Second Class Macs & Road Apples

Quadra 800/840av and Power Mac 8100 Case


Dan Knight - 1999.11.08

Second Class Macs are Apple's somewhat compromised hardware designs. For the most part, they're not really bad - simply designs that didn't meet their full potential. (On our rating scale, the more brown apples, the worse the hardware.)

Believe me, no tears were shed when Apple introduced the Power Mac 8600 and abandoned the minitower case first used with the Quadra 800. (The Power Mac 9500 used a taller version of this case.)

Not counting Workgroup Servers, four Macs used this case: the Quadra 800, 840av, 8100, and 8500. And all were equally difficult to work inside.

The case itself is quite attractive with four drive bays. The top one usually held a CD-ROM, the next a floppy, the third your hard drive, and the fourth was available. Unfortunately, the fourth didn't have a faceplate, so it could only be used for an internal drive.

On the other hand, it was easy to move the hard drive down one bay and put a tape drive in the third slot (as Apple did on some Workgroup Server configuration). You could undoubtedly do the same with a Syquest, optical, or other removable media drive.

No, the problem wasn't drive bays. They were actually not hard to work with once you had the case open.

Getting the case open was more work than usual, since most Macs could (and still can) be popped open without a screwdriver - or maybe be removing a single screw. Not so the Q800 case. There were four screws on the back that had to be loosed before the cover could slide off.

Once the screws were loose, the cover slid forward, and then you lifted it up. Not bad, really, although the reverse could be a bit difficult. Sometimes the cover didn't want to slide neatly back and align holes with the screws on the back of the case.

But that's minor compared with working on the motherboard. Except for replacing the CPU card in the 8500, changing anything on the motherboard required completely removing it. That included removing the reset button (on some model), removing a screw, disconnecting several cables (power, floppy drive, hard drive, CD-ROM sound out, and speaker), then sliding the motherboard assembly forward about an inch, then pulling it away from its mounts.

Yes, it was that much work. But after all that, you could finally upgrade your RAM or VRAM.

Of course, to test the new memory, you had to reassemble almost the entire computer. Aligning the ports with their openings was always tricky, as was reseating the cover after all else was done.

Compared with the slide-off case of the 7200/7500, the flip down case of the 8600/9600, the drawbridge case of the Power Mac G3/G4, and even such antiques as the Mac II and IIcx, the Quadra 800 case was a real bear. Some of the compact Mac designs may have been worse, but by 1993, Apple should have known better.

The computers themselves were outstanding, so only the case design itself merits a Road Apple.

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