Should I Buy a Used Power Mac 6100?

1998 – MJ writes: Long term(ish) I want to aim at a G3 something. But at the moment I’m just a hard-up student in New Zealand dreaming of the the day I win the lottery. But I figured why buy a new G3 machine when they are way out of my price range when I can upgrade to one.

At the moment I have a IIvx (don’t laugh), but I am considering getting a 6100, and then a Crescendo G3 card. Am I that much better off upgrading to G3 from a 7xxx or 8xxx series machine?

Power Mac 6100Mac Daniel writes: I don’t know what the used market is like in New Zealand, but there are a few reasons I wouldn’t recommend buying a 6100 if you really want to end up with a G3.

  1. The 6100 uses system memory, not VRAM, for video. This is inefficient both for video and for overall system performance. (The relatively uncommon AV card uses VRAM, but it can’t be used with the accelerator.) [Editor’s note: This has since been fixed. The Sonnet Crescendo/NuBus now supports the AV video card in the 6100.]
  2. The 6100 only support 640 x 480, 832 x 642, and 640 x 870 (portrait) video modes. I lean toward a 17″ screen at 1024 x 768. The 6100 can’t do that. And the 6100 only give 256 colors at the higher settings; it does provide 16-bit video, but only on a 640 x 480 screen.
  3. The 6100/60 has a 30 MHz system bus, meaning the fastest possible G3 upgrade would be 240 MHz (the current G3 CPU runs at up to 8 times bus speed – 8 x 30 MHz = 240 MHz). The 6100/66 could hit the 266 MHz. With its newer architecture, the 233 MHz iMac will easily outperform a 6100 with a 240 MHz G3.
  4. The 6100 with the Sonnet accelerator has no expansion slot left for a video card, faster ethernet, etc. (Newer Technology does make a card that will work with the AV card or a NuBus card.) [As noted under point 1, Sonnet has since resolved this.]

You’re already halfway to a Power Mac 7100; you could just do a motherboard swap in the IIvx’s case. Of course, it may not make financial sense. Shreve is currently selling a 7100 motherboard (less swap) for US$350. Urban Computer will sell you an entire used 7100 for US$375 – and then you’ve got a whole IIvx to sell.

My advice: If is your goal is a G3 and you don’t mind a system that may not be able to run Mac OS X when it arrives, pick up a nice used Power Mac 7500. (I must be sounding like a broken record, I recommend it so often.)

I’ve seen prices as low as US$550 on the 7500, which comes with an adequate 100 MHz 601 CPU. But you can pop in a G3 card as fast as 400 MHz (see our Guide to G3 Daughter Cards), which goes far beyond what’s possible with a 6100. (The 6100 is selling for US$300 and up. For almost twice the price, the 7500 is more than twice the computer.)

Also be sure to read Setting Up a Power Mac 6100.

Keywords: #powermac6100 #performa6100

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