Is It Worth Putting a G3 in an Older Mac?

2000 – So you want a G3. You may have noticed that there are a number of G3 upgrades on the market. You may have also noticed that the prices on real G3 computers are falling fast.

If you are like most people, you want the most computer for the lowest price, and I am here to tell you not to buy a pre-G3 for upgrade. Yes, that’s right. Except for a few special cases, spending money upgrading a pre-G3 Power Mac to use a G3 is like throwing an extra $100 down the sink.

It’s not worth upgrading the NuBus Power Macs to G3 unless you have spent a fair amount of money on your machine in the past (see Guide to G3 Upgrades for NuBus Power Macs). I tried out a 250 MHz G3 upgrade from Newer Tech, and that 250 MHz card gave less performance than my 233 MHz Beige Power Mac G3.

Beige Power Mac G3You can buy a 233 MHz Power Mac G3 for $450-550, and that’s with a PCI bus, faster CD-ROM, better video card, etc. Don’t get me wrong, the performance with the upgrade is pretty good considering the machine itself is six years old, but it isn’t as good as the performance of a computer designed around a G3.

If you are looking for an inexpensive G3 machine, an 8100/80 with enough RAM and hard drive space would cost you $200. Adding the cost of the least expensive G3 card brings it to about $400 total. Also, some upgrade cards won’t work without their extension installed, like the Newer Tech card I used. Want to install OS 9 from the OS 9 CD? Be prepared to put the brakes on that G3 speed! Paying $400 for a “half a Power Mac G3” is not worth it – $100 more will get you a true Power Mac G3 which can run OS X, uses cheaper IDE hard disks, and accepts PCI cards.

Now some upgrades are worthwhile, such as the 6400/6500/5400/5500 upgrades (see Guide to G3 Upgrades for Level 2 Cache Slot). These Macs offered some options not available in other models, such as a TV tuner card, A/V capture, and a built-in subwoofer. The 5400 and 5500 come in an all-in-one desktop case, so they are especially nice to have around. Best of all, a 300 MHz Sonnet upgrade costs about $200, which is a good deal if you already own one of these Macs and want to get a good speed boost.

20th Anniversary MacOf course if you have a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, you may want to buy the G3 card just so you can keep the extremely cool looking design but have G3 performance.

Upgrading the 7500-9600 can be cost effective if your machine is in good condition and you’ve spent a lot of money on RAM or other upgrades. If you want to buy a 9600 to upgrade, be prepared to spend about $1000. That’s about $500 more than it would cost you to buy a real G3!

With the falling prices for used Power Macintosh G3s, G3 upgrade cards are becoming more of a “why bother?” The G3/233 can be had for around $500 today, and a 7500 today is worth around $300 with a decent amount of RAM and a good sized hard disk. A G3 upgrade for the 7500 costs about $200.

Add it up, and the G3 desktop, with it’s 24x CD-ROM drive, 4 GB hard disk, and OS X compatibility looks like the winner. For me, the decision is a no-brainer.

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