Miscellaneous Ramblings

Apple's WallStreet PowerBook G3 at 8 Years Old

Charles Moore - 2006.05.04 - Tip Jar

Today, May 4, marks eight years since Steve Jobs unveiled whatwas at the time the most revolutionary PowerBook since the originalPowerBook 100 had debuted sevenyears prior to that. It was another octave of years (give or takefew months) to the next great epochal change in the Apple portableorbit, the MacBook Pro.

Anyway, the PowerBook G3Series machines were awesome in the true sense of the word. Afew PowerBook fans who could afford the steep price of admissionhad gotten a taste of G3 power in a PowerBook 3400laptop with the originalPowerBook G3 "Kanga" six months earlier, but the WallStreetsand its MainStreet (G3 without a level 2 cache) low-end siblingwere a whole new dimension with virtually nothing carried over fromearlier PowerBook models.

The June 1998 edition of Macworld magazine cover story, "DesktopInvaders", was a 12-page spread on the new machines in which authorHenry Bortman allowed that the PowerBook G3 would threaten therelevance of desktop Macs. While the desktop is still very muchwith us in 2006, Apple's 'Books have been outselling their desktopcousins for several years now, so Henry was on track.

I was already onside with PowerBooks, and I can't imagine everbuying another desktop Mac, except for perhaps a near-portable likethe Mac mini.

Best 'Book Ever?

PowerBook G3 SeriesThe WallStreet was arguably themost comprehensively complete and expandable PowerBook ever builtwith its full set of classic PowerBook ports, two PC card slots(allowing upgrades to USB, FireWire, WiFi, or other things),ethernet and infrared (IR) connectivity, its expansion day, theability to support batteries in both the left and right bays, andthe availability of processor upgrades up to 458 MHz, 466 MHz, or500 MHz - the latter of which outperforms a 500 MHz Pismo in somebenchmark tests.

The WallStreet keyboard is also one of the the best ever offeredon a PowerBook (the best IMHO). These are still lively machines,especially with a processor upgrade installed. However, they don'tsupport Quartz Extreme in OS X, let alone 10.3 "Panther" or10.4 "Tiger" (at least officially).

You could even add a DVD and/or CD-RW drive to the WallStreet'sexpansion bay with MCE's Xcaret units - now unfortunately out ofproduction (a few high-end WallStreets shipped with Apple'ssomewhat problematical first-generation PowerBook DVD kit).

My workhorse Mac for three-and-a-half years on the cusp of Y2Kwas a 233 MHz WallStreet SeriesII, and it's still in daily use as my wife's email and wordprocessing platform running OS 9.2.2, which is the maximumperformance OS with the G3 processors. The original, eight-year-oldlithium ion battery even still provides decent runtime, which isjust amazing.

While they all look pretty much identical, there are six basicWallStreet configurations in two series', two internal bus speeds,5-1/2 processor speeds, and four different screen options. They'reall good machines, although some Series I models were equipped witha 13.3" active matrix display that proved trouble-prone due to aribbon-cable connector issue.

MainStreet

The most controversial G3 Series model is the Series I"MainStreet" 233 with the passive-matrix dual-scan screen and nobackside cache.

Some have accused this machine as being, quote, "dog slow". Infact, the cacheless 233 MacBenched at 445 in processor performance- one-third faster than the previous "fastest-in-the-world"PowerBook 3400c/240 (337).Neither was the dual-scan fast supertwist nematic (FSTN) screen asdoggy as some reviewers imply. I used one of these machines dailyfor a couple of months and found the FSTN screen quite pleasantviewing, albeit not as crisp and speedy as the TFT units.

Used Value

No non-upgraded WallStreet, including the top of the line 292MHz and 300 MHz units, should command a price of more than US$300these days. You shouldn't pay more than $150 for a cacheless 233MHz WallStreet. The Mark II (PDQ) 233 with 512k cache should stillsell in the $175-200 range, and the 250/266 MHz units in the $250neighborhood.

Things to watch out for when shopping for a used WallStreet areproblems with the screen lid hinge clutches - a potentiallyexpensive repair job - and flaky video with Series I units equippedwith the 13.3" screen. There were good reasons why this screenoption was dropped with the Series II introduction in August1998.

Another fairly common fault with the WallStreet was bad powermanager boards, but these should have been dealt with long since onmachines still in use. Series I only has Rage II video, which isslightly inferior to the later Rage Pro. Both series' have4 MB VRAM on board, except for the 12.1" screen 233 MHz units,which have only a paltry 2 MB.

Note also that these units are only officially supported byOS X up to 10.2.8. Also, because of their "Old World" ROMs,OS X must be installed on a volume or partition smaller than8 GB. Frankly, as much as I love the old WallStreet, youshould also carefully consider a newer solution like a Lombard, Pismo, or a dual USB iBook if you'relooking for an inexpensive 'Book, especially if you want to runOS X.

WallStreet Processor Upgrades

The WallStreet G3 Series is one of the all-time greatPowerBooks, but the newest WallStreets are just shy of seven yearsold; they are not officially supported by OS X 10.3 and later(although Ryan Rempel's XPostFactohack can install Panther or Tiger on a WallStreet), and they don'tsupport USB or FireWire natively. I have both USB and FireWire PCcard adapters for mine, but it's not quite the same thing.

Further, WallStreet only supports 512 MB of RAM, which Iconsider marginal for decent OS X performance. On the otherhand, if you have a really nice WallStreet that you're fond of,perhaps with the RAM maxed out and a large capacity hard drivealready installed, there are several processor upgrade paths opento you. XLR8, Sonnet, and Wegener Media offer processor upgradesfor the WallStreet

XLR8 466 MAChSpeed G4 WallStreet upgrade

Fully compatible with Mac OS X, the XLR8 466 MAChSpeed G4 WallStreet upgrade with its super fast 1MB cache and proprietary MAChSpeed Control software transforms yourApple PowerBook G3 WallStreet into a G4 AltiVec energized laptop.Great for graphics, video and games . . . and will speedup Mac OS X performance on the old WallStreet.

With the upgrade, Mac OS X and all native graphics applicationsare optimized for the G4's Velocity Engine. Even Mac OS X's Finderis more lively with a G4 under the hood. The system is fullycompatible and runs faster than a 400 MHz PowerBook G4. Factoryinstallation and testing ensures that you'll be running at full G4speeds with no upsets - just power-up and go.

This is an exclusive Daystar product and backed by Daystar'sunique 90/728 Warranty program.

The The XLR8 MAChSpeed G4 & G3 WallStreet upgrades sellfor:

  • 466 MHz G4, $199.00
  • 500 MHz G3, $159.00
  • 400 MHz G3, $149.00

WallStreet Presto! G4/500 MHz Upgrade

The PrestoG4/500 upgrade combines current build technology - theultra-cool G4/7410 processor with fast 250 MHz L2 cache. The resultis a very powerful processor, running very cool (average temps areless than 45° Celsius - about 112°F). The ultra-fastbackside L2 cache (1 MB running at 250 MHz) ensures anexcellent performance boost, with performance increases in excessof 10x the speed of the original WallStreet.

  • G4/500 MHz processor
  • 1 MB L2 (backside) 250 MHz cache
  • Runs 25% cooler than competitive kits
  • 100% OS X compatible - 10.0 through 10.4*
  • 100% OS 9 compatible
  • No ROM upgrade necessary
  • No software installation
  • Supports from 32 to 512 MB
  • Good for Mac OS 8.1 through Jaguar
  • 1 year warranty
  • Fits all G3 WallStreet PowerBooks
  • Price: $219.99

Allegro 500 G3 Upgrade for WallStreet

Turn that lazy WallStreet into a rocket with the Allegro 500 G3.

Allegro 500 G3 processor

  • 500 MHz G3 processor
  • 1 MB L2 (backside) cache @ 250 MHz
  • 50% Cooler than other upgrade kits
  • 100% OS X 10.0-10.4 compatible*
  • 100% OS 9 compatible
  • No ROM Upgrade necessary
  • No software installation
  • Supports from 32 to 512 MB
  • Good for Mac OS 8.1 through Jaguar
  • 1 year Warranty

Why not G4? Good question. The only real advantage of G4 is theAltiVec processor, which is rarely utilized, except for videoprocessing. And the WallStreet is really not set up for videoprocessing anyway, so if you were going to do video, you'd savethat extra $150 and get a Pismo.

Allegro have been able to reduce processor heat by nearly 50%cooler than even the G3 PowerBook Pismo. Our processor operates ata balmy 55°C (that's 131°F), which means great reliabilityfor your processor, and excellent performance for you.

Purchase requires return of your original WallStreet card. A $30core charge will be refunded upon receipt of your old card. Thereare 2 models; Both models have 1 MB backside cache, but theyare programmed for different logic boards:

A G3 500 MHz card (for WallStreets with Backside Cache) fits allversions of the PowerBook WallStreet. Price: $229.99

Avanti 400 G3 Upgrade for WallStreet

We've all loved the Wallstreet, but sometimes it's a bit slow.So we decided to overhaul it, and with the Avanti upgrade,we're sure you'll be happy with your PowerBook once again! We'vetaken the PowerBook Wallstreet, inspected it from head to toe, andwe've found a great way to speed it up!

  • 400 MHz or 417 MHz G3 processor
  • 1 MB L2 (backside) 250 MHz cache
  • Runs cooler than other upgrade kits
  • 100% OS X 10.0-10.4 compatible
  • 100% OS 9 compatible
  • No ROM upgrade necessary
  • No software installation
  • Supports from 32 to 512 MB
  • Good for Mac OS 8.1 through 10.3 "Jaguar"
  • 1 year Warranty

Now, one unit fits all WallStreet models! WallStreet 1 orWallStreet 2.

Avanti 400 MHz card for PowerBook G3 WallStreet.

  • 233 MHz with 0 L2 cache
  • 233 MHz with 512k L2 cache
  • 250 MHz with 1 MB L2 cache
  • 266 MHz with 1 MB L2 cache
  • 292 MHz with 1 MB L2 cache
  • 300 MHz with 1 MB L2 cache

Price: $99.99

Kit includes processor, tools, installation photo-guide, andupgraded heat dissipation panel. Tools & core components may bereturned for rebate.

Purchase requires return of your original WallStreet card. A $30core charge will be refunded upon receipt of your old card. Coreboards must have cache installed to qualify for core rebate.

Units are warranted for 1 year from date of purchase.

Sonnet Crescendo/WS G3 G4 PowerBook WallStreet ProcessorUpgrade Cards

The SonnetCrescendo/WS G3 incorporates a 500 MHz PowerPC G3 processorwith 1 MB Level 2 backside cache for a performance boost of upto 2x over the original system, and can take full advantage of thelatest OS X and Classic applications.

The Crescendo/WS is compatible with your existing hardware,software, RAM, and peripherals. The Crescendo/WS integrates withyour system software, supporting Mac OS 8.1 (G4 requires Mac OS8.6) through OS X 10.2.8.

The Crescendo/WS processor upgrade card integrates with yourexisting hardware and software. Run the latest system andapplication software faster and more efficiently.

Key Features

  • 500 MHz PowerPC G3 or G4 processor
  • 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.xand earlier
  • Installs without reformatting or repartitioning of harddrive
  • 100% compatible with existing hardware and software
  • Installs in minutes with Sonnet's "Simply Fast"instructions
  • Supports Mac OS 8.1 through OS X Version 10.2.8
*512 MB maximum using two 256 MB DIMMs.

The Crescendo/WS is easy to install with step-by-step,illustrated instructions. Launch the included Sonnet Installerapplication to take advantage of the original system software. Shutdown and open the system, remove the original processor, move theRAM to the Crescendo/WS, then simply pop the Crescendo/WS intoplace. Restart the system and you're up and running.

Compatible models

  • Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series 233
  • Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series 250
  • Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series 266
  • Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series 292
  • Macintosh PowerBook G3 Series 300

Crescendo/WS G3 500 MHz - $199.95

WallStreet Specs

PowerBook G3 233 Series I (May 1998)

  • Passive-matrix STN 12.1" color display (800 x 600), 13.3 or14.1" color display (1024 x 768) optional
  • Lithium Ion battery (roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Optional built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and video-out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (floppy drive optional)
  • 2 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM - 512 MB (32 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 233 MHz
  • No Level 2 cache
  • 2 MB SDRAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • MacBench (Processor) Score: 445

PowerBook G3 250 Series I (May 1998)

  • Active-matrix STN 13.3" or 14.1" color display (1,024x768)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Optional built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (DVD-ROM optional)
  • Floppy drive
  • 2 to 8 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM - 512 MB (32 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 250 MHz
  • 1 MB Level 2 cache
  • 4 MB SDRAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • MacBench (Processor) Score: 881

PowerBook G3 233 Series II L (September 1998)

  • Active-matrix 12.1" color display (800 x 600)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (floppy drive optional)
  • 2 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM - 512 MB (32 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 233 MHz
  • 512k Level 2 cache
  • 2 MB SDRAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • MacBench (Processor) Score: 764

PowerBook G3 233 Series II (August 1998)

  • Active-matrix 14.1" color display (1,024x768)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (floppy drive optional)
  • 2 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM - 512 MB (32 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 233 MHz
  • 512k Level 2 cache
  • 4 MB SDRAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds

PowerBook G3 266 Series II (August 1998)

  • Active-matrix STN 14.1" color display (1,024x768)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (DVD-ROM optional)
  • Floppy drive
  • 4 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM - 512 MB (64 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 266 MHz
  • 1 MB Level 2 cache
  • 4 MB SDRAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds

PowerBook G3 292 Series I (May 1998)

  • Active-matrix 13.3" or 14.1" color display (1,024x768)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (DVD-ROM optional)
  • Floppy drive
  • 8 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM 512 MB (32 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 292 MHz
  • 83 MHz System Bus
  • 1 MB Level 2 cache
  • 4 MB SDRAM video RAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds
  • MacBench (Processor) Score: 1,031

PowerBook G3 300 Series II (August 1998)

  • Active-matrix 14.1" color display (1,024x768)
  • Lithium Ion battery ( roughly 3-4 hours use)
  • tappable trackpad
  • 2 built-in speakers and microphone
  • 2 PC card slots
  • 10Base-T ethernet
  • Built-in 56k fax/modem
  • infrared support and S-video out
  • 16-bit stereo sound input/output
  • 20x CD-ROM drive (DVD-ROM optional)
  • Floppy drive
  • 8 Gig HD
  • supports SCSI Disk mode
  • Maximum RAM 512 MB (64 MB standard)
  • PowerPC 750 (G3) 300 MHz
  • 66 MHz System Bus
  • 1 MB Level 2 cache
  • 4 MB SDRAM video RAM
  • Weight: 7.4 pounds

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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, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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