPU tests had the 4 OS 9 Altivec extensions active as well as the Adobe current release of the Altivec Core and Lighting Effects Filter that were just updated today. I originally had used the initial versions that shipped with the Apple G4 systems, but I retested all G4s except the XLR8 G4/450 (as noted) and updated the table below. The update fixed a distortion filters bug and promises increased performance on some functions. The most improved filter performance I saw in the new release was Lighting Effects (about 13% faster than the original version).

I've included results with an AMD Athlon 600MHz CPU based system running Windows 98. Unlike the Pentium III and G4, there is no support in Photoshop 5.5 for AMD's Altivec/PIII-like enhanced instruction set (called 3DNow!), but it still does well in many filter tests using brute force alone (triple superscalar FPU engine, highly pipelined design and 600MHz clock speed).

The Altivec Gain column notes how many times faster the G4 CPU upgrade was with the Altivec extensions active. The total time for the 21 filter tests shows only a small gain due to the fact many of the filters were not affected by Altivec including those that took by far the longest times to complete. Notice the almost 3.5x faster Lighting Effects filter performance however. At the same CPU clock speed a 3.5 times increase in performance is very impressive - which shows the performance potential of Altivec instructions.

Filter Altivec Gain
of Altivec
Newer Tech G4/400
(in B&W G3)
XLR8 G4/400Z
(in B&W G3)
B&W G3/400 Apple G4/450 AGP XLR8 G4/450Z
(in B&W G3)
Athlon 600MHz
Rotate 90° CW 2x 0.3 0.3 0.8 0.3 0.3 0.3
Rotate 9° CW 1.2x 2.5 2.6 3 2.3 2.3 2.2
Rotate .9° CW 1.22x 2.3 2.4 2.8 2.2 2.2 2.1
1 pix Gaus. Blur 2x 0.7 0.7 1.4 0.5 0.7 0.6
3.7 pix Gaus. Blur 1.53x 1.9 2.1 3.3 1.6 1.9 2.2
85 pix Gaus. Blur 1.46x 2.4 2.6 4.3 1.9 2.4 4.2
Unsharp Mask
50%/1pix/0 level
1.5x 1.0 1.0 1.7 0.8 0.9 0.7
Unsharp Mask
50%/3.7pix/0 level
1.35x 2.3 2.4 3.7 1.9 2.2 2.3
Unsharp Mask 50%/10pix/5 level 1.39x 2.3 2.5 3.7 1.9 2.3 2.6
Despeckle 2.18x 1.1 1.1 2.5 0.8 0.9 2.0
RGB-CYMK None 5.0 5.0 5.1 4.7 4.5 4.2
Reduce 60% 2.4x 0.5 0.6 1.3 0.5 0.5 1.1
Lens Flare None 4.3 4.4 4.4 3.8 4.0 3.3
Color Halftone None 3.9 3.9 3.9 3.4 3.5 5.0
NTSC Colors None 4.2 4.4 4.2 3.9 3.9 4.7
Accented Edges None 11.0 11.2 11.3 10.2 9.9 12.5
Pointillize None 15.8 15.8 15.9 14.5 14.1 13.8
Water Colors None 23.0 23.4 23.6 21.7 20.8 25.7
Polar Coordinates 1.43x 3.7 3.8 5.4 3.3 3.5 7.2
Radial Blur None 35.9 35.9 36.2 34.6 32.1 35.8
Lighting Effects 4.05x 2.2 2.3 9.3 2.0 2.5 6.2
Total Time (1.13x) 126.3 128.4 147.8 116.8 115.4 138.7
System Altivec Gain
Newer Tech G4/400
(in B&W G3)
XLR8 G4/400Z
(in B&W G3)
B&W G3/400 Apple G4/450 AGP XLR8 G4/450Z
(in B&W G3)
Athlon 600MHz

** XLR8 G4/450 Upgrade results from original release of Altivec extensions. (Retest not performed yet)

The Altivec extensions showed dramatic gains in some filters (blurs, scaling and lighting effects). When looking at the results above, consider which filters you use most often when determining how much a G4/altivec upgrade will benefit you. The overall time is of less importance if the series above includes many filters you rarely use. Weigh the gains from those that you use most often.

Interesting is that a G4/450 upgrade is slightly faster than the Apple G4/450 AGP system (and expect slightly better scores when it's retested with the latest Altivec extensions release). Although 150MHz-200MHz faster in clock speed (up to a 50% advantage), the 600MHz Athlon system trails all but the stock B&W G3/400 in this test. If Photoshop had 3DNow support, the Athlon would have performed better, at least on filters that supported its 3DNow extensions.

Word 98 Tests
I ran several tests in Microsoft Word 98 using the MacBench 4.0 doc file (203 pages, 50.9K words) which contains a good mix of font sizes, etc. The G4 gain was very small in these tests as shown in the table below. I didn't have Office 98 installed on the Apple G4/450 system so therefore it the table shows only a MHz/MHz comparison of the G4/400 vs G3/400 in the same B&W system.

All times are in seconds rounded to one decimal place. Remember these tests were timed with a stopwatch, so there differences of 1/2 a second or so can result from variations in starting and stopping the stopwatch for each run. Only Word and the Premiere tests required stopwatch timing, all other results here used the application's built-in timing feature.

The G4 gain shows an approximate benefit from the Newer Tech G4 and XLR8 G4 over the stock G3/400 CPU.

Word 98 Test Newer
XLR8 G4/400Z B&W G3/400 G4 Gain
Scroll Down 11.6 11.6 12.1 4%
Scroll Up 11.5 11.5 11.8 3%
Word Count 1.8 1.9 2.0 10%
Summarize 56.1 56.8 56.9 Nil

I included this to satisfy some reader's curiosity, as generally you don't buy a CPU upgrade to speed up a word processor (which most often is waiting on you during typical use).

Infini-D 4.01 Tests

Infini-D 4.01 does not use Altivec extensions, but is a common application I have used for comparisons of CPU/FPU performance. I used the same 'Chapter 7 completed' tutorial scene file from my past reviews. Rendering quality was set to Ray Trace, medium anti-aliasing, shadows on, patch detail low. I didn't change the default QT movie output file options.

The graph below shows times to complete the 150 frame movie (10.6MB) rendering with the stock B&W G3/400, the same system with the MAXpowr G4/400 upgrade, an XLR8 G4/400, G4/450MHz and an Apple G4/450 AGP (Sawtooth) system, all running OS 9. Infini-D was allocated 40MB of RAM for the tests. OS 9 and its 4 Altivec extensions were used for all G4 tests.

Note the G3/400 is slightly faster than the G4 CPUs of the same speed in this test. Another interesting note was that the G4/450 AGP Sawtooth system finished this same test more than 2 minutes faster with OS 8.6 than with OS 9.

Just an in my August tests with a G4/400 upgrade in a Genesis system, in this test a G4 CPU was a bit slower than a G3 of the same speed (proven in repeated testing). If Infini-D 4 used Altivec I'm sure the results would have been a far different story.

Bryce 2 Tests

Bryce 2 testings used the samples scenes in the KAI folder called "Magical Knight I" and "Alexandria II". Bryce 2 was left at the default memory allocation of 16980k, antialiasing was on, screen resolution was set to 1024x768, thousands colors.

It's interesting that the Newer G4/400 produced the *exact* same times as the Sawtooth G4/450, perhaps due to speculative processing being disabled by default on the Sawtooth. There's only a few seconds difference between most configurations except for the 450MHz G4 upgrade.

Again a G3 CPU of the same speed does just as well (a second or two faster) as a G4 CPU. Bryce2 does not take advantage of Altivec extensions of course (but neither does most applications you're using today). Perhaps there is something in the Bryce2 and Infini-D 4 code that is better suited to a G3 rather than a G4 or there is some errata or register settings on the G4 that are affecting these results. It makes no sense that a G4 would be even slightly slower than a G3, but after over a dozen repeats of these tests I know it to be true in this case with these programs. Later versions may show different results.

Adobe Premiere 4.2.1 Tests
The following is a chart showing the time to produce a Quicktime movie from the "Sample Project" file (duration set to the full length of the project file). Output file settings were: Video codec (max quality), 320x240, 15 FPS, keyframe every 5 frames, 22KHz/16-Bit stereo audio.

Note: Unlike the other applications tests here that have their own timing function (eliminating human error), this test required a stopwatch to record times. There could be a 1/2 second or so reaction time variation for starting and stopping the stopwatch between runs.

After Effects 3.1 Tests
The following is a chart showing the time to render a special effects movie (appx. 8MB file size) in After Effects 3.1. Resolution was set to 1024x768, thousands colors as was common on all but the Photoshop 5.5 tests.

Note: As shown in my MAChCarrier G3/500 review, under OS 8.6 a Genesis system with that upgrade running 500/250/50 completed this same test in under 3 minutes.

Game Performance Tests:

Tests were done in Rave Quake, Quake2, Q3test 1.08 and Unreal v224b7. All systems were running OS 9 and OpenGL 1.1.2. The G4 CPUs had OS 9's Altivec extensions active. The Rage128 Orion in the B&W G3 (used for the G4 upgrades) was installed in the 66MHz PCI slot. The Apple G4/450 system used an OEM Rage128 AGP card. To see how faster video cards like the Voodoo3 performs, see my Mac 3D Card Roundup for search my Mac Game/Video Card Framerate database. Although the Voodoo3 has no Quicktime acceleration and is not as fast at 2D graphics, in OpenGL games at 1024x768 mode it is normally twice as fast as the Rage128. For gamers the Voodoo3 is a very cost-effective way to improve performance, but remember that adequate RAM (128MB recommended) is also needed with the latest crop of OpenGL games for best performance.

Since the Rage128 graphics card is clearly the bottleneck at 1024x768 mode (fill rate limited), the 640x480 scores are better indicators of the CPU's role in performance, but it's still possible the card is being saturated with data even at that mode. In most games the 66MHz PCI slot Rage128 performs about as well as the AGP version, except for Quake II, where the AGP card was significantly faster at 640x480. (At higher resolutions the Rage128 chip runs out of steam.)

RAVE Quake v1.09: Quake 1 is getting long in the tooth now, but it's still fairly popular, especially for those without a strong system since its far less demanding than most recent 3D first person games. As is normal with all my reviews, Flames, Shadows and Filtering were enabled in the video options. Also remember Quake1 does not make resolution changes until you exit and restart the game.

Quake 2: All tests used the latest OpenGL 1.1.2 (Final Release). Graphics settings in the game were :

  • 16-bit color
  • Max Texture Quality
  • No Sync Every Frame
  • No CD Audio
  • Full Screen

Q3Test 1.08: I used Q3Test v1.08 for all tests. Graphics settings in the game were :

  • 16-bit color
  • Lightmap lighting
  • Geometric detail high
  • Texture quality 16-bit
  • Texture detail 1 notch from max
  • Texture filter - bilinear

Unreal 224B7: The table below summarizes results from the 3rd cycle Timedemo of the 'Castle flyby' scene. (All tests used the same detail settings - see my FPS Database entry page to download Unreal.ini files for RAVE and 3dfx cards.)

All these systems/upgrades performed very closely. You'd never 'see' the small difference in these framerates in actual use. Bottom line is a CPU upgrade can provide you with literally the same performance as a new G4 system.

Overall applications and game performance was very good, comparing well against an Apple G4/450 Sawtooth system in most of these tests and often a bit faster than the XLR8 G4/400 due to the Newer Tech control software.

For non-Altivec enhanced applications, don't expect any real gain from a G4 CPU compared to a G3 of the same speed however. For those applications that do support Altivec, significant gains are possible as shown in the results above. Hopefully more programs will be updated to take advantage of Altivec extensions in the near future as much of its potential is untapped today.

For 3D games, the fill rate limits of the Rage128 chip usually hampers higher resolution performance. If you want the best game performance, a 3Dfx Voodoo3 card is currently a better choice (delivering up to twice the framerates at 1024x768 mode as any other Mac card to date). At the present time you have to flash the ROM of a PC version and not all games are Voodoo3 compatible; so check my site for details before deciding if the Voodoo3 card is a good fit for you .

The next page describes the software cache control supplied with the card. Or you may use the links below to jump to a specific page.

Index of Newer Tech G4 400MHz ZIF Review

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

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