Reviewer's Name: Stephen Armstrong
Date Submitted: 7/17/2002
Rating (1 to 10): 10
Manufacturer: Powerlogix Bluechip G4 upgrade
Rated Speed (CPU/Cache MHz): G4 500 MHz
Cache Size: 1MB (Stock)
Mac Type: 400 MHz Pismo
Comments: Here's a long (but detailed) report on my upgrade of a Pismo G3 Powerbook using the Powerlogix BueChip product:
First, the details on the machine I started with:
- Powerbook 2000 ("Pismo") 400 MHz
- 20 GIG IBM Travelstar
- 256 MB RAM
The upgrade I chose was the Powerlogix chip replacement therapy. Essentially, Powerlogix removes the processor card from your Powerbook and send the board (not the laptop) across town to a 3rd party firm that removes the G3 chip and replaces it with a G4 (7410). The replcement involes detaqiled soldering, so it requires an sophistication and experience.
The upgraded board is then returned to Powerlogix, and they reinstall it and return your Powerbook to you by FedEx. The new G4 chip runs at 500 MHz regardless of the speed of your old chip. Therefore, this upgrade makes the most economic sense for folks like me who have a 400 MHz G3 Powerbook.
I chose the Powerlogix chip replacement over a similar upgrade from NewerTech largely on the basis of price and location. I live near Austin, Texas, where Powerlogix is based, so I had an option of dropping my laptop off at their location rather than sending it to them through the mail. This felt safer to me, plus it lowered the price slightly. (As it turned out, Powerlogix goofed and sent me packing materials for shipping my laptop anyway, but more on that later.)
The folks at Powerlogix were very helpful. One minor complaint relates to their lack of telephone support. The only way to reach these folks is through e-mail (or by placing an order on their website). They do respond to e-mail promptly, but if you're looking for a little hand-holding over the phone, it may be tough to get.
After making my "purchase" through the web, I waited for something to happen. A day passed and I heard nothing, so I sent an e-mail asking how to proceed. Powerlogix responded quickly by phone and apologized for failing to contact me sooner. We then arranged when and where I should deliver my Powerbook to their Austin office.
I later learned that when I placed my order, a shippping box was automatically dispatched to my house complete with a prepaid Fed Ex shipping label. The box was to be used to pack and ship my Powerbook to Powerlogix. This was an error, of course, because I had specifically ordered the "Austin Drop Off" upgrade, which reduced my cost by $20. Ironically, I had already received my upgraded Powerbook back from Powerlogix by the time the packing box arrived! I guess their ordering system still has some kinks.
Anyway, when I arrived at Powerlogix's offices, I understood why they don't offer phone support. They have a rather small operation in Austin (at least at the office I visited), yet they were very courteous and knowledgeable. I felt comfortable leaving my laptop in their hands, and they went out of the way to return my laptop quickly. I dropped the laptop off late on a Thursday afternoon, and receive it by FedEx the following Tuesday. They accomplished the upgrade in less than 2 business days!
The Powerbook was returned well-packed, fully functional and none the worse for wear. It started right up as I expected and showed no evidence of its travels or of the upgrade itself, other than a marked improvement in speed. Powerlogix included a one-page instruction sheet, mostly geared toward cache speed issues, and a CD with their cache software. The instructions mentioned an OS X version of the cache software, but none was found on the CD. Under OS 9, the cache profiler reported the CPU cache running at 200 MHz (versus 166 MHz originally), yet I've not experienced any difficulties.
Before I sent the laptop, I did some simple tests (all in OS X 10.1.5) for comparison:
- Boot time (from chime to login screen):
G3/400 - 1:34, G4/500 - 1:15
- Encode 60 minute audio CD in iTunes:
G3/400 - 16:55, G4/500 - 9:01
- MPEG 1 compression (high quality) of 3 min DV video:
G3/400 - 53:22, G4/500 - 25:30
Obviously, AltiVec enhanced software (like iTunes) really benefits from the G4 more so than other applications (like the boot time). For example, the fastest MP3 encode rate I saw with the G3 was barely 4x. With the G4, I hit 8.2x.
More importantly, the GUI feels *much* snappier. It no longer jerks along at times, but rather feels smooth and unstressed. Subjectively, the machine is much more responsive under OS X, although I suspect the difference would not be quite so dramatic under OS 9.
With one solid day of use under my belt (sorry for not waiting a week before reporting, Mike), I have found battery life to be comparable with before. In normal use, I got roughly 4 hours out of one battery (with minimal power saving activated), and almost 3 hours on a second battery with a DVD playing most of that time. These experiences matched what I saw with the G3. Apparently, the G4 chip doesn't use much more power than the previous G3.
The Powerbook doesn't seem to run any hotter, and like with the G3, the fan has never come on (I wonder if it even works!). I've always loved the design and performance of the Pismo laptop, and with a 500 MHz G4 under the hood, I feel I've added at least a couple of years to its useful life. Well done, Powerlogix."
The reason I ask people to use their upgrade for at least a week before posting a report is that often you may not seen any issues the first day or so. If you do see any issues down the road, post an update.