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You were a pioneer, someone who rushed out to buy a cool new iMac a few years ago. Your friends were jealous. But times and technologies have changed a lot, and your aging iMac hasn’t been able to keep pace.
Don’t toss out that near-relic just yet. Sonnet has just released the Harmoni G3 Processor Upgrade/FireWire Card Combo for your iMac. For £249, owners of iMac models with processor speeds ranging from 233MHz to 333MHz and tray-loading CD-ROM drives (iMac revisions A through D) can boost their processor speeds to up to 500MHz – and gain FireWire compatibility while they’re at it, something that wasn’t offered by previous upgrade products for the iMac from Sonnet and Newer Technology.
Expansion was clearly not at the top of the Apple engineers’ list of priorities when they designed the first iMacs. Adding RAM to them is enough to make many people go running to their local Mac shop.
But if you’ve already found yourself elbow-deep inside your iMac, this upgrade shouldn’t be a problem. A quick look at ‘Upgrade an iMac’ (How-to, October 2001) will help you decide whether you’re up to the task. Sonnet’s documentation is thorough, but its photos are a too small and washed out to be truly helpful. That said, performing the upgrade was easy.
We installed the Harmoni upgrade in a 333MHz iMac and got speed improvements in tasks involving the processor: iMovie rendering, MP3 encoding, and even scrolling through a Microsoft Word document. However, comparing the upgraded iMac with an iMac model that shipped with a 500MHz processor demonstrates that an upgrade card can increase performance only so much (see ‘Hurry up, Harmoni’, below, left).
The slightly more leisurely performance of the upgraded iMac can be attributed to the age of its components. The older iMac’s slower, 66MHz system bus transports data through the system much more slowly than the 100MHz system bus in newer models.
Older graphics-subsystems also pose a problem for the Harmoni upgrade when it’s installed in these early iMacs. They use PCI graphics instead of the faster and newer AGP technology. In addition to slowing down performance, the older graphics-processors suffer from compatibility issues with OS X – and some 3D applications that use OpenGL (such as Quake) won’t run in OS X. Apple hasn’t written OS X drivers for these older units, and has announced no plans to do so.
With a little technical know-how, you can use the Harmoni G3 to increase the processor-speed of your older iMac, and start using FireWire peripherals with it. What the Harmoni won’t do, though, is turn your iMac into the equivalent of a new one. But is it worth it? If you’re a gamer, no. If you’re a Web-surfing Microsoft Office-user who’s looking for FireWire compatibility and a nice speed increase for your old iMac, the Harmoni G3 will get you there