Title:   MAXpowr G4 450MHz

Manufacturer: NewerTechnology

Price: $689.95


Processor Upgrades

Note: These images have been reduced in size to fit into this area. In their original form, the quality was greater.

That's one big heatsink. The upgrade runs at 450Mhz with a 1MB backside cache @ 225Mhz.

Gauge PRO. Click for a bigger image.

The MAXpowr control panel. Click for a bigger image.

The processor benchmark. Click for a bigger image.

The G4 450Mhz PCI upgrade from NewerTechnology is designed to fit in the processor slot of older PCI PowerMacs. After installation, which was for the most part, fast and easy, the first thing I noticed was the amazingly faster startup time. The second thing I noticed was the instantaneous opening of windows within the finder. Finally I noticed that I was drooling. This product is the latest and greatest G4 upgrade from NewerTech.

Target Computers:
This upgrade is compatible for almost all models of PowerMacs. It goes from the 7300/180 all the way to the 9600/200MP! UMAX’s J700 and S900 computers also work with this upgrade, as well as Power Computing’s PowerTowers and PowerWaves. I know there are a couple of exceptions, but forgive me, as I am too lazy to look up which ones they are.

Backside Cache & Altivec:
For those of you who have already read about backside cache, you can skip this paragraph, but for those of you who haven’t, prepare to be dazzled. Backside cache was first introduced when the G3 processor came on the scene. RAM is high-speed temporary memory for the hard drive, but Cache, is temporary high-speed memory for the processor. This is why Cache is so much smaller and expensive than RAM. It needs to be VERY high speed in order to meet the needs of Mr. Processor. Back in the day of PowerMacs, the processor and cache were separated by the system bus, and the data had to go through that bottleneck. (My system bus is 50Mhz, and I’m on a 9600/200.) With backside cache, the cache is attached to the back of the processor. By doing this, response times dramatically increased, making the G3 a breakthrough technology. The G4 also uses backside cache, but has another breakthrough technology: Altivec.
This specific NewerTech upgrade has a backside cache speed of 225Mhz, allowing for fast access. That is half the processor speed, which is the industry standard even for Apple's new G4 systems. It also contains a full one megabyte of cache, so there is room for temporary storage.

NewerTechnology does a good job packaging the upgrade. They even include a small, one time use electrostatic wristband to use while installing the upgrade. All I did, was install the software, shut down, put in the upgrade, reset the motherboard, and boot up. The manual has step-by-step guides for the different models of PowerMacs with visual illustrations on how to open the various cases (the 8500 and 9500 being the most difficult).

Initial Problems
I was pleased to see that NewerTech's Technical Support had a 1-800 number, and a decent wait time (about 5 minutes). I had some problems with my external SCSI devices, but disconnecting them, and upgrading to version 2.0.5 of the MAXpowr control panel fixed everything.

Technical Note on Altivec/Velocity Engine
I also need to note, that in order to take advantage of Altivec, you need to get the proper extensions from the MacOS CD. I used a small app called tomeviewer that extracts the installation files from MacOS 9. This app can be acquired @ download.com. First you go into software installers, then into system software, then into MacOS 9 additions. There you will find 4 files: vBasicOps, vBigNum, vectorOps, and vMathLib. Extract these files into the extensions folder so they will allow you to take advantage of NewerTech’s Altivec that is already implemented into the upgrade.
So that was the story of installation, now onto the result!

Details: Graphics
This upgrade really improved 3D graphic performance. I have an Xclaim VR 128 from ATI which uses RAVE graphics mode in Unreal Tournament.
The framerate went from "Playable, yet pathetic and a disadvantage" to, "Addictive, and a huge advantage." I experience almost no slowdown at all, even with everything set to high-quality and surround sound turned on! (Forgive me, I couldn't find a way to actually test framerates on the Mac.)

Details: Processor Speed
After using MacBench 5 to measure this processor against a G3 300Mhz, the G4 got a score of 1375, beating the G3 300Mhz by 375.
Seti@Home, which allows me to process chunks of data for them, was in for a surprise too. I am able to complete 1 block of data in roughly 6 hours as opposed to the 32 hours my 200Mhz 604e took. First time ever I completed 2 blocks in less than 24 hours. The speed improvement is clearly visible here as well.

Details: Video Capture
Yes, video capture. People are all over the iMac DV and new G4 systems for their Firewire and video editing abilities, but how about people who invested hundreds of dollars into a VCR, video capture card and an 8mm camcorder (like me)? Well, here's some good news. I purchased an 18.2 gigabyte Quantum hard drive for video capture (from composite) and use Adobe Premiere to edit it. Before, with my pathetic 200Mhz 604e I couldn't capture 640x480 video, period. I had to settle for 320x240, and even then, there were a few dropped frames.
The upgrade solved all of that. Everything is beautiful. 640x480 captures at up to 30 frames per second, never missing a beat, and compressing the video has never been faster! In a MacAddict article I read, Apples new QuickTime will have new video codecs as well as an Altivec-enhanced free codec from Qdesign.

LinuxPPC Note
LinuxPPC users rejoice! I didn't have to change a thing after the installation. The standard 2.2.15pre3 kernel didn't notice that I had installed a completely different processor. Everything booted as usual, except it was much faster!

My hard drive was overheating because of the upgrade, but that's because it was working so hard to keep up. I would recommend buying a fan or two (like I am) to keep things running smoothly. But that’s the hard drive’s fault, not that of the processor. You will also want to maintain the temperature of your system. Take note that after 67 degrees C, your processor WILL crash. (You can watch the temperature using the Gauge PRO application.)

NewerTechnologies has made a near-perfect product. It has a reasonable price, (especially after the $100 price drop and MacWorld $50 rebate) a SCREAMINGLY fast G4 processor, and easy installation. It improves all aspects of your computer, and is much cheaper than getting a new one. Just when you think it’s time to throw out your old computer, think again.


10/10 10/10

This review was written by me: Colin B. Colby. Please send comments, suggestions, and questions to: Colin_Colby@milton.edu


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