1998 – Does it make financial sense to upgrade a five-year-old Centris 650?
DB writes: I had a few questions I was hoping you could help me with.
I have a Centris 650 with 52 MB of RAM, a 2x CD-ROM, and a 230 MB hard drive, and I am running Mac OS 7.6.1. I use the computer for surfing the Web mostly (I have a 33.6 external modem) and word processing. I also like to play games a bit. I am happy with the computer but would like to have it perform better, but I don’t know if it is worth it to upgrade. The main problem is speed when I am net surfing and playing graphic intensive games such as Doom or Dark Forces.
I was thinking a video card might help, but I don’t know what kind would be good to buy or how much it would cost. The other option was to upgrade my VRAM, which should be pretty inexpensive. I definitely need a faster CD-ROM. I know I can probably replace the stock one for something faster for about $100.
I was also considering a Sonnet QuadDoubler for $200. They claim it will give me double performance, but it still can’t run PowerPC programs. The alternative to that would be to try to find a used Apple PowerPC PDS upgrade card. When you can find them, I have seen them go for around $300. The advantage is being able to use PowerPC programs.
Last, but not least, is hard drive space. I need more space and am considering adding an external drive. I have a friend that has a Micropolis model 1936 drive he pulled out of his PC. It is 3 GB, and he will give me the drive for nothing. The thing is, this drive is full height, and I don’t know if it will make a difference or not. Could I put it in a external enclosure and use it with my Mac. If it is usable, then I know it probably will not work with Apple Drive Setup, so I will have to buy a copy of FWB Hard Disk Toolkit for about $50. If the drive is not usable, then I could by a 1 GB refurbished drive for about $100. So I am looking at spending anywhere from $400 to $500.
I am not a power user but would like a little more performance from my Centris. Do you think I should go ahead with these upgrades or save for a new Mac.
Mac Daniel writes: You’ve obviously given this a lot of thought – exactly the kind of thinking I did when looking at my Centris 610 some months back. My choice was to replace and sell the Centris, but let’s see how things add up for you.
The Centris 650 runs a 25 MHz 68040. The QuadDoubler replaces that with a 50 MHz chip. Because of overhead, the overall gain is on the order of 70%. That could be worth $200, but we should look at the bigger picture.
That PowerPC card is very, very hard to find.
VRAM is cheap, and NuBus accelerated video cards are probably quite inexpensive these days. But the downside is that they don’t have the kind of 2D and 3D video acceleration today’s games are designed for. Based on that, I’d suggest you maximize VRAM instead of buying a video card.
I would avoid Micropolis drives at any price, especially on the Macintosh. I believe Micropolis has gone out of business. While there are a lot of brands out there, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Quantum mechanism. Given the choice, it’s what I specify.
You can get a nice 1-1.2 GB internal hard drive for about $100 these days, which I think is very reasonable. If you search, you can sometimes even find surplus Apple-branded drives, which means they will work with Apple’s drivers.
The best buys I’ve seen on third-party CD-ROM players are the 24x and 32x CyberDrives, available from several sources starting at about $100 internal. The best reason to buy CyberDrive: You can boot your Mac from these CD players, something you can’t do with most CD-ROM mechanisms.
Add it all up: $200 for the QuadDoubler, $100 for a hard drive, $100 for a CD-ROM, a bit more for VRAM and the postage to get it to you. Let’s call it $500.
A used Centris 650 16/500 is usually worth $250-300. With the extra memory, you should be able to do at least that well. If you sell it, you can add that money to your upgrade budget. For $750, you should be able to pick up a nice used Power Mac 7500 with a 100-120 MHz PowerPC chip, at least 16 MB RAM, 500 MB to 1 GB hard drive, and 8x CD-ROM. And the next time you want to upgrade, you can drop in a G3 card or an accelerated video card.
This is one case where it may be wiser to sell your Centris and buy a newer computer.
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