Low End Mac Reviews

NewerTech MAXpowr G3/250 MHz

Dan Knight - 1999.08.09

A couple months ago, I got a 250 MHz G3 card for my year-old SuperMac J700. This would replace the original 180 MHz 604e processor, making my main computer somewhere between 50% and 100% faster.

Unfortunately, the first card was flawed. It would boot without extensions, but it wouldn't run with extensions.

I knew this was abnormal behavior, because we have two of these and two 300 MHz MAXpowr G3 cards at work. None have ever caused a moment's trouble.

After some correspondence with tech support at NewerTech and a few adjustments to the system, they told me to send the card back. They would replace it with a brand new one.

Although I use a Blue G3/300 at work, I'd always considered the J700/180 pretty adequate. I'd replaced the stock ixMicro Twin Turbo video card with an Ultimate Rez, boosted RAM, and upgraded to Mac OS 8.1. It was a pretty fast, pretty reliable system.

Then the new MAXpowr G3 card arrived, the same 250 MHz model with a 512 KB level 2 cache running at half CPU speed. I popped it in, reset the motherboard, and it booted flawlessly. I installed the support software and began my testing.

Everything ran just like before, but faster.

So I pulled out my MacBench 5 CD to quantify the change - and see if I could tweak things a bit.

With the original 180 MHz 604e processor, my J700 had a MacBench 5 CPU score of 442. That means it runs at 44% the speed of the old beige G3/300 (my Blue G3/300 at work scores 926, or 93% of the beige G3/300 due to a smaller level 2 cache).

The MAXpowr G3/250 card boosted CPU performance to 768, about 74% faster then the original and about 80% as fast as my Blue G3/300 at work.

Then I began experimenting. Pull memory to compare interleaved with non-interleaved memory - just a bit faster with interleaved RAM. Turn off the motherboard cache - no difference. Set timing for 70ns or 60ns memory - no difference. Switch the cache from 2:1 to 3:2 - about 3% faster.

Using four NewerTech MAXpowr cards at work, I knew 3:2 was stable, so I left it set there.

In the end, I ended up with a MacBench 5 score of 776, just over 75% faster than my original processor. Between that and the Ultimate Rez video card, my system also outperforms the beige G3/300 in video by about 40%.

In the real world, I am amazed at how fast my QuicKeys macros run in Claris Emailer, how much faster Emailer opens and sends messages, how much more smoothly Claris Home Page operates, and the simple fact that I can't seem to type ahead of the display in any program, something which even on a 180 MHz computer has sometimes been an issue.

Overall, for $240 (your cost may vary) I improved performance of my $800 computer (bought on close-out in June 1998) by 75%. I think that makes it an excellent value.

Of course, there are lots of other upgrade options for the Power Mac 7300-7600, 8500-8600, 9500-9600, SuperMac J700 and S900, and Power Computing Power Curve, Power Center, Power Center Pro, PowerTower, PowerTower Pro, and PowerWave.

I bought my MAXpowr G3/250 on close-out - NewerTech only makes 300-466 MHz cards today. You may be able to score comparable deals through Small Dog Electronics (where I got mine) and other dealers on older, discontinued models - all of which will be a huge step up from the 120-250 MHz 604 processors that came with these older Power Macs and clones.

Or you might want to upgrade with the latest, fastest daughter cards. (I just checked Small Dog. Their stock of NewerTech cards starts at 300 MHz for US$419.)

Of course, there are also other brands available. We've been using NewerTech for a couple years at work (starting when the MAXpowr G3/250 was a $1,250 card!) and found them very reliable. We based our initial purchase on feedback from other Mac managers who had used third-party G3 upgrades. At the time, some cards had problems with Retrospect, which we use for company backup, so NewerTech was our best choice.

Other brands are undoubtedly reliable as well. For user feedback on NewerTech and other brands, visit the G3 CPU User Review Database at Accelerate Your Mac!

And for a list of available G3 daughter cards, browse the Guide to G3 Daughter Cards here on Low End Mac, a regularly updated listing of G3 cards covering speed, cache size, cache speed, MacBench 5 score (when known), and estimated street price.

Compared with the cost of a new Blue G3, these G3 cards can be a great way to extend the life of your older computers at a very affordable price.

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