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Daystar Powerbook G4 CPU Upgrade reviewReturn to News Page

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Review of Daystar G4 1.92GHz CPU Upgrade for PowerBook G4
Posted: 3/17/2006
Updated 3/20/2006 for a 2nd report
Updated 4/11/2006 for Daystar replies (and rebuttal)
Updated 5/16/2006 for Daystar comment/status update
Updated 7/17/2006 for another user review



(from a reader's Rate Your CPU Upgrade db report, mirrored here)

CPU Upgrade: Daystar G4 1.92GHz upgrade for PowerBook G4
System: 2003 AL PowerBook G4 15.2", 1.25GHz (originally)
Rated: 7 (out of 10)

I bought this powerbook new in Nov. of 2003. I upgraded it to 2GB RAM (TransIntl) and the rest is all stock, even using the original HD. The screen back then had the infamous white spots which was then replaced under warranty. The system has been rock solid with virtually zero issues. I have 10.3.9 OS on it and it runs very good.

In short, the only thing I desired was more speed so when I saw the announcement from Daystar that they now offered an upgrade for Al PowerBooks I decided to go for it. Jumping from the 1.25GHz speed to 1.92GHz would be over 50% boost in clock speed. I figured this would be very significant. Daystar also claimed that the cpu would run the same or cooler so battery life would be the same or better. I actually emailed them to verify that this was indeed true and was told it was the case. The 7447A cpus ran cooler than the older G4.

I sent my laptop to them, the process of shipping was straight forward. I cloned my HD over to two different external HDs before shipping, just in case. Daystar had some issues getting it all like it should be so instead of the 3-4 days of rework then returned it was over a week. Daystar received the laptop on a Tuesday but it wasn't shipped until the next Thursday. Stuff happens so I can understand but was a little frustrated it was taking so long. To their credit, Daystar paid for overnight shipping which was appreciated.

Laptop arrived back and I booted right away. Things seemed to be working fine but in the first 30 minutes or so I had a kernal panic. I have never seen that on this laptop. It also seemed to be running hotter than before. Then I started checking apps. Games were significantly faster and much smoother. I have used the laptop in the past to play Halo, UT04 and WoW along with other less demanding games and while playable none of them were silky smooth. Now they were much faster, I'd guess around 30%+ higher fps. I didn't keep exact numbers before or after but just what I get from watching the fps while playing.

For work I must have VirtualPC so I booted that up and then more problems appeared. VPC was giving me very unusual errors when booting and once booted I couldn't get online within VPC. So I tried checking everything by booting from one of the external HDs with my backup on it. VPC then worked fine and everything else was normal too. About the only difference was that Apple System Profiler no longer reported correct speed. Instead it reported 166MHz. (I'd ask Daystar if they installed a patch on the internal drive to correct ASP reporting-Mike)
Checking with RC5 and games I verified that the cpu was still running at 1.92GHz on 'Highest' and around 1GHz on 'Reduced'.
Since I needed VPC to work I cloned my backup back over. Things were good for several days but then I had a few more kernal panics while running on 'Highest'. One of them really screwed up VPC so I had to clone the backup over again. Finally when things were all set again I switched to keeping the speed on 'Reduced'. No kernal panics for over a week now but now it only runs about 1GHz, slower than before the upgrade but no fans too.

Complaints:

  • When the cpu is on 'Highest' the fans run A LOT. Before I had no fans unless running on 'Highest' AND running the cpu at 80% or more consistently. Now even doing casual stuff on highest can kick on the fans. It also seems to be hotter so using it on my lap is more uncomfortable. Using the app Temperature Monnitor it seems the cpu runs 5 - 10C hotter than before.
  • I am concern about stability when on full speed so I don't typically run it there since stability is more important to me than speed. I've wasted a lot of time cloning and testing because of kernal panics. This means that now I run slower than when it was stock as I NEVER had stability problems before.
  • I also discovered that my optical drive will not mount anything on the desktop. ASP seens the drive and if I run Disk Utility the drive and media shows up but nothing ever is accessable. Since I didn't test this when first returned I can't be sure the upgrade caused the problem but it has never been a problem before. I may have to do a new install but if I can't use the optical that is going to make it a tad hard to do a clean install.
  • Pros:

  • When running at full speed things are very fast. VPC is much, much faster and games are very smooth. Course, then the fans are on all the time but the speed is there. The stability might be a sensitivty to VPC on 'Highest' so I will test more playing WoW or UT04 (can't play Halo since CD will not mount) and see if there are any problems.
  • Cheaper than a new (old) G4 laptop and faster. Newer G4 laptop has better video, screen and faster RAM so it could come out 6's depending. Refurned 1.67GHz runs about $1,500 and 2GB RAM upgrade runs about $300 vs. the ~ $500 I spent on the upgrade.
  • Recommendation:
    If I had to do it again and knew what problems I would have I would not have done it. Instead I think I would have just bought a refurbed 1.67GHz G4 system. I need VPC so a new Intel based laptop is out of the question right now. (Note: The Windows XP boot loader and instructions for installing it on an Intel CPU Mac have been posted. (See 3/16/2006 news page.) A reader said it worked on his Intel CPU Mac (iMac) and was going to try a Macbook Pro Friday-Mike)

    In Daystar's defense, they have been responsive to questions and complaints I have given them. Most likely I will return the laptop and have them down clock the cpu to 1.83GHz. This will reduce heat some (and fan usage) and might resolve my stability issues. The speed lost is only 83MHz or ~4% slower, which shouldn't really be noticeable. Maybe they can also get the optical to work again.

    I am giving the rating a 7, which might seem high for the trouble but it is fast when on at full speed. My old stock cpu might have run cooler than typical (Daystar said it was) and so the fans running a lot more when set to 'Highest' might not be an issue for someone else. Daystar also has been responsive and will work to try and make me happy, which in this day of horrible customer service everywhere, is very much appreciated. They also returned the laptop with the screen just cleaned and everything very well packaged. Care was definately taken to return the laptop in the same or better condition than it was received. This was also noticed by me and appreciated.
    -Troy H.

    (I welcome feedback from other owners of this upgrade. -Mike. Here's another:)

    "I had this upgrade performed in the pre-release program. I have had a very mixed experience, partly due to some specific issues with my machine.

    I had serious heat issues when it first came back, with it overheating beyond the 75C thermal max, so had it returned to Daystar, who replaced the processor. It however continued to overheat.

    At 1.92ghz, the voltage is increased by 0.05V to 1.55V, which increases heat dissipation in itself by 5-10W irrespective of the clock increase which already increases heat dissipation. This means that, at full load, the processor gets up to 40W, which combined with the other power consuming elements of the computer takes the DC draw over and above the maximum for the power adapter. Under such circumstances, it draws power from the battery as well to make up the difference - obviously therefore, on batteries alone, the moment it gets under full load and energy saver allows the computer to run at full speed, the computer will simply switch off immediately.
    At 1.83ghz, the processor runs at the original 1.5V and does not have this issue most of the time, however the switch off happened to me out of the blue again after 2 weeks without problems. I e-mailed Gary at Daystar (who by the way is excellent to deal with, prompt with replies even in the middle of the night and certainly understanding of the irritation these issues can cause) and will let you know the outcome. They are planning to offer a low power option that runs at 1.7ghz/1.3V which is cooler than the original CPU.

    Anyway my complaint is really that they don't advertise these issues - it should be made clear that a processor running at 1.55V in a powerbook is drawing a lot more power than the system is designed to accommodate. The fans are able to dissipate the heat (though they run almost all the time at a higher speed than I'd ever heard them run), but the power adapter and battery are unable to supply the required power.

    (he later wrote)

    Further communication with Gary:

    The random shutting off running on batteries at 1.83Ghz is still due to excessive power draw. The maximum voltage that Apple shipped these machines at was 1.35V, and these processors are running at 1.5V for 1.83 and 1.55 for 1.92. At 1.83, under maximum load, the computer was dissipating 72W, far more than the battery is designed to handle. Running AltiVec fractal, after about 1 minute the system just gives up and dies. (was that shutdown due to overtemperature or excessive power draw?. Does the system log have any errors related to this?-Mike)

    I will be sending the machine back to Gary for a further reduction in clock speed and voltage. The exact setting is yet to be worked out.
    They can get 1.7Ghz at 1.3V, an even lower voltage than the Apple standard, however I have yet to find out what they can do with 1.35, 1.4 and 1.45.

    I'll keep you posted. To be honest, even with all of this I would still recommend the upgrade, however one has to realise the thermal and power limits of the machine, and be conservative with the clock speed. Unless the machine is never run off batteries, 1.92 is out of the question. 1.83 is a little flakey, but if you don't stress the machine on batteries, it will run fine. The 1.7Ghz 1.3V is actually an excellent deal, as you are increasing the speed of your machine, while reducing the power draw and heat dissipation.
    -Daniel "


    Gary at Daystar/XLR8 sent comments on these problems:

    " I have seen them and meant to drop you a line. Funny three issues, and two of them post on the site. We use Temperature Monitor to verify the temp, and ask that customers do the same if they have issues.

    In Troy's case (the VirtualPC), his version of VirtualPC has a virus. (Note/Update: See Troy's reply to this below - he said that several PC AV utilities do not show a virus on his Win2K install. Gary must have him mixed up with another customer as he's got the OS version wrong also.-Mike) He is running the old Connectix version which has issues. During the post-test we noticed the instability of XP and attempted to update to the Microsoft version and did so (no good deed goes unpunished). But due to a virus, which keeps the date back about a decade, the XP on his VPC will not update NAV or apply any of the security updates. (Note - Troy's reply says he's running Windows2000, not XP.-Mike) These problems existed before and after the upgrade.

    As far as temp? We ran at full 100% bore in house. Yes the fans do run any time the CPU is over 62c. The system never crossed 68c here during the 24 hour burn-in. We've seen over 200 PowerBook Aluminums via service and upgrades... I tend to question any comments that suggest "my fan never ran before the upgrade". Reviewing his paperwork, the difference before and after the upgrade was 5c via Temperature Monitor. That said, it is possible that his CPU is having post-service issues. We have offered for him to send it back for warranty repair if it is overheating.

    On Daniel's system. He wants to run full bore off of the battery. This is not possible at the 1.92 GHz. As discussed in our FAQs, the full speed setting when running at 100% CPU/AltiVec will intermittently spike to above 65 watts requiring both the battery and AC. If running under Battery, reduced speed (Best energy saving mode), the system runs at virtually the same power as the original, but about 35% faster in the same mode pre--upgrade. Also, this is the only complaint of this type on record.

    Daniel does run multiple high-capacity third party batteries, and keeps having unusual PMU issues, like the battery running down when in sleep mode. Since the CPU draws pretty much nil during sleep, I am curious how this is happening. He presumes it is the upgrade. We don't change the sleep power, but will look at it when/if he sends his system in.

    I should note that neither customer has sent their system back for repair/adjustment since their posts. (see reply below for comments on that from them-Mike)
    Best regards,
    Gary Dailey
    Daystar Technology "

    Update - Troy sent a reply to Gary's comments:

    "Mike... seeing Gary's comments make me want to add additional information and feedback now that I have had it back for over a month.

    On his comments about VPC, I cannot find any virus using several different virus programs (AVG, AdAware, McAfee) and all the virus programs update just fine. I don't know what he used to find a virus but these programs cannot. It is also Win 2000 Professional, not XP.

    On stability, I cannot get it stable at 1.92GHz. Just a few days ago I did a clean reboot and then quit all programs to run Carbon Copy Cloner. Came back after about a half hour and it had kernel panicked. I thought maybe it was just a weird VPC issue but I have had kernel panics at other times. Setting the Energy Saver to 'Automatic' does not help either. The only thing that keeps the PB rock solid like it was before is to always have the cpu speed on 'Reduced' or 1/2 clock speed. I have not had a single kernel panic will on Reduced but have had them on any other setting under many circumstances. So now I never run it anywhere except at 'Reduced' which is slower than it was stock. And yes, I never heard the fans on my PB unless I was pushing the cpu, like games or running VPC where the cpu was constantly running about 75% or higher. Even then the fans would kick on/off not constant. He may not believe me but I am very sensitive to fan noise and hear them ( I can hear two different fans) when either or both are on. No disrespect to Gary or Daystar but I am absolutely sure of this. Hopefully they will work out some of these issues or offer slower upgrades so others can have a better upgrade experience.

    His last comment about returning is true because I need my PB until the end of April. Then it is definitely going back to get down clocked to 1.83GHz. I hope the down clock will solve my problems. If not I guess I will have them down clock once more to 1.75GHz. I have considered going straight to 1.75GHz since the info says it will be cooler than the 1.25GHz at this speed. It's too bad it is not stable at 1.92GHz because it is very nice and fast but I can't stand instability. If I had know about the Parallels software before I would be buying new but I thought it would be sometime before there was a Intel version of VPC and I have no desire to ever dual boot.
    -Troy"

    The other reader that reported here (Daniel) wrote he's also sent his back for repair/adjustment.

    (added 5/16/2006)
    "Hi Mike,
    I wanted to follow-up on the two posts regarding issues on the PowerBook upgrades.
    Daniel has been adjusted to the 1.75 GHz setting. His issue was not heat, as much as he wanted to run full speed AltiVec application work on the battery. The PowerBook now runs at 1.75 GHz at roughly the same thermal/power spec as a stock PowerBook. We have added this options to our ordering page for users wanting extended battery life over extreme speed.

    On Troy... his system was indeed running warmer than spec. Although we could not crash the system here, we did make some adjustments. We reflowed the CPU and adjusted power which put the system back to within 5-7c of the stock PowerBook. We also adjusted his speed, to 1.83 GHz which runs cooler than the 1.92/2.0 GHz options.

    Thanks for the heads up on both of them. I would have of course preferred that they allow contact us to handle any issues before posting, but anyhow, things seem to be fine now.
    Best regards,
    Gary Dailey
    Daystar Technology"


    (from 7/17/2006 Rate Your CPU Upgrade db report)

    " CPU Upgrade: Daystar G4 1.92GHz upgrade for PowerBook G4
    System: 2003 AL PowerBook G4 15.2", 1.0GHz (originally)
    Rated: 7 (out of 10)

    Back in February of this year, a friend of mine bought a new 17" Powerbook G4. I advised him to wait a few more months because I knew that the Intel Powerbook was going to be released soon, but his Pismo was dying and he needed a replacement. He loaned the new 17" to me a for a few days... Anyway, the last revision G4 Powerbook was so sweet! Super zippy compared to my 1Ghz 15" G4 - and I loved the big screen and bright keyboard. I was quite envious. I ran Xbench on his 17" and saved the results so I could compare his 1.67 Ghz G4 to my 1.0 Ghz G4. The 17" gave a CPU score of 48 (relative to a dual processor 2.0 Ghz G5) while my 15" was a 35. Clearly, something had to be done!

    Daystar had a CPU upgrade for the 15" Powerbook that took the processor up to 1.92 Ghz. I decided that since my most demanding programs were Creative Suite and FCP, it was best to upgrade for $500 than plop down $2.5K plus for a laptop that wouldn't be faster with my "big" (PowerPC) apps until (Universal Binary) upgrades had been released.

    I ordered the CPU upgrade and sent off the Powerbook to Daystar. The total turn around time was 3 weeks due to my sending with UPS ground and a production delay at Daystar. I won't get too specific about the problem, but I will give Gary props for being respectful and polite.

    When I got my 15" back, I ran Xbench and then shut it down to install the new Seagate Momentus 100Gb 7200-RPM hard drive I had purchased in the mean time. I was shocked when I opened the Powerbook and discovered that Apple had ripped me off and put in a 4200-RPM drive when I had custom ordered a 5400-RPM drive. BAD APPLE! Oh well, sh*t happens. After the new hard drive and a fresh install of Tiger with updates, I ran Xbench.

    Pros: My CPU score went from 35 to 50. Sweet. But I had hoped for higher considering I was nearly doubling my clock. Still, it was slightly better than the new 17" PB G4. The faster HD improved my scores too. And I didn't have any problems with stability - not a single crash. (I'd give more weight to Real-World apps tests instead of xbench scores.-Mike)

    Strangely, the interface did not "feel" any faster. That could be due to the video card, but I had really hoped to get the same zippy feel I found on my friend's 17".

    H.264 movies were now playable at 720p. Before they were rather choppy at 480p. I haven't even tried to run 1080p because the screen cannot display that. But I'm very happy that I can now play the 720p's.

    Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are much improved. Acrobat opens less like a drunken sailor and more like a petulant teenager. VPC7 is better-ish, but the faster processor is just lipstick on that pig. FCP is the real winner. The faster HD and CPU have taken most of the clunkiness out of laptop movie making. Very good for FCP.

    Cons: Forget running off batteries. Don't even bother. It's just too much of a power draw to cut the cord, because I don't run under anything less than the "highest" settings. Also, I have a new name for my Powerbook G4: I call it my Cookbook G4 because it gets so freekin' hot! When I've got FCP or DVD Studio running, both fans turn on and that still doesn't cool down things to a level where I could put the Cookbook on my lap. Toasty is not the right word... sweltering is more like it! However, since I rarely take the Cookbook off the table I can't really complain about the heat.

    I suspect that the higher temperatures have done something to the other electronics inside the Cookbook because an odd clickety buzz had made it's debut in the past two months. Not a big deal, but kind of distracting. It seems to be related to the screen re-draw since the frequency of the clicks changes with the display. Or maybe it's just age.

    Bottom Line: all together I spent about $800 on the new CPU and HD. The boost was nice, but not as satisfying as I had hoped. I think I would have been better off just selling the original G4 and putting the money to a new Intel Mac Book Pro. At least, I know there will be one under my fingers by this time next year when my critical apps have been universalized. In the mean time the 1.92Ghz Daystar upgrade will do and I give it a 7 out of 10.
    Sincerely, Monte M."


    (Note: In July 2006, a reader sent the first review of the Daystar 1.75GHz G4 upgrade.)





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