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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
Review Summary and Final Comments
Intro | Benchmarks | Appl. Tests | Software Controls | Installation | Specs/Design | Summary
The Final Word

UPDATE: On 12/23/2000, Site sponsor Other World Computing has this MaxPowr G4/400 ZIF upgrade priced at $299.95. Supplies and pricing may change over time, as this is a holiday special. (The original review summary comments below were based on the original $799 list price.)

With this G4/400 MHz upgrade installed in my Blue and White, performance in most applications was near that of a new G4/450 system costing $2800+ (as of the review date). The results with Altivec software show the potential of the G4. Up to 4x improvements were seen in Altivec enhanced filters in Photoshop 5.5. As I noted on other pages of this review, a G4 is about twice as fast compressing video in iMovie (exporting/converting Digital Video to a Quicktime movie) 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. I'm eager to see more titles take advantage of the largely untapped potential of the new CPU.

= Newer Technology MAXpowr G4 400 ZIF =

Pros:

  • Easy to install.
  • Performed as well as more expensive new systems in many cases.
  • Good control software.
  • Better than average G4/400 MHz performance.
  • Altivec Photoshop 5.5 extensions dramatically improved some functions (as much as 4 times faster).

Cons:

  • Most applications don't currently use Altivec extensions. Without Altivec support, application performance is no better than G3 CPU upgrades that cost less.
  • G4 upgrades command a premium currently, about half the price of a new G4/350 system.

Upgrade vs. New System
Anytime an upgrade costs near 1/2 that of a new system (which often has more advanced features and faster system components, new interfaces and features, etc.) you have to consider your options carefully.

I include the Apple G4 AGP system performance in all my G4 upgrade reviews since I know many Mac owners want to know how upgrades compare to a new system. Keep in mind the Apple G4/450 system used for comparison in this review currently costs almost $2900 at the Apple Store. An Apple G4/400 128MB/20GB/DVD/ZIP/56K system lists for $2499. It would have been preferable to have a 400MHz G4 Apple system for a direct MHz/MHz comparison. But as shown in the review tests, in most cases a G4/400 upgrade in a B&W G3 does very well against the 450MHz Sawtooth. Normalizing the 450MHz results was considered, but often there isn't a linear relationship of application performance to clock speed.

Granted the new Apple Sawtooth G4 systems have an AGP slot, Rage128 Pro (recently) graphics card, Airport compatibility, ATA/66 and an additional  internal Firewire port. However many owners of Firewire equipped Macs comment they've not used Firewire at all yet. Most owners are waiting until there is a wider selection of Firewire devices available at more reasonable prices.

If you've already upgraded your video card and hard drive, the money saved by upgrading instead of buying a new system may be put to better use down the road when faster models are released.

In general, the older your Mac is, the more attractive a new system becomes since you'd be gaining many improved system features (faster CPU, video, hard drive, DVD, IDE, USB, Firewire, etc.) rather than just a CPU speed boost. You'll also get the new Apple case design which has easy access to system components (a far cry from case designs like the 8500/9500 and many other older Macs). For example, this is why a $800 G4 upgrade for a Nubus Mac would make little sense, considering the total system performance limits of that older design.

The point I'm making is to consider all the pros, cons and benefits for you personally before making an upgrade or new system purchase decision. If you own a very old Mac, the new system is almost always a better value than a costly CPU upgrade. Always total the cost of updates (CPU, video, RAM, etc.), add in the price you could (realistically) get for the old Mac, and then see what that total dollar amount would buy you in a new, used or refurbished Mac.

The new G4 AGP systems also seem to have some current compatibility issues with certain PCI cards (for instance the Initio SCSI Cards -see the Apple G4 section of my FAQ for details). These will be addressed in firmware updates to PCI cards soon however.

If you really must have a G4 CPU right now or are a heavy user of Photoshop, then a G4 upgrade may be a cost effective alternative to a new system. As shown in my tests, the G4 upgrades compare well to even a higher speed (MHz) new model in many tests. If you don't use Photoshop or your primary applications are not Altivec enabled, then a G3 CPU upgrade may be a better value. Often a 500MHz G3 upgrade can be had for the price of a 400MHz G4 and is faster in non-Altivec apps.



Availability/Pricing:

UPDATE: On 12/23/2000, Site sponsor Other World Computing has this MaxPowr G4/400 ZIF upgrade priced at $299.95. Supplies and pricing may change over time, as this is a holiday special.

Since CPU upgrade pricing changes often, always check with Newer Tech and their dealers for current prices. As of December 10, 1999, the MAXpwr G4 400 ZIF was not generally available at retail but should be very soon. Newer Tech's MAXpowr G4 ZIF product page currently lists a street price of $799.

Many upgrade dealers offer return periods, but since policies vary be sure to check this before you order should any problems arise. I've usually found smaller, more personal dealers are far better to deal with in this regard than the large catalog and web stores (with some exceptions I'm sure).

Mention this site if you order from sponsors. I'm working day and night to provide free tech support and the best product reviews possible for Mac owners (and have since 1997 :-). Your support is appreciated and makes the continued existence of this site possible.


I hope this review has provided you with sufficient information on all aspects of the product, but if you have any further questions or comments you may contact me by email at: news@xlr8yourmac.com.

For reviews of other CPU upgrades at this site, see my CPU Upgrades page. The home page (www.xlr8yourmac.com) has links to reviews of Systems, SCSI controllers, Video cards (incl. 3Dfx), Game related articles, a 500+ Questions Answered FAQ and some of the most useful daily news on the net (updated 6-7 days a week).

Also check out my unique searchable databases of reader's CPU Upgrade Reports (2700+ reports as of Dec 99), Game Reviews and Video card/Game Performance. No other site has these features. Thanks for stopping by!


Index of Newer Tech G4 400MHz ZIF Review

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

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