How upgradable are PowerMacs?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Greg421, May 19, 2005.

  1. Greg421 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    #1
    I am debating on a new computer after 9 years with my PowerCenter. The main reason I bought that machine was that it could be upgraded via the PCI slots. Now, I have a video card, firewire/usb card, SCSI card, and a G3 processor upgrade installed, and they have extended its life. I am wondering if the same will be true with a Power Mac. Does any one have a guess as to whether upgrades for the processor or use of future processors in a G5 will be possible? If not, it may be better to save my money and go for an iMac or a MacMini. Would it matter whether I purchase a machine with PCI or PCI-X slots for future upgrades? How important would it be to have 8 Gig memory capacity (vs. 4 Gig)?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Greg
     
  2. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5

    wrldwzrd89

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Location:
    Solon, OH
    #2
    At this point it doesn't look like it's possible to upgrade the processor for any of the G5 Macs. I don't know of any PCI-X cards, but, if you're only using plain old PCI cards anyway, it won't make any difference since PCI-X slots are compatible with PCI cards. As far as memory capacity goes, it all depends on what you use the computer for and how much you want to be "future-proofed". If you need a powerful Mac now for what you do, or think you might be doing RAM-heavy tasks in the future, go for the 8 GB capacity. Otherwise, I'd suggest the 4 GB capacity or an iMac/Mac mini, depending on whether or not you intend to add PCI cards and/or replace the graphics card before you replace it with a new Mac.
     
  3. SpaceMagic macrumors 68000

    SpaceMagic

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Location:
    Cardiff, Wales
    #3
    Kinda dont agree with above post. I don't think the average to pro user will ever need more than 4gb RAM. Or at least, when we do need more than 4GB the G5 may be obsolete (the currently models).

    However, saying that, having a computer which originally maxed at 512mb RAM (the PowerCenter) and now seeing G5s maxing at 16times that value (8GB) I cant say what will be available 9 years down the line.

    The G5's PCI slots can take all that you currently have.. SCSI cards, TV cards, pro audio, etc. I don't think you'd be better off buying a G5 with PCI-X slots because its my understanding that PCI-X is not PCI-Express or whatever they're calling it on the PC. And that's most certainly the next step (as its faster than AGP too).

    EDIT: Called PCI-Express, PCI-Extreme.. Was unsure of name.. thanks for correction.
     
  4. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5

    wrldwzrd89

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Location:
    Solon, OH
    #4
    There's no such thing as PCI-Extreme. There's plain old PCI, PCI-X (what the PowerMacs have) and PCI-Express (potentially the fastest; used for graphics cards and SLI; not in any Macs yet).
     
  5. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #5
    I'd have to say there is a good chance the current PCI cards won't work in a new G5, there are probably 1 or 2 that are 5v cards -- and those don't work in the new G5s.

    PCI-X is an overclocked PCI slot, running at 100/133 MHz.

    But whether PCI or PCI-X they all need 3.3V cards.
     
  6. believo macrumors regular

    believo

    Joined:
    May 21, 2004
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #6
    With the 8gb capacity, there's 8 slots. You can upgrade slowly and don't have to buy huge amounts of ram at once. With 4gb capacity there's only 4 slots, so once you buy the computer, 2 slots are already filled and since PowerMacs require you to upgrade in pairs, you've only got once chance to upgrade. So that's another factor. And as you probably know, RAM capacity, not just in GB but also in slots, is one of the most important things if your trying to have a machine long term.
     
  7. Greg421 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    #7
    Thats a good point about slots and long-term viability of a machine. I guess if a 1 Gig chip is the highest capacity chip that would be made, then having extra slots would be a very important consideration. I wonder if 2 or even 4 Gig chips will be available in the future.

    Regarding processor upgrades, my Powercenter came with a 604 processor, then I upgraded it to a 500 Mhz G3. From comments on this site and the net, it seems that a 3.2 GHz G5 upgrade card is unlikely to occur in the future, but I wonder if the next chipset could be used as an upgrade for use in a G5, say the "G6" on a PCI card for use in a G5.

    If that were to happen, would it make a difference to have a PCI-X or PCI slot in the machine?
     
  8. James Philp macrumors 65816

    James Philp

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    Location:
    Oxford/London
    #8
    The way computer hardware is going it's unlikely we'll see many more "upgrade cards"
    Developing a new chipset nowadays is a lot more complicated, and the architecture around it has to be dedicated - the G5 is a prime example of this new kind of hardware.
     
  9. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #9
    There are some coming out on the market now, in DDR2 form.

    2GB DDR400s may be the biggest we see, heck it may end at 1GB.

    Remember how quickly PC133 and PC166 got left behind, and remember out current DDR standard is poised to be replaced quite quick.
     
  10. spinne1 macrumors 6502a

    spinne1

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2005
    Location:
    Hermitage, TN USA (near Nashville)
    #10
    If computer history has taught us anything, it is that all computers will eventually be upgradeable IF there is money to be made at it, and IF it is technically feasible. So far, all Macs have pretty much been upgradeable and I don't see why clever and well-funded companies could not figure out how to keep on making upgrades. However, it will be a while before you will see an upgrade for a G5 Mac. Why? The Macs still use the fastest G5 processors, so what benefit would an upgrade bring? (Granted, you could go from a single 1.6 to a dual 2.7, but the additional hardware needed to cool and house the processors, not to mention the difficulties of memory, bus speed, etc. etc. make this at present nearly impossible and way too costly) In the future, they will surely come out with much faster processors that will be able to be shrunk and cooled sufficient to put in a present day G5. There is no doubt in my mind that it will happen one day. They will eventually figure out new ways to shape processors such that they could fit in almost any computer (for example, perhaps a future processor would be VERY flat and large, say 6 inches square or bigger (to help dissipate heat better), liquid and/or chemically cooled via some internally powered process, and much more powerful because of nano-technology or some other means), and perhaps with a different or non-existent heat sink system (because of advanced cooling techniques (why have they not thought to put a traditional air conditioning type unit in a computer case where the processor sits and seal it really well to avoid damage to the motherboard? is it possible? or is it really inefficient compared to the cooling of the present day G5?)). Point is, while I don't know how it will happen, I am sure that it WILL happen. I also wonder whether it will be worth it. Processor upgrades are making less and less sense as the price of new macs continue to go down, and as the connection protocols (USB, firewire, etc) relatively stay the same over longer periods of time (a common excuse to want to get a processor upgrade is that you already invested a bunch in peripherals that would not work with a new computer--this is becoming less the case as Firewire, bluetooth, USB 2 and PCI-X or Extreme become longer term standards--your G5 may not seem very upgradable if you could just pay a little more for a new mac versus a processor upgrade (especially if you have to get a better video card to more closely match the new mac's native card) and continue to use all your peripherals.

    The REAL cost savings is in doing what I do because I am too poor to live on the edge, and that is to ride the "just becoming worthless" wave of used Macs and then upgrade them for relatively cheap and still having a useful machine. Until a year ago I used a 7100 upgraded with a G3/500 card. It was useable and screamed in OS 9, but was not upgradeable to OS X and did not support IDE or PCI and therefore needed to be put out to pasture. So I got a 7300 for almost nothing, then a G4/450 card for it and it was a step up performance wise. Again, it screamed in OS 9. But now (thanks to XPostFacto) I could see what all the OS X fuss was about. WOW. OS X really is great in many ways. So I got 544mb ram for the old bessie and a PCI card to run IDE hard drives and I was rockin. It ran Panther really well, BUT there was a big negative, and that was the video card (2 mb of VRAM). It ran most all mpeg or mov files with no stuttering, but for .wmv or .avi files--forget about it--it was stutter city. A month or so ago, I finally decided I needed something better and found that the Blue and White G3 machines were finally cheap enough to make them worthwhile. I paid $51 for mine, then got the ram up to 768mb for under $50, transferred all the IDE hard drives over (along the with PCI controller card), brought the external SCSI CD burner along for the ride thanks to the PCI SCSI card, and still managed to keep using all my old peripherals such as my serial port based Midi interface thanks to a serial port adapter for the B & W G3. I also found a G4/450 processor upgrade for $60 or so. So, for less than $200, I have a pretty peppy computer for most tasks. .wmv files play fine now, as do .avi's (unless they are really large picture movies). I can play DVD movies on it with only occasional small stutters at full screen. The only slow downs occur when doing major processor crunching tasks--burning CDs, or copying huge files, or trying to run many tracks in Garageband or Digital Performer. It is perfect for web surfing, but not really up to snuff as a music making machine. It is good for midi, but not as good for audio.

    Nonetheless, this is place where many mac users have to live until their fortunes improve. Thus, I think companies will continue to find a way to make processor upgrades in the future.
     
  11. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #11
    Actually you can't 1 FSB per processor.

    Since the single 1.6 machine only had one FSB hooked up out of 2, and the chipset in the consumer chipset only has 1 FSB -- it's not practical on the old SP PowerMacs and not even possible on an iMac or new SP PM.

    Plus, the daughtercards are a significant engineering hurdle compare to a G3 or G4 -- which are quite simple compared to a PPC970 -- there is a long complex list that could take a saavy tech team a week to accomplish minor changes in bus timing for normal and skewed operation (that's what 970eval people said, compared to swapping a jumper on the G4)...

    http://www-03.ibm.com/technology/power/newsletter/december2004/article4.html

    Not to mention writing an app to accomplish the thermal calibration routine.

    Basically momentum says this about the link
    With slight tweeking changes taking a week or two. :eek:
     
  12. zen.state macrumors 68020

    zen.state

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2005
    #12
    to answer the ? of the topic..

    powermacs are by far the most upgradable macs. they can always take more ram, storage, io upgrades than any other mac. a powermac is the way to go if you need to squeeze as much use out of a system as possible.

    powermacs are the best macs in every way other than portability.
     
  13. James Philp macrumors 65816

    James Philp

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2005
    Location:
    Oxford/London
    #13
    Say Whaaat?
    How would a processor that large be beneficial?
    Nanotechnology? What century are we talking? Yes, a G5 upgrade will be avaliable, when you're dead!
    The reason for no AC is condensation - Water + computers don't play well! If not inside then on the exterior of the case!
     
  14. Greg421 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    #14
    If a processor upgrade is unlikely to be available, I should consider a Mac Mini. When I bought my PowerCenter, there was really only one type of Mac from which to choose. Now, the Mac Mini, eMac, iMac, and Powermacs provide many choices. A Mac Mini costs about a fourth of a 2.0 GHz PM, so if it suits my needs for the next 2-3 years, I think it has served its purpose, especially since I typically use the Mac for entertainment (simple games and surfing) and some word processing. I would like to get a device to transfer home vids to DVD, and someday, I'd like to get broadband if its available in my area to shop on iTunes. I think both of these tasks could be done with a Mac Mini. All these years I have been dreaming about buying a new PM and not realizing that it may not be the most practical choice. Ironically, now that I can afford a PM, I may not get one.

    Thanks for all the replies to my posting,

    Greg
     

Share This Page