iMAXpowr G3 – Review

iMAXpowr G3
466MHz 1MB cache at 155MHz
Company: Newer Technology
Estimated Price: $349 (after rebate)

iMAXpowr G4
433MHz 1MB cache at 216.5MHz
Company: Newer Technology
Estimated Price: $549 (after rebate)

A G4 iMac ?!?

“Holy smokes, MacMan! These things are FAST!”

That was my first impression after installing both the iMAXpowr G3 and G4 upgrades in my 333MHz iMac. Now, after spending a few weeks getting to know both cards, I have refined my initial impression. “Good God, I can’t send this review card back. I just CAN’T! I must have it!”

That’s right, I have fallen in love. The last G3 upgrade card I had reviewed was a cache-loading G3 upgrade card I reviewed back in 1998, made by a company long gone. (As is any chance for updates or technical help, but more on that later.) I knew an upgrade card would speed up that aging 6500 to a new level of performance, but how much help did my 333MHz iMac really need? It is only a year old (less, actually) and seems to me to be pretty darn fast. True, I did notice some lag when playing Diablo for over an hour, but that could have just been my own reflexes slowing down after prolonged game play.

To put this in the simplest terms, these card to an amazing job of boosting the performance of an iMac. But for a price, of course.

If you have a 333MHz iMac, is it worth spending $350 dollars to upgrade it for 466MHz? IS 133MHz more speed WORTH $350 to you? While I cannot answer that question for you, I can say that the difference in all aspects of computing on my iMac (running OS 9.0.4, no third party extensions) was not only noticeable right off the bat, but was more so once I took the card out of the machine and replaced it with the original processor.

Still, $350 is not an insignificant sum of money. But if you happen to own an original Bondi Blue iMac, which shipped with a G3 233MHz processor, I can honestly say either of these upgrade cards are more than worthwhile, as is true for any 266MHz iMac owners. These cards are not so much an upgrade card, but a replacement card. You machine is not really changed at all, other than a new processor daughter-card. No software to install, no harmful third-party extension conflicts, none of the things that older Mac users have to face when upgrading a non-G3 PowerMac to G3 power. The only thing you will notice different is the speed.

Speed is always the forefront of a computer buying experience. When someone mentions their computer is too old and obsolete, they are really saying the machine is simply not fast enough to adequately run the latest and greatest software or operating system. This is no less true for Mac users than it is PC users, and with the release of Mac OS X just a few months away (at least in beta), many early iMac buyers are asking if their machine is up to the task of running the new OS. And while no one can say for sure if a 233MHz iMac can run OS X well or not, you can be sure a 433MHz G4 iMac is.
No one likes to take their computer apart besides computer-nuts. There are small, sharp little metal things that love nothing better than to peel the skin of your knuckles. They are wires you have to remember to reconnect. They are chips and things which you may break, or loose, or… Well, no one in their right mind wants to tear apart a computer, and with a computer as compact as the iMac, that is doubly true.

The upgrade actually replaces the same card in your iMac, so there is no guess work involved here. However, the card you take out of the iMac is also the card where you memory in installed upon, so you will have to make certain you pull the memory out of you old card and install in onto the upgrade.

Installation is made to look very simple in a very clever way by Newer Technologies. All iMAXpowr cards ship with a video tape tutorial on how to install the card, from the moment you start taking screws out of the iMac to the point where you boot up the machine. The G3 upgrade is actually done by, are you ready for this, a very young (13 years old or so) girl. Hey, if a little girl can do this, so can you! (You can also watch a newer installation video for the G4 upgrade card on the internet courtesy of Newer’s website, at (size around 13MB in size, but very informative if you are thinking of buying one of these cards. Requires QuickTime 4 to view)


A note about Newer Technology. They have been around since 1984, and has been a mainstay in the Macintosh community ever since. When you are planning a purchase of an upgrade card in this price range, you want to make sure it is from a company that has a good track record and one you know will not close it’s doors anytime soon. Newer is a great company, and all my dealings with them have been well received. They actually (shudder) CARE about the Macintosh users they cater to. A rare thing in today.

So, installation is a breeze, with both a video tape tutorial as well as a very informative manual. Now the only question is, should you upgrade and what the difference is between the G3 and G4 upgrade cards.

For my testing purposes, I used Adobe PhotoShop 5.5, Diablo II (okay, I was in the process of playing that game for another review, and since the iMac had an upgrade card in it already…) as well as Internet Explorer 5.0, Microsoft Word 98, and AppleWorks 5. Besides PhotoShop 5.5, nothing there to really test the raw processor ability on, but I think more people are interested in day-to-day product review tests than any benchmark score.

The iMac was first upgraded to the G3 card, which runs at 466MHz and comes with 1MB of backside cache running at 155MHz. This card ran without a fault, and every application seemed much faster and responsive. Windows seemed to spring forth, programs launched in half the normal time, and web pages seemed to load even faster. (The last seems strange, as your internet browsing is most effected by the speed in which you connect to the internet, in my case a cable modem. But without the G3 and G4 upgrade cards, browsing the net just did not feel as responsive and quick. Perhaps the faster processor speed actually speeds up the time it takes for a web browser to display the downloaded graphics? In any case, Internet Explorer was really felt lighting fast with these upgrades)

The slow-down in Diablo II I had been experiencing before the upgrade to either the G3 or G4 was gone, and the game played flawless.

After a few days, the 466MHz G3 card came out, and the 433MHz G4 card went in.

My first worry when installing the G4 card was speed. The iMac’s fan and case design was built for the heat of the G3. Would a G4 run hotter, and cause any unforeseen problems? Would I be able to hard-boil an egg on top of the iMac with the G4 installed?

No, nor should I have worried. I could not tell any difference in operating temperature between the G3 and G4 cards.

The G4 card, running at 433MHz, is actually 33MHz slower than the G3 upgrade card. Being a G4, though, I figured that would matter little, and that the G4 would still run rings around the G3 upgrade. Surprisingly, however, that was really not the case. In many real-world test, such as scrolling a large Word text document, launching applications, and a few others, the G3 actually felt quicker than the G4. That was not true, however, when using PhotoShop. Here the G4 really showed it’s true power, and outperformed the G3, though not by as much as you may think.

I think, for the money, the G3 card is a better option for most people. However, if you plan on being the first on your block to upgrade to OS X when it comes out (See the OS X White Paper by Roger Kasten in this issue for more on just that subject) you would be better to opt for the more powerful G4 upgrade. While Mac OS X is still not “out there” and I have no real-world basis for saying so, I feel that a G4 machine will be much faster and optimized for the new Mac OS. Just a feeling, but one based on an educated guess. (And the fact that I have been running early build of Mac OS X, and find it operates MUCH better on a G4 than a G3)

All in all, both these cards are a great way for owners of older iMacs (See list below) to keep their machine right up there in the speed department, and in fact operate faster than any currently shipping iMac from Apple. (Just go try to order a G4 iMac. Can’t do it, can you?) The price, for what you are really getting, I think is very reasonable. These upgrades will breathe new and longer life into your iMac, especially those with a sub-300MHz version.

Supported iMacs:
233MHz Bondi blue iMac (Rev A)
233MHz Bondi blue iMac (Rev B)
266MHz Blueberry iMac (Rev C)
266MHz Tangerine iMac (Rev C)
266MHz Strawberry iMac (Rev C)
266MHz Grape iMac (Rev C)
266MHz Lime iMac (Rev C)
333MHz Blueberry iMac (Rev D)
333MHz Tangerine iMac (Rev D)
333MHz Strawberry iMac (Rev D)
333MHz Grape iMac (Rev D)
333MHz Lime iMac (Rev D)


Tim Robertson

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