G3 accelerate upgrade cards

Introduction

Early adopters of the G3 processors may now be hankering for more speed. Owners of the 233MHz G3 models can now double the processing speed with a processor upgrade. We took a look at two such upgrades and led them into battle for supremacy in a head-to-head race. Actually that may be overstating the case somewhat, as both processors are almost identical, a clear winner was never expected. To look at, the cards are more or less identical as both are ZIF upgrades. ZIF, or Zero Insertion Force upgrades, consist of little more than the processor and cache on a tiny card. The grid of pins from the processor drop into a corresponding socket, and are then held tightly when a lever locks them into position. It sounds a little fiddly and you must be careful not to bend any of the pins, but so long as you’re not too hamfisted you shouldn’t have a problem. It should take even a novice no more than 10 or 15 minutes to install either of the upgrades. Despite the similarity in looks, the companies take a different approach. While Newer Technology prefers to use hardware to enable the card to function, XLR8 use a software solution. The software used with the XLR8 card is slick and professional, and it gives plenty of control over the card. In the past, XLR8 has been quite open about how to over-clock its cards, providing instructions and advice in the manual. Now, XLR8 has moved away from this policy and, although it’s still possible to do this kind of thing, you have to search the Web for over-clocking advice. Over-clocking is increasing the processor’s clock-speed above the stated speed. This is usually possible because when processors are made they’re graded to run at a particular speed. But the manufacturing process does not build processors to a particular speed. The quality of the processors fluctuates and so they’re graded after they are built. There’s a margin of error built in to this grading, so in theory you should be able to increase the clock speed by at least five per cent. The faster you drive a processor, the hotter it gets and the more likely it is to crash, so it isn’t the best solution for most people. One reason for downplaying over-clocking is that XLR8, along with Newer, is working more closely with the chip manufacturers. If both are “well-behaved” developers, they stand to gain advantages in price and availability. In the race for upgrade supremacy, timing and price are the two things that can affect upgrade companies’ sales the most. To test the upgrades, we installed them on an old 233MHz G3 – one that has seen plenty of action in our production department. This means that even as a standard 233MHz machine, disk fragmentation and other symptoms of every day use will make it run slower than a fresh out-of-the-box machine. As you can see from the speed tests, the Newer card has a slight edge over the XLR8 card. This is most likely because of the hardware configuration. Whether you can tell a three per cent difference in speed is another matter entirely. The big question is: does it double the speed of your 233MHz G3? Yes, it does, but processor speed is not the whole picture. You also need to take into account graphics and hard-disk performance. The overall improvement in performance of the Newer card was 50 per cent, and the XLR8 card is a shade under 49 per cent.
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