Dueling PowerBook G3 CPU Upgrades
Which Is Better for You, a G4 or a Fast G3?
This article is not a review. I have not personally sampled any of the products discussed below. However, I'm tempted to give my 500 MHz G3 Pismo, which performs nicely in OS 9 but is a bit sluggish in OS X, a boost of processor power. Frankly, I'm still not sure whether I would go for a G4 or a G3. When/if I decide to go for one or the other, I'll let you know.
- Daystar MAChSpeed G4 Pismo (500-550 MHz G4)
- PowerLogix BlueChip G3 Pismo (900 MHz G3)
- PowerLogix BlueChip G4 Pismo (500 MHz G4)
- Newer Technology NuPower G4 (500 MHz G4)
- Sonnet Crescendo/WS G3 and G4 (500 MHz G3 or G4)
- Allegro 500 G3 (500 MHz G3)
- PowerLogix BlueChip WS G4 500 (500 MHz G4)
The PowerBook G3 (a.k.a. PowerBook (2000), PowerBook (FireWire), and Pismo) is still a popular Apple portable, as evidenced by it's resale value buoyancy. Pismos are still selling for only $100 or so less than first generation PowerBook Titanium G4s. Part of the reason is that Pismos are just nice pieces of machinery. I have one, and I think overall it is my favorite Mac that I've owned.
Pismos also offer a number of features that the TiBook doesn't, including a removable device expansion bay, analog sound-in (restored in recent-generation TiBooks), and two FireWire ports.
Another reason for the Pismo's continued popularity is the fact that it, unlike the TiBooks, can be processor upgraded. Several Pismo CPU upgrades are available with G3 and G4 processors. Aside from price and choice of vendor, the decision boils down to which will suit your needs best - a G4 with AltiVec support or a much faster clock speed G3.
Depending upon your style of computing and the use you put your Pismo to, the "correct" answer could be either. Here's what's available.
Two weeks ago, Daystar Technology announced its new XLR8 MAChSpeed G4 Pismo 500-550 MHz G4 upgrades for the Pismo.
Combining technologies from Daystar and XLR8, this new upgrade provides the fastest G4 performance available for the last generation of black PowerBooks, and it also features a low-power design that extends battery life and runs cooler than competitive offerings.
The MAChSpeed G4 Pismo is factory installed and tested by Daystar in a unique 24 hour turnaround program. Daystar adds additional speed to the installation process with its exclusive "Week-ender" installation program, providing 12 hour turnaround. The Week-ender program allows users to achieve minimal weekday downtime by sending their PowerBook in on Thursday evening and receiving the upgraded system back on Monday.
"We've worked hard to create an upgrade/program that provides a competitive reason for people to upgrade, rather than buy new," said Gary Dailey, president of Daystar. "With a PowerBook G5 rumored for next year, the MAChSpeed G4 Pismo allows a user to get Mac OS X G4 performance today, then wait for Apple's next generation, once it is proven."
Due to the sensitivity of the electronics within the PowerBook G3 and the need for low-power tuning, Daystar handles the MAChSpeed G4 Pismo as a factory installation, completing all upgrading and testing at its own facility.
XLR8 uses a low power Motorola PowerPC 7410 (G4) CPU, as well as low-power cache components and electronics, thus extending battery life up to 20%. Daystar claims that his also reduces the CPU operating temperature, compared with the stock higher-power consuming IBM G3, while producing increased processing power over any G3, even ones with higher clock speeds.
As the Pismo's has a slower system bus (100 MHz) than today's Power Mac G4s, Daystar notes that while any processor will perform better on a system with a faster bus than it will on a system with a slower bus, the fast backside L2 cache that is present on the MAChSpeed G4 Pismo minimizes the importance of system-bus speed. The cache provides over 75% percent of the performance for the G4 CPU, while the bus accounts for less than 10%. Thus substantial benefit of a processor upgrade can be achieved even with a relatively slower bus.
How the Daystar upgrade program works:
- The user is shipped a professional foam shipping container.
- The user completes the checklist, then uses the prepaid label to return the container with their PowerBook G3 to Daystar.
- Daystar performs the upgrade, updates firmware and software, then tests and returns the upgraded unit to the user.
- The user then plugs in the new XLR8 Point&Scroll Mouse and starts working at G4 speeds.
- System Requirements: PowerBook G3 FireWire systems. Model: M-7572 (original CPU at 400 or 500 G3 with native FireWire Ports).
- Software Compatibility: Apple Mac OS 9.x or greater - including Mac OS X. Includes MAChSpeed Control - OS 9 & OS X.
- MAChSpeed CPU: Low-power PowerPC 7410 (G4) running at CPU rated base speeds of 500 MHz and 550 MHz. Delivers full performance longer battery life than most PowerBook G4s.
- MAChSpeed Backside Cache: Fast, 1 MB backside at 250 and 275 MHz.
- XLR8 Point&Scroll Mouse: Includes the fast USB 2 button, scrolling mouse for faster navigation and easier control in Mac OS 9 and OS X.
- 100% AltiVec Compatibility: The only upgrade that can promise 100% compatibility and performance in all G4 operations, in both OS X and OS 9.
- MVP: XLR8's Multiple Variable Processing technology uses software to customize cache speed for maximum system performance - up to 15% faster than competitive offerings
- Auto Profiling & Protection Technology: Automated compatibility and performance software that provides full cache and CPU profiling for additional combined CPU and cache speed - without the risk.
MAChSpeed G4 Pismo standard pricing includes 2 day shipping, CPU upgrade installation, testing, MAChSpeed Control OS 9 & OS X installation, and XLR8 Point&Scroll mouse: $289
24 hours w/250 MHz cache 550 MAChSpeed G4 Pismo: $29
MAChSpeed G4 Pismo Week-ender pricing (in on Friday, back on Monday) includes overnight shipping, CPU upgrade installation, testing, MAChSpeed Control OS 9 & OS X installation, and XLR8 Point&Scroll mouse: $369
All shipping costs and insurance is included in the MSRP listed above. The user pays an additional shipping fee for the initial shipping of the container.
International orders are available with the standard 24 turnaround only. An additional shipping cost of $50 is applied to the price in addition to the cost of shipping the initial shipping container.
The MAChSpeed G4 Pismo products are available for purchase from the Daystar Store.
But is a G4 or a high-speed G3 better for your needs? Some points to consider:
Are the applications that you use most often AltiVec-enabled (such as Adobe Photoshop) or make heavy use of FPU computation, or do you do a lot of work with video? If so, you will benefit from a G4 upgrade.
Although even a super-fast G3 chip probably won't speed up AltiVec-enabled applications as much as a G4 would, it will definitely speed up everything else you do on your computer more than a G4 would.
If you don't plan to use many AltiVec-enabled applications, a faster G3 may be a better choice. If you do a lot of graphics work, video work, or want to run Mac OS X, then you'll find more satisfaction and speed with a slower G4 - AltiVec functions can run up to 7 times faster on a G4 than a G3.
Daystar suggests that use of OS X may be a deciding factor in favor of a G4 solution over a G3, and they may be right. OS X incorporates some AltiVec optimization, and since the Pismo PowerBook has only 8 MB of non-upgradable video RAM, it does not support OS X's Quartz Extreme feature, which shifts some of the Finder processing overhead onto the video memory, but requires a minimum of 16 MB or VRAM. While G3 machines that do support Quartz Extreme offer pretty peppy Finder performance, the Pismo may indeed benefit enough in this department from the G4's AltiVec support to make that a deciding factor.
On the other hand, most OS X applications are not AltiVec optimized, and if application performance in non-AltiVec (most) programs, rather than Finder response, is a bigger priority for you, then a 900 MHz G3 is going to smoke a 550 MHz G4. PowerLogix (below) claims that its 900 MHz G3 upgrade outperforms a 500 MHz G4 - even in AltiVec optimized functions.
PowerLogix is the only manufacturer of PowerPC G3 750FX processor upgrades for the PowerBook G3 Pismo.
The Blue Chip G3 Pismo for PowerBook G3 laptops provides the processing power of the PowerPC 750FX G3 chip to give your Pismo a performance boost for less than the cost of a new PowerBook G4. Tests show the BlueChip G3 Pismo 900 outperforms the G4 at 500 MHz - even in applications that use AltiVec. Add the advantage of "on the fly" CPU speed reduction to save battery life, and PowerLogix says it's no wonder they are selling the G3/900 by a margin of 4:1 over their G4/500 CPU upgrade.
The BlueChip G3 Pismo is a service that PowerLogix provides which replaces your 400 or 500 MHz G3 with a 900 MHz CPU. This involves sending your processor card to PowerLogix, where your CPU is swapped. PowerLogix supplies a shipping container and pays for inbound and outbound freight (USA and Canada only; international freight is additional).
You must have a working CPU module in your machine prior to ordering. If your current processor card is experiencing cache issues, the G3 900 MHz may solve your problems, as the original cache circuit on the CPU card is no longer used with the 750FX CPU; instead, the on-chip L2 is used.
Turnaround from the day PowerLogix receives your CPU card is about 5 business days. Note: this process will technically void any AppleCare warranty. In the case of warranty service, PowerLogix warrants the processor card. Apple service techs are trained to do module exchanges, not chip swaps; in practice AppleCare warranty service other than the processor card should not be affected but we cannot guarantee this.
- Processor: PowerPC 750FX @ 900 MHz /512k of on-chip L2 cache running at 1:1
BlueChip G3 900 Pismo sells for $349 (domestic USA; international pricing higher depending on shipping costs)
PowerLogix also offers the Blue Chip G4 Pismo for PowerBook G3 laptops, providing the processing power of the PowerPC 7410 G4 chip. PowerLogix claims that tests show the BlueChip G4 Pismo at 500 MHz gives the same processor performance as a Titanium PowerBook G4 at 667 MHz.
As with the BlueChip G3 Pismo, you must send your PowerBook CPU card to PowerLogix for upgrading.
BlueChip G4 500 Pismo sells for $259 (domestic USA; international pricing higher depending on shipping costs)
Newer Technology through its exclusive distributor Other World Computing also offers G4 processor upgrades for the Pismo PowerBook
The Newer Technology NuPower Pismo G4/500 MHz 1 MB 2:1 L2 cache processor upgrade converts your PowerBook G3 Pismo with a 500 MHz G4 CPU.
- Motorola 500 MHz PowerPC G4 7410 processor
- 1 MB Level 2 backside cache running at 2:1 (250 MHz)
- Velocity Engine (AltiVec) support
- Compatible with up to 1 GB of memory
- Supports Mac OS 9.1 and higher, including Mac OS X
- 2 year warranty
The NuPower G4 Pismo is fully compatible with all of your existing peripherals and other components.
This NuPower G4/500 MHz upgrade is performed on your own system by technicians at Newer Systems Technology, Inc. Upon purchase of this product, Other World Computing will ship a padded container to your address with detailed instructions on how to dispatch your system for upgrade.
Your PowerBook G3 Pismo must be in complete working condition with a fully charged battery to participate in this upgrade. You will only be shipping your PowerBook for this upgrade, with it's CD/DVD drive and one charged battery.
The padded shipping container is prepaid for the outbound service from you using Airborne Express service. Your upgraded PowerBook will be returned to you within 10 and 12 business days using the same shipping method.
At this time, this upgrade is only available online for US domestic customers. If you are outside of the USA and would like to purchase this upgrade, please contact one of OWC's sales team by email and they would be glad to quote the additional shipping costs for you.
The NuPower G4 Pismo upgrade sells for $289
The Crescendo/WS is compatible with your existing hardware, software, RAM, and peripherals. The Crescendo/WS integrates with your system software, supporting Mac OS 8.1 (G4 requires Mac OS 8.6) through OS X 10.1 and higher.
- 500 MHz PowerPC G3 or G4 processor
- AltiVec-enabled (G4 only)
- 1 MB level 2 backside cache
- Supports from 32 to 512 MB RAM
- Only G4 upgrade that fully supports sleep mode under Mac OS 9.x and earlier
- Installs without reformatting or repartitioning your hard drive
- 100% compatible with existing hardware and software
- Installs in minutes with Sonnet's "Simply Fast" instructions
- Supports Mac OS 8.1 through the latest version of OS X (G4 requires Mac OS 8.6)
- Crescendo/WS G3-500-1M: $299.95
- Crescendo/WS G4-500-1M: $399.95
- 500 MHz G3 processor
- 1 MB L2 (backside) cache @ 250 MHz
- Claimed to be 50% Cooler than other upgrade kits
- 100% OS X (Jaguar) compatible
- 100% OS 9 compatible
- No ROM Upgrade necessary
- No software installation
- Supports from 32 to 512 MB
- Good for Mac OS 8.1-OS X (Jaguar)
- 1 year warranty
"Why not G4? Good question. But think about it. The only real advantage of G4 is the AltiVec processor, which is rarely utilized, except for video processing. And the WallStreet is really not set up for video processing anyway, so if you were going to do video, you'd save that extra $150, and get a Pismo. So, our opinion is, get the Allegro, save your pennies, and get on with life!
"The bottom line is, will this thing function? The answer is yes! We have been able to reduce processor heat by nearly 50% cooler than even the G3 PowerBook Pismo! Our processor operates at a balmy 55°C (that's 131°F for you Americans!). And cool is good - this means great reliability for your processor, and excellent performance for you!"
Purchase requires return of your original WallStreet card. A $60 core charge will be refunded upon receipt of your old card. Wegener has two models; both models have a 1 MB backside cache, but they are programmed for different logic boards:
- Version A works with all 233-300 MHz WallStreets with backside cache except the 292 MHz & 250 MHz models. $239.99
- Version B works with the 233 MHz (no cache), 250 MHz, and 292 MHz models. $269.99
David Wegener also tells me that a new, inexpensive WallStreet processor upgrade is expected to be ready in the near future.
Rock-solid design is combined with the super processing power of the PowerPC 7410 G4 chip to give your PowerBook G3 WallStreet (WS, 1998) enhanced performance for fraction of the cost of a new PowerBook G4.
Installation is a breeze. The stock processor card pops out and the BlueChip WS G4 goes in its place.
- PowerPC 7410 @ 500 MHz 1 MB of backside cache
Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, and he is a news editor and columnist at Applelinks.com. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
Recent articles by Charles W. Moore
- Apple's Great Hebrew Support, AirPort Express Silently Upgraded, Pismo G4, and More, Charles Moore's Mailbag, 2012.12.03. Also a WindowShade replacement approved by Apple, upgrding a 15" MacBook Pro, and three 13" MacBooks.
- Is There a Cure for a Smelly Mac?, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2012.07.30. For those suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, gases let of by a new computer can be no end of trouble.
- Optimizing PowerBook G4 Performance, TenFourFox May Run Faster with NoScript, and More, Charles Moore's Mailbag, 2012.07.18. Also pros and cons of Linux on G3 PowerBooks and iPhoto 11 no longer updating in Snow Leopard.
- More in the Miscellaneous Ramblings index.
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