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Newer Tech G4/500 PowerBook Pismo UpgradeReturn to News Page


Reader Report on Newer Tech G4/500 CPU Upgrade for Pismo
Last Updated: 7/12/2002
I asked that he also post a Rate Your CPU Upgrade database report, but until then here's a copy of a reader email on his PB G3 2000 G4/500 upgrade from Newer Tech. He comments on heat, battery life, OS X, etc. and includes a before/after "speedrun" benchmark comparison. (For any readers that are getting this upgrade - some real world apps tests before/after the upgrade would be welcome. Not everyone owns FCP or other expensive apps, but for example use iMovie with the Tutorial file and time how long it takes to export using "CDROM medium" settings. An easily repeatable test using standard software that I've used in past reviews. )

(copy of Harry Zink's email follows-Mike)

"While accelerator and upgrade makers have been able to breathe new life into legacy machines for years by providing, sometimes obvious, sometimes creative, means to bring legacy machines 'up to speed', no upgrade was more eagerly awaited than placing a G4 processor into the venerable, and reliable PowerBook 'Pismo' form factor.

Needless to say, when the availability of the upgrade from the freshly reborn Newer Technology (available exclusively from the fine folks at OWC) was announced to me, it took less than 4 microseconds to decide - particularly that, at $299, the upgrade was priced 'just right' to be irresistible.

In a nutshell: After you place your order, you will receive a shipping box (in my case, within 2 days), that you place your Pismo into. Newer requests that you fully charge your battery, and only include one battery and DVD drive. Newer modifies your existing CPU board by resoldering a G4 on it (and performing some other magic, I'm sure), and 7-10 days later (9 days, in my case) you receive the box back, with a freshly G4'd Pismo.

Is the difference noticeable? Definitely.
Was it worth it? You betcha.

While Apple certainly has designed some nice-looking portables with their Titanium series, in my humble opinion, those machines have some serious flaws and problems that I would not pay $3,000 for (paint flaking off, overheating, weak battery life, fragile design, etc...), not to mention the less than ergonomic design with their edgy style.

The Pismo PowerBook, on the other hand, has a developed a cult-like following for god reason: They are infatigable workhourses, reliable tools, and most of all, with their nearly organic design, ergonomically a pleasure to use - which is why I certainly hung on to Pismo, hoping that some smart company would achieve what was claimed to be impossible - making the Pismo's heart beat with a G4/500.

As it turns out, Newer Technology decided to ring in their rebirth with just that product, proving once again to be the applied engineering wizards that we have always known them to be.

My Pismo was of the 400MHz variety, so even just a normal upgrade to a G3/500 would have been a worthwhile improvement, but the G4 additional brings faster RAM access speed, AltiVec, and better memory management to the table. In addition, since the upgrade comes with 1 meg of Level-2 cache, Final Cut Pro's real time effects can actually be utilized.

But on to benchmarks:

speedrun scores

Graphics performance has sped up from 89 to 230.... (Strange to see that high a gain from a cpu upgrade with the same graphics chip. Perhaps the functions tested benefit from Altivec. 3d games, etc. probably would not show near that much benefit from the CPU upgrade since the Rage128 Mobility is already a bottleneck even with the stock CPU, depending on the game/resolution. -Mike) - Hard Drive performance has improved from 238 to 362... (How does a notebook drive score higher than a dual G4/800's desktop hard drive? Maybe that test system's drive was nearly full/very fragmented?-Mike) Processor performance from 161 to a modest 174... Ram has a negligible improvement, and overall performance has improved from 201 to 275.

While the "overall performance" number does not seem to be striking difference, as they say, it's all in the perception - and while I certainly don't want to wear out an OS X buzzword, but the machine suddenly feels a lot snappier, and heck of a lot more responsive (even under OS X, which is saying a lot).

In fact, comparing the performance between the upgraded Pismo, and the first and second generation Titanium PowerBooks, the Pismo more than holds its own (in fact, it even feels more responsive than the Titanium 667-VGA) (the new DVI machines are a different story, as they do fly with better and larger caches, and much faster CPUs).

And, of course, the upgraded Pismo user has access to the usual amenities, like the multiple battery bays, the multi-media bay, and having a FAR sturdier and solidly designed form factor.

The only minor irk that I encountered, is that (under OS 9) there seemed to be some problems with my particular DVD drive, as it would read disks and DVDs fine the first time after booting, but would fail during subsequent efforts. I managed to install OS X, and have encountered absolutely no problems since then. As far as I know, Newer is aware of the problem, and are investigating cause, and a possible solution (their internal testing has not uncovered this problem.

Battery life: I have noticed no significant reduction in battery life. Because OS X has non-existent battery optimization, I get the usual dismal 4 hours out of two batteries. Under OS 9, I get the usual 10 hours out of two batteries. [5 hours per battery? -Mike] I hear that Jaguar/10.2 will reintroduce (about time) proper battery and power management, so I'll be curious how that will perform and compare.

Temperature: Because the 7410 and similar CPUs can't properly display internal junction temperature, most temperature tools are useless. Nevertheless, on a perception level, while the fan does come on more often, I have not noticed any significant temperature difference in the Pismo's operating environment (meaning, the bottom gets very warm, the keyboard slightly so).

In summary - if you have a Pismo, this is a must have upgrade to have. While there's another vendor that offers a similar upgrade at this point, I went with Newer Technologies simply because I had good experiences with them in the past, and wanted to keep giving them my business (i.e. Help their rebirth).
(A buddy of mine ordered the other upgrade, and I'm sure he'll contribute his impressions as soon as his upgrade returns.)

The only suggestions I would offer to Newer to make this upgrade even better - include neat sticker, on metallic foil, that users can place above the keyboard with a neat G4 and/or Newer logo on it, and a CD with various G4 enhanced desktop screens/patterns on it, as well as a patch that changes the startup screen to reflect a newer enhanced Pismo - hey, if we have one of those, we want bragging rights!
Harry Zink "

Harry had sent his email to OWC also, who posted a page with his same comments, but they created graphs of Speedrun results (and one w/Altivec Fractal demo results).

For a reader report on the Powerlogix G4/500 Pismo upgrade, see this page (from a 7/17/2002 Rate Your CPU Upgrade database report)

You can search the Rate Your CPU Upgrade database for other PowerBook G3 2000 (aka Pismo) CPU upgrade owner reports (leaving brand of upgrade blank will show all reports for that mac model, or you can limit results by selecting PowerLogix Bluechip G4 or Newer Tech G4 Upgrade for Pismo as the upgrade brand.

For other PowerBook related articles/reviews, see the Systems page, Powerbook section.

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