Mac Daniel's Advice

Mac Daniel's Advice

What's the Best Used Mac?

Dan Knight - 1998.12.04

AH writes:

Thank you for the reply to my questions about the Performa 6220; I appreciate your time. In your opinion, what would be the best refurbished Mac to upgrade to as far as future flexibility for upgrades? I'd heard the 7500 with some additions was very versatile. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Mac Daniel responds:

You'll find a consistent thread here: I am very impressed with the value and upgrade potential of the Power Mac 7500 and it's nearly identical twins, the 7300 and 7600.

>All have the same cleverly designed case, which provides room for a floppy drive, a CD-ROM, and two internal hard drives. This can save you $40-60 on a second hard drive, since you don't have to buy an external case. It's also faster, since the internal SCSI runs up to twice as fast as the external SCSI (drive permitting).

With 8 DIMM slots, you can expand memory to 1 GB - if you ever need it and have the budget for it.

If you're content with 601, 604, and 604e cards, you can replace the standard 256 KB cache card with a 512 KB or 1 MB level 2 cache, which will improve performance significantly - especially at 1 MB. (I use a 7600/200 with 1  MB cache at work - it seems a lot faster than when I had a 256 KB cache and 180 MHz processor.)

On the other hand, if you want to reach for the stars, the 7500 and siblings can accept a G3 processor card. These currently range in speed from an impressive 233 MHz to 400 MHz. (See our Guide to G3 Daughter Cards for an up-to-date listing.)

I tend to recommend the 7500 for those who plan on upgrading, since it is the least costly of the trio. Since it shipped with a PowerPC 601 processor at 100 MHz or 120 MHz, you can pick up a used one for as little as US$550.

The 7600, with either a 120 MHz or 132 MHz 604 processor, may seem a better value for about US$100 more. After all, the 604 is about 50% more powerful than the 601. However, with MacWorks <> selling the Apple 132 MHz 604 card for US$19.99 plus shipping, the 7600 is almost always overpriced.

Likewise, the 7300/200, at about $200 more than the 7500, is overpriced in light of $350 G3 cards and $150 200 MHz 604e cards.

The only other computer I'd pick based on value and expansion options is the Umax SuperMac J700, which is sometimes available on the refurbished market. For instance, the J700/180 comes with an accelerated video card, a 2.1 GB hard drive, and an 8x CD-ROM. There are several open drive bays and three available PCI slots. Mine is running Mac OS 8.1 wonderfully - it makes me regret Apple pushing Umax out of the clone business.

Power Computing also made some nice models comparable to the 7500, but I'm not very familiar with their line. However, feedback from the field indicates they are also first rate.

For more on upgrades, see What about 7500 Upgrades?

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Not sure if you should upgrade your old Mac or replace it? Check the Mac Daniel index to see if we've already addressed your problem.

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