Low End Mac Benchmarks

Mac IIci + Presto

Dan Knight - 1999.05.12 - Tip Jar

The IIci has been a workhorse for years. To keep them going a couple years longer, we installed Sonnet Presto 040 cards. These have a 40 MHz 68040 processor and 128 KB level 2 cache.

The tested machine had 20 MB of RAM and a 540 MB Apple-branded Quantum 540S hard drive, which was formatted with Apple HD SC Setup 7.3.5. This is the same configuration as the base IIci benchmarks; the only difference is the Sonnet card.

Remember that benchmarks are arbitrary. They measure certain types of performance that may or may not reflect the way you work.

Speedometer 3.06

Speedometer 3 was not run on this system.

Speedometer 4.02

The system was tested on 12 May 1999 under System 7.5.5. Computer attached to a 14" Apple color monitor with 8-bit video. Results are relative to a Quadra 605, which rates 1.0. Numbers rounded off to two decimal places.

The first set of numbers compares performance at different disk cache settings without the level 2 cache card installed.

cache  video   CPU  graphics  disk   math
 32KB  8-bit   1.47   1.27    1.71  10.04
 64KB  8-bit   1.30   1.27    1.71  10.02
128KB  8-bit   1.32   1.29    1.71  10.02
256KB  8-bit   1.49   1.28    1.57  10.04
512KB  8-bit   1.47   1.29    1.36  10.06

The cache setting should have little influence on non-disk tests, but that isn't the case here. For some reason, possibly an interaction between the size of the disk cache and L2 cache, benchmark scores are significantly depressed at 64-192KB cache sizes (not all tests are reported above). The 10-13% performance drop was completely unexpected and indicates these disk cache settings should probably be avoided.

The following results were obtained with the disk cache set at 128KB. The variable is the presence of a cache or accelerator:

  config  video   CPU  graphics  disk   math
no cache  8-bit   0.38   0.39    1.62   1.25
 32KB L2  8-bit   0.40   0.46    1.68   1.37
  Sonnet  8-bit   1.32   1.29    1.71  10.02

These results show the 40 MHz 68040 accelerator is about 3.5 times faster than the 25 MHz 68030 built into the IIci. Graphics are over 3x faster, while disk scores are only a few points higher. But the biggest improvement is the math scores, due the the fact that the FPU is part of the 68040 processor. For math, the accelerator makes the IIci eight times faster than with no cache, over seven times faster than with Apple's 32 KB cache card.

As a final test, the system was run with the Daystar FastCache control panel installed (in addition to the Sonnet software) and the PowerMath option enabled with a Portrait monitor hooked to internal video. This boosted scores across the board.

cache  video   CPU  graphics  disk   math
stock  4-bit   1.32   1.29    1.61  10.03
Power  4-bit   1.44   1.59    1.77  12.05

Based on this, running the IIci with both the Sonnet Presto card and the FastCache control panel (and PowerMath enabled) will produce the best performance - at least as measured by Speedometer 4.

What about Mac OS 8.1?

On 30 August 2000, I tested an IIci with Mac OS 8.1 (installed on an external drive using Born Again), a 256 KB disk cache, Sonnet v3.1 drivers, Speedometer 4.0.2, an internal 1 GB Seagate ST11200N drive, and an external Quantum 2 GB hard drive. This system was also tested with Mac OS 7.5.5.

setup                     CPU  graphics  disk    math
IIci/Seagate/7.5.5*       1.48   1.30    1.47   10.07
IIci/Quantum/7.5.5        1.48   1.30    1.63   10.07
IIci/Seagate/8.1*         1.32   1.30    1.49   10.06
IIci/Quantum/8.1          1.32   1.29    1.81   10.07
* Apple-branded hard drive                      

Mac OS 8.1 provides some improvement in the disk department, but not nearly as much as on the unaccelerated LC III. This is probably because these drives provider throughput closer to the capability of the IIci's SCSI bus, whereas the LC III used older, slower internal hard drives.

The disappointment was a 12% drop in CPU performance under OS 8.1. This is not a big drop; it would be barely perceptible to a user. At the same time, there was no significant improvement in performance with the Seagate drive, although the Quantum benchmarked 11% faster.

In the end, unless the IIci is being used as a file server, where it would benefit from faster disk performance and an improved version of OpenTransport, Mac OS 8.1 doesn't make sense on this accelerated IIci.


Overall results show the accelerated IIci is roughly comparable to the Quadra 650 in performance. Although the Quadra has an even higher math score, others are right in the ballpark.

Whether putting a $300 accelerator in a IIci is a wise decision is another question entirely, especially with used Quadras selling for less than that.

Go to the Mac IIci profile.

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