Mac Daniel's Advice

Upgrade My 9600 or Buy a G4?

Korin Hasegawa-John - 2001.12.12

Q: I have a PowerMac 9600/300, stock except for RAM and a USB card. I want to burn CDs and DVDs and at least get the computer up to G3 speed. Is this possible? Or should I ditch it and get a new PowerMac G4?

A: If you want a new, shrink-wrapped G4 with a SuperDrive, it'll cost you $2,500. However, you can get a refurbished 733 MHz G4 with a SuperDrive for $2,200. This is the computer I am comparing with your 9600.

Let's hypothetically upgrade the computer with a G4/450 processor ($250), FireWire ($50), an ATI Radeon PCI ($300), an Acard RAID/66 PCI card ($140) and two 40 GB IBM hard drives ($200 for the both of them), and an external DVD-RW ($799). That's a total of $1,740 in upgrades. Figure on selling the stock machine for $350 if you get a new computer, cutting your cost to buy a new G4 to $1,850.

Categories for comparison:

Processor: The 9600 will perform decently with a 450 MHz G4, but the Power Mac G4 with its faster processor and much faster system bus will smoke it. Of course, for Web surfing and Office work, there isn't a whole lot of difference. Advantage: G4

Hard Drive: The G4 shipped with a decently fast 60 GB hard drive, while the 9600 shipped with a slow as molasses (by today's standards) SCSI hard drive. But with an Acard RAID/66 card and two 40 GB drives, the 9600 will have better performance when the drives are used as a striped RAID array. Advantage: 9600

Expansion: The 9600 has a killer six PCI slots, a daughtercard processor, two internal full-size drive bays, and 12 RAM slots. The G4 counters with three 64-bit PCI (for faster PCI cards) slots and an AGP 4x slot. The empty drive bay is too small for a optical drive. Upgrades eat up 3-4 slots in the 9600 and a drive bay. RAM for the 9600 costs more, but may be available used. Advantage: 9600, but slight.

Graphics: A 9600 with a Radeon gives good performance, but the G4's AGP 4x bus comes into play with about 40-50 fps in Quake III compared to 30 or so with the Radeon.

Optical Drive: Both of the computers use the same drive. The 9600 with a G4 upgrade should be able to feed it data fast enough. Advantage: Tie

OS X: OS X is fully supported on the G4. The 9600 is able to run it, although Apple doesn't officially support it. Performance on the 9600 won't be as good. Advantage: G4

Ports: The G4 has all the modern ports including ADC, but the upgraded 9600 will have all of these plus a pair of serial ports, ADB, and SCSI. Advantage: 9600.

It will cost a bit less to upgrade your 9600, but the Power Mac G4 will give you a faster processor, faster bus, 64-bit PCI and AGP slots, ADC support, and the horsepower you really need to burn DVDs. You loose the funky beige case you can spray paint, the sheer expandability of the 9600, and the coolness of owning a piece of hardware from the Amelio era.

You could get the G4 for all your burning desires (stupid pun entirely intended) and just keep the 9600 - or give it to the kids. And if you have no kids, give it to me! ;-)

UPDATE: Oops, we forgot to add the $300 cost of the ATI Radeon card into the equation. We've corrected the number above.

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