Dan Knight - 1999.03.01
If so, Sonnet Technology had a solution in the Presto accelerator, which would push these older Macs to Quadra level. Although discontinued, you may still be able to find some. If not, their newer, faster Presto Plus card is expected out in May.
The older Presto came in two versions: a full 25 MHz 68040 with internal math coprocessor and the less expensive 25 MHz 68LC040, which lack the math coprocessor. The forthcoming Presto Plus will use either a 33 MHz 68040 or 68LC040, along with 32 MB of additional memory and an ethernet port.
How Fast Is It?
We bought a pair of these for the LC and LC II used by our oldest sons a little over a year ago. The included software allows installation of Mac OS 8 and 8.1, as well as access to 12 MB of memory in an LC II with two 4 MB SIMMs installed - instead of the normal limit of 10 MB of RAM. (Our LC II has this configuration.)
This past week, #2 son acquired a used Color Classic. It's cute, but it's also as slow as his LC II. So over the weekend we transplanted the Presto from his old computer to the Color Classic, installed the Presto drivers, and ran a few benchmarks.
Using old-but-reliable Speedometer 4, we compared regular Color Classic (this one came with a 68882 math coprocessor) performance and accelerated performance. (For more details, read the benchmark report.)
Where the Color Classic provided comparable CPU performance to the Mac II, IIcx, and IIsi, the Presto card pushed it to Quadra level, almost matching the 25 MHz 68040-based Centris or Quadra 660av. The overall boost in CPU performance was threefold.
Graphic performance doubled. Where it had been close to the Mac II and IIcx with Apple's 8-bit video card, it now matches my Mac IIfx with 8•24GC video card. It still lags behind the performance of the video-optimized 660av, but video performance is very impressive.
The only drawback on the Color Classic is that we had to remove the extra VRAM for the Presto to work properly. This was not an issue with either the LC or LC II, but does mean we can't use 16-bit video on the Color Classic.
The Presto accelerator had no impact on hard drive performance, which should be expected. To improve that, you need a better hard drive.
In the math test, the Presto card with a FPU-less 68LC040 not only outperformed the 16 MHz 68882 FPU installed in this Color Classic - it turned in over twice the speed! While this is but a fraction (28%) of the performance of a full 68040 in a 660av, it is nonetheless impressive performance. It definitely moves the LC, LC II, or Color Classic past Mac IIfx performance.
So why am I reviewing a discontinued product you may not be able to buy?
Partly because we're pretty excited to finally have a Color Classic in the house and partly because Sonnet should be introducing an even faster card, the Presto Plus, in a few months.
We have had no compatibility problems with the Presto, other than the requirement to remove the extra VRAM in the Color Classic. It takes a cute but poky computer and makes it comfortably fast. And, on the LC II, it breaks the 10 MB memory barrier hardwired into the computer's chips.
This bodes well for the Presto Plus, as does experience with Sonnet's Presto 040 card in eight Mac IIcis at work.
The new 33 MHz card should provide about one-third better performance than the old Presto, which will make it comparable to the 33 MHz Quadra 650. Beyond performance, it will add 32 MB to whatever amount of memory is already installed on your LC, LC II, Color Classic, LC 520, LC 550, etc.
Finally, recognizing that we're moving beyond LocalTalk and that these models only have one expansion slot, the inclusion of ethernet will be a real blessing.
Whether the Presto Plus will be worth US$299 or US$399 (for the 68LC040 and 68040 models, respectively) remains to be seen.
Macworld Macintosh Secrets, 5th ed., puts the value of the LC at US$25, while searching the sites of dealers selling used Quadras shows you can probably buy a used Centris 650 or Quadra 650 for less than the cost of the Presto Plus. Of course, in both cases you'd need to add a $40 ethernet transceiver and probably spend $40-80 to boost total RAM to 32 MB or greater, so that also has to be factored in.
Whether a used Presto or a new Presto Plus is a good deal depends on how satisfied you are with your current Mac. If your only complaint is that it's too slow, an accelerator might be your best bet. If it's too slow and doesn't have enough RAM, the Presto Plus could be a perfect solution.
But if you're also contemplating adding a larger hard drive, you might be better served by a newer used Mac, such as a Quadra or even early Power Mac.
Manufacturers and distributors: Interested in having your product reviewed? Please read our review policy.
Recent Low End Mac Reviews
- $4 iPhone 3G/3GS Case Is a Winner, 2012.01.12. Why spend $20 or more on a case for your iPhone 3G or 3GS? This $4 case could be just what you need.
- Memory Cleaner for Intel Macs: It Works, 2011.12.14. If you're running low on system memory, Memory Cleaner can free up additional RAM until you can afford a real memory upgrade.
- Macally iKeySlim: Great Feel and USB 2.0, 2010.11.18. If you're looking for a great USB keyboard for your Mac, the $30 iKeySlim is a winner. The USB 2.0 hub is a bonus.
- More in the Rumor Mill index.
Links for the Day
- Mac of the Day: PowerBook 165c, introduced 1993.02.10. The first color PowerBook had an attractive screen, slow graphics.
- May 25 in LEM history: 99: OS X and the econoMac - iMac iMpact - 00: Is a Mac better than a PC? - 01: 1993: PowerBook vs. ThinkPad - Old files on a new Mac - 05: Mac minis in classroom a big hit - Of mice and keyboards - 06: The best 'Book for my needs - 07: More RAM vs. matched RAM - Running OS X from flash memory
- Support Low End Mac
Recent Content on Low End Mac
- World Book Encyclopedia 2012 DVD, Tommy Thomas, Reviews, 2013.03.05. "You may be asking yourself, in an age of Wikipedia and instant information, is World Book still relevant?"
- Vintage Computer Festival SouthEast, April 20-21, 2013, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.25. Old Apple gear and old PCs.
- iMessage: The Ultimate Messaging Service?, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.21. In most ways, Apple's iMessage is far superior to BlackBerry Messenger.
- More links in our archive.
- Best Mac mini Deals
- Best 13" MacBook Pro Deals
- Best Intel iMac Deals
- Best iPod touch Deals
- Best iPhone Deals
- Best iPod nano Deals
- Best iPod classic Deals
- Best Apple TV Prices
- More deals in our archive.
Low End Mac Reader Specials
Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Mac Driver Museum
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ