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Old Jul 19, 2003, 05:19 PM   #1
Join Date: Jan 2003
OWC Upgrade Bundle...

I have just installed an upgrade bundle from Other World Computing on my Sawtooth G4 400 Powermac, which I found *barely* acceptable (and often frustrating) with respect to speed in OSX, and I wanted to share my experience. The package I got was the g4 1.25 ghz Mercury Extreme CPU + GeForce4 MX (32 Megs). The link is here:


The total cost was $559, and shipping was free via standard UPS (No tax since I'm in CA).

I upgraded the GPU alone first to see how much of a difference Quartz Extreme made. While it helped a bit, especially with the genie effect, all in all I didn't feel like the performance shot way up. You could feel a difference, but the pokeyness was still there and was almost worse because some operations were so quick that the slow operations stuck out like a sore thumb. So all in all, I would say a GPU only upgrade would not be worth it, even at $70.

I then plunked in the new processor. Well, not exactly. You have to have your firmware upgraded to 4.2.8. The download like is here:


To install this firmware you have to be in OS9, running from a hardisk install. (It can't be installed while running off CD, and it can't be installed via classic mode in OSX.) This was a pain for me because I had wiped OS9. I reinstalled OS9 on the partition I used to have it on, which was actually quite quick (especially compared with OSX). I then learned a new trick all of you may or may not know:

If you hold down the "option" key ("alt" key on a PC keyboard) during the boot process, the firmware will do a scan and find all bootable volumes. You can then pick the volume you wish to boot from, and continue. Its not unlike Lilo or Grub for linux, but it's graphical rather than command line.

Once OS9 was installed, I booted it up and installed the firmware. The firmware install is a bit strange, but doable. The installer asks you to shut down, then to boot while you hold down the "programmer" button until you hear a single long note, then release. You then get this OS9ish looking update screen. The firmware updates, and you are good to go.

So I then installed the new processor, and up came OSX. Fast. Way fast. To the point that I can't bitch. I'm not a graphic designer, so I'll give you a brief idea of the apps I use, and how they changed:

Safari: very smooth now, even on resizing. Occasionally a bit slow on resize on complex dynamic pages.

Finder: Silk. Window minimizing, menus, even network mounting feels infinitely faster. The GPU/CPU combo really shines here.

Mail.app: Much, much better. I use an IMAP account on a linux box I have, and it used to be frustrating to use it. Now it feels just as fast as Outlook on my 2.0 Ghz dell.

iTunes: Window resizing still isn't perfect, but it is much better (and I'm not resizing it very often). Visualization FPS went from 9/13 FPS and variable to 30 FPS constant. Very nice.

iPhoto: Window resizing is still problematic, but not agonizing now. I will still occasionally see the "all black window" phenomenon during an undocking of a window, but it is of much shorter duration and causes much less cognitive dissonance.

Terminal.app/Emacs: I am from the linux world, so I spend a lot of time in the terminal and especially using emacs. With the g4 400, the terminal felt slow to me. Keyboard input seems to trail actual key entry. This was especially the case in emacs. Now, it might as well be xterm on a linux box, but with better transparency (which I actually find useful and pleasing to the eye). Emacs now "feels" right.

XBench: I ran XBench before and after.

Score before: 47.95
Score after: 95.25

At the end of the post is the xBench break down. Especially important to me was the Widget test, and as you can see, after the upgrade the performance was nearly 2.5X.

In summary, I would whole heartedly recommend this upgrade to anyone out there with a sawtooth. The improvement in performance is well worth the relatively small cost (in macintosh terms). I was considering a new powermac, but, for what I do, this upgrade is more than adequet and I will now focus on getting a new powerbook (whenever those are released). It really does feel like a new machine.

Anyway, hope someone else out there finds this useful.


XBench Results:

g4 400 + Rage 128
Results 47.95
System Info
Xbench Version 1.0
System Version 10.2.6
Physical RAM 768 MB
Model PowerMac3,1
Processor PowerPC G4 @ 400 MHz
Version 7400 (Max) v2.8
L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data)
L2 Cache 1024K @ 200 MHz
Bus Frequency 100 MHz
Video Card ATY,Rage128Pro
Drive Type Maxtor 52049H4
CPU Test 37.85
GCD Recursion 38.35 1.50 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 47.75 160.93 Mflop/sec
AltiVec Basic 22.43 1.22 Gflop/sec
Floating Point Library 70.99 3.19 Mops/sec
Thread Test 30.18
Computation 25.69 206.94 Kops/sec, 4 threads
Lock Contention 36.58 459.17 Klocks/sec, 4 threads
Memory Test 61.68
System 56.54
Allocate 74.01 24.95 Kalloc/sec
Fill 64.56 370.20 MB/sec
Copy 41.57 207.85 MB/sec
Stream 67.84
Copy 68.19 298.18 MB/sec [altivec]
Scale 68.04 296.87 MB/sec [altivec]
Add 66.99 304.80 MB/sec [altivec]
Triad 68.17 299.54 MB/sec [altivec]
Quartz Graphics Test 54.49
Line 49.24 1.25 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
Rectangle 61.32 4.31 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
Circle 60.54 1.40 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
Bezier 56.28 611.53 beziers/sec [50% alpha]
Text 47.95 781.53 chars/sec
OpenGL Graphics Test 62.38
Spinning Squares 62.38 43.65 frames/sec
User Interface Test 48.71
Elements 48.71 16.57 refresh/sec
Disk Test 65.32
Sequential 60.64
Uncached Write 60.25 26.29 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 63.91 26.00 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 59.14 9.31 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 59.48 25.66 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 70.77
Uncached Write 61.24 0.92 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 69.02 15.83 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 81.05 0.53 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 74.85 14.67 MB/sec [256K blocks]

g4 1250 + GeForce4 MX
Results 95.25
System Info
Xbench Version 1.0
System Version 10.2.6
Physical RAM 768 MB
Model PowerMac3,1
Processor PowerPC G4 @ 0 MHz
Version 7455 (Apollo) v3.3
L1 Cache 32K (instruction), 32K (data)
L2 Cache 256K
L3 Cache 2048K
Bus Frequency 100 MHz
Video Card GeForce4 MX
Drive Type Maxtor 52049H4
CPU Test 123.46
GCD Recursion 127.54 4.98 Mops/sec
Floating Point Basic 126.15 425.27 Mflop/sec
AltiVec Basic 104.89 5.69 Gflop/sec
Floating Point Library 140.87 6.33 Mops/sec
Thread Test 74.40
Computation 75.31 606.68 Kops/sec, 4 threads
Lock Contention 73.51 922.71 Klocks/sec, 4 threads
Memory Test 79.83
System 114.28
Allocate 134.99 45.51 Kalloc/sec
Fill 289.65 1660.96 MB/sec
Copy 64.98 324.88 MB/sec
Stream 61.34
Copy 61.58 269.30 MB/sec [altivec]
Scale 63.58 277.38 MB/sec [altivec]
Add 59.26 269.64 MB/sec [altivec]
Triad 61.08 268.38 MB/sec [altivec]
Quartz Graphics Test 121.22
Line 128.04 3.26 Klines/sec [50% alpha]
Rectangle 106.28 7.48 Krects/sec [50% alpha]
Circle 127.11 2.93 Kcircles/sec [50% alpha]
Bezier 131.23 1.43 Kbeziers/sec [50% alpha]
Text 117.10 1.91 Kchars/sec
OpenGL Graphics Test 142.10
Spinning Squares 142.10 99.44 frames/sec
User Interface Test 111.75
Elements 111.75 38.02 refresh/sec
Disk Test 65.86
Sequential 63.73
Uncached Write 56.90 24.82 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 59.20 24.08 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 96.06 15.13 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 55.89 24.11 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Random 68.14
Uncached Write 57.69 0.87 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Write 66.89 15.35 MB/sec [256K blocks]
Uncached Read 79.89 0.52 MB/sec [4K blocks]
Uncached Read 71.94 14.10 MB/sec [256K blocks]
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Old Jul 19, 2003, 08:43 PM   #2
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Philadelphia
Send a message via AIM to mstecker
I just installed the 1.4Ghz OWC upgrade, and I can attest to similar happiness.
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Old Jul 19, 2003, 09:09 PM   #3
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Join Date: Sep 2002
Send a message via AIM to codycartoon
you beat me

i just downloaded xBench and scored a 91.35...i have an 867 G4 quicksilver with a GeForce 2Mx graphics card...

visit my website: www.CodyB.com
My Macs: Powermac G4 867; 15 inch Apple Studio; 600 Mhz iBook; 15 GB iPod; 60 GB White iPod Video
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Old Jul 20, 2003, 08:32 AM   #4
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Second Floor
Weighing In...

Just installed an upgrade from OWC, also: the 1.4GHz daughtercard upgrade to my ol' 933 MHz Quicksilver. The first card they sent had a fault, so OWC did an overnight ship of a new card and paid for the return of the old card. Nice. Dropped the new card in this weekend, and so far so good. Even dropped the new GeForce Ti card in this morning. Ahhhhh, double Nice! Performance increase is VERY noticable. Haven't seen that @#%$ beach ball all weekend.

Now off to play some UT2K3... the sad, crazy reason I did both these upgrades in the first place.

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Old Jul 20, 2003, 11:16 AM   #5
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: Second Floor
Thumbs up UT2K3 with hardware upgrades...

Wow. Maxed out all settings, and I can STILL play heavy action in Tokara Forest. THAT's what I'm talkin' about!
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