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Review: Giga Designs G4/800 and 1GHz CPU Upgrades
By Mike
Published: 1/26/2003
= Links to Review Topics Pages =
Intro | Benchmarks  | Apps Tests | Game Tests | Installation | Specs/Design

Pros: Compact due to copper heatsink, slightly lower priced than competition. Jumpers for bus multiplier and cpu voltage (see specs page for notes and jumper matrix tables). No software required for L3 cache enabling. No errors of any kind seen during testing at rated speeds. No wake from sleep problems in OS X and OS 9.

Cons: $299 list ($229 street) G4/800 model has no L3 cache (see perf. comparisons to 800 w/L3 here). I think an L3 cache model of this adjustable upgrade would be attractive if the price was right.

Introduction
In the last year or so there's been a thinning out of Mac CPU Upgrade companies, so I was glad to see a new player enter the market. Based on what I've seen running the Giga Designs first offerings, I think they're a welcome addition to the market. (The more players, the more competition which is usually good for pricing and innovation.) Giga Designs provided review loaners of their G4/800 (no L3 cache) and 1GHz (2MB L3 cache) models for testing in my Digital Audio Dual G4/533 Tower System. For full details on the test system's hardware and software, see the system details listing below. These Giga Designs upgrades are compatible with G4/AGP towers from the original AGP "Sawtooth" up to the Quicksilver 2002 models. Bottom line is I really like what I've seen from using the Giga Designs upgrades so far. I wish the 800MHz model had L3 cache, but if I was in the market for a 1GHz upgrade, I'd have no hesitation choosing the Giga Designs version based on what I've seen with this sample. (Update - for tests of the Giga Designs G4 1.25-1.33GHz upgrade, see the later review on the G4 reviews page.)

This review compares the performance of the original Digital Audio Dual G4/533, the DA system with a Powerlogix dual 1GHz upgrade, the DA system with the Giga Designs G4/800 (7451 with no L3 cache), the 1GHz Giga Designs model (7455 CPU w/2MB L3 cache) and the Giga 1GHz model set to 800MHz (to compare 800MHz w/L3, although it's not a perfect comparison since the 800MHz G4 w/o L3 cache is a 7451 CPU). Also included for comparison are results of the same tests run n a Dual 1GHz MDD (Mirrored Drive door) system. (See system details below.) I no longer own any of the older G4 towers to use as test beds, but owners of older AGP towers can run tests described here to compare their performance with these upgrades.

Since these upgrades are adjustable, I'm going to run tests for several days at overclocked speeds to report on reliability at higher than rated speeds (although there's a warranty impact if Overclocking originally noted - but Giga Designs now says that that's been changed. Only changing the voltage setting voids the warranty I was later told). See the specs page for notes on switch settings. There's not much headroom typically in a 1GHz G4, although the lower bin 800 with voltage boost should have some. (Of course YMMV, and there's no guarantee on short or longterm reliability when overclocking.)
Update - the G4/800 with a voltage boost ran reliably at 933MHz except for an occasional application quit (seen once with iDVD2.1 after about an hour of encoding for example).

CPU Upgrade pricing can change at any time (going down usually) but as of Jan. 24th, 2003, list prices for the two Giga Designs models tested in this review were:

  • G4/800 (no L3 cache): $299
    (later reduced to $229 on OWC site specials page while supplies last)
  • G4/1GHz w/2MB L3 cache: $549

For the latest pricing/availability, check the OWC site specials page which sometimes lists CPU upgrades for a discount.


Review Table of Contents:

  1. Applications Performance: Tests with QT to MPEG4 conversion, iMovie2 (OS X), iTunes3 MP3 encoding, multitasking, and Photoshop 7.0 (50MB image/21 filter tests).

  2. Games Performance: Tests with Quake3, Unreal Tournament X, and Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

  3. Benchmark Performance: Altivec Fractal demo and CineBench 2000 test results.

  4. Installation: Comments on installing the upgrade, photos of it installed, etc.

  5. Specs/Design: Details of the upgrade's CPU and Cache. Includes jumper matrix tables for both the Bus/CPU ratio and CPU Voltage. (Also includes notes on two versions of the modules as far as voltage configuration.)


System Compatibility:
The Giga Design CPU upgrades are listed as compatible with the following Mac models:

  • Apple G4/AGP "Sawtooth"
  • Apple G4/AGP "GigaBit Ethernet"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Digital Audio"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Quicksilver"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Quicksilver 2002"

    OS Requirements:
  • OS 9.2.1 or OS 9.2.2
  • OS X

Other Owner Experiences: For owner ratings of most every CPU upgrade for any upgradeable Mac, search the Rate Your CPU Upgrade database.

Test System Details:

  • Apple Digital Audio G4 Tower
  • Dual 533MHz G4 CPUs (7410) w/1MB SDR L2 cache per CPU
  • 133MHz (SDR) bus w/1GB RAM
  • Western Digital WD120JB 120GB (20% free space) Hard Drive w/OS 9.2.2 and 10.2.3 installed
  • Onboard ATA/66 hard drive controller
  • Pioneer OEM DVR-103 Superdrive
  • Retail ATI 8500 AGP 64MB graphics card
  • Quicktime 6 (Pro)
  • Virtual Memory Disabled in OS 9
  • Airport active for all tests

For comparison to a new Mac, the following system was used:

  • Mirrored Drive Door G4 tower
  • Dual 1GHz (7455 rev 2.1) CPUs with 1MB DDR L3 cache per CPU
  • 167MHz bus (SDR) with 768MB DDR memory
  • OEM IBM 80GB drive (60% free space) w/10.2.3 and 9.2.2
  • Onboard ATA/100 hard drive controller
  • OEM ATI Radeon 9000 Pro 64MB graphics card
  • OEM Pioneer DVR-104 superdrive
  • Quicktime 6 (Pro)
  • Virtual Memory Disabled in OS 9
  • Airport active for all tests

Display used was a Sony 19" F400. The hard drive was not optimized. All the OS/driver updates to date had been applied. For MP3/CD tests, a Lite-on 40125S (40x12x48x) CDRW in a Pyro Firewire case was used.


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 Giga Designs CPU Upgrade Review Pages

Intro | Benchmarks  | Apps Tests | Game Tests | Installation | Specs/Design

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