Yesterday Kirk Edwards asked, “Where are the Mirrored Drive Doors processor upgrades?” I replied that I didn’t know of any – and then did a little investigation.
I sent emails to Sonnet Technologies, NewerTech, FastMac, and DayStar Digital asking:
“I’ve wondered myself for some time, as the owner of a Mirrored Drive Doors Power Mac G4 (the original OS 9-bootable dual 1 GHz one) why there seem to be no CPU upgrades for the last two generations of G4 Power Macs – and now one of my readers has written in with the same question.
“I realize that you may be constrained from talking about future products, but I’m wondering if you would be able to speak (on or off the record) about the possibilities and technical obstacles involved in providing faster single- and dual-CPU upgrades for the Mirrored Drive Doors Power Macs.”
Chris Seitz from FastMac technical support replied:
“Thank you for contacting us. I cannot speak for all manufacturers, but in the case of our Power Macintosh G4 upgrades, it is simply a matter of the physical constraints of the internal configuration of the Mirrored Drive Doors models. Due to the positioning of the CPU, our upgrade does not have the room to fit into those systems. While we are always looking into expanding our line of products, I am afraid I have no information available at this time of a possible upgrade solution of the MDD Power Macintosh G4s.”
Bob Boldt from NewerTech said:
“Sorry to say we do not have one right now. I do not know if we will be looking in to it or not.”
Martin Muggee, Marketing Communications Manager at Sonnet Technologies, wrote:
“At this time, I can’t say whether we’ll introduce any additional upgrades for MDD Power Macs, but we have offered dual 7447A processor-based upgrades, available in 1.6 and 1.8 GHz upgrades (Encore/MDX G4 Duet) since October last year. The interesting thing about this product is that in addition to being compatible in all MDD models, this is the first and only processor upgrade for the original Xserve (G4) models too.”
I somehow missed these CPU upgrades. The 1.6 GHz Duet retails for US$449.95, and the 1.8 GHz for $599.95. They both use the PowerPC 7447A CPU, which has a 512 MB level 2 cache – twice as large as in the PowerPC 7455 used in my Power Mac. At a minimum, the 1.6 GHz one should provide 60% more processing power than my dual 1 GHz Power Mac already has – and roughly double what the 867 MHz dual has.
Something to dream about!
Just take a look at how low the heat sink is on the Sonnet Encore MDX G4 Duet – it seems to affirm what Chris Seitz said about there being very limited space inside the MDD Power Macs.
Ron MacKinnon put me on to an upgrade company I’d forgotten about, Giga Design. They have a Dual 1.33 GHz 7455 MDD upgrade for $499. This pair of CPUs must run a lot cooler than the 1.6-1.8 GHz ones in Sonnet’s upgrade, as the heat sink is extremely small. The Giga Design upgrade has 256 MB of level 2 cache per CPU plus 2 MB of level 3 cache per CPU. (The Sonnet upgrades have no level 3 cache.)
I hadn’t heard back from Daystar at press time.
The Upgrade Options
We don’t have a lot of choices. Bang for the buck, the 1.6 GHz Dual upgrade from Sonnet is the winner – it has the lowest price of any MDD upgrade, and it’s only 11% slower than the one-third more costly 1.8 GHz upgrade.
In terms of a performance boost, it depends on where you’re starting. Mirrored Drive Doors models ranges from a single 1.0-1.25 GHz CPU through 867 MHz-1.42 GHz with dual processors. The slower your current CPU, the greater the improvement.
Would I consider one for my own system. Not at the moment, as the only really processor intensive thing I do is video – and rarely enough that I don’t need to invest $450-600 in a faster CPU.
Would I recommend an upgrade to another G4 owner? That depends on how much time they spend doing tasks that are constrained by the processor and would greatly benefit from being finished 20-40% sooner.
Before upgrading the CPU, I’d push RAM well behind 1 GB (I have 1.75) and be sure I had a big, fast (7200 rpm) hard drive. If that doesn’t provide the boost you need and your otherwise satisfied with your MDD G4, you have three upgrade options you may want to consider.
Short link: http://goo.gl/Cu8pgT