NewerTech G4 Upgrades Making Your PowerMac More Badass than It Already Is

by Tanner Godarzi Nov 16, 2007

NewerTech has sold processor upgrades for PowerMacs which allowed users to take advantage of faster G4 chips to keep ahead of the technological curve for a long time. Eventually the option of Dual Processors became available and speeds reached a blistering 2 GHz, but even in a world dominated by Intel based hardware, NewerTech’s G4 upgrades make for a worthy purchase.  It’s important to note that while Apple will eventually phase out support for PowerPC hardware, older Macs still retain a useful purpose. Even the test machine used in this review—a PowerMac G4 AGP model—is still readily, capable and you should be able to find a purpose for that old Mac, even more so in Leopard.  Features From NewerTech -Up to 12x more processing power -Up to 40% faster than 7447 upgrades -Runs faster, cooler and consumes less power -Fast 1MB L2 1:1 on chip cache -100% plug and play compatible with existing hardware and software -Use with Apple OS 9.2.2 and OS X 10.3.5 & later -Expanded DFS power management capability -64-bit bus interface Benchmarks One might think that a processor upgrade for a PowerMac would be useless considering that for close to the same price, an Intel based Mac Mini could fill the needs of a PowerMac. However, the same can be applied to PCs as well; instead, this upgrade is meant to be what the name implies: an upgrade. Not a switch to foreign architecture, but to increase the compatibility of current hardware to applications that demand more. In this case that would be Leopard, and while you can flaunt benchmarks claiming a speed increase in some obscure pro application, the numbers (or at least anything that would pertain to the end user) don’t lie: Leopard is fast when compared to Tiger. Even in real world use, the difference is noticeable and even applications thought to be restricted by hardware are given new life. However, this upgrade exposes a flaw (when using Leopard) that afflicts old Macs, but more on that in a bit.  NewerTech MAXPower G4/7448 1.8 GHz Single Core processor upgrade. Mac OS X Leopard w/ G4 Upgrade Cold: 41.8 seconds (to login Window) Restart: 64 seconds (to login Window) Mac OS X Tiger w/ G4 Upgrade Cold: 41.5 (to login Window) Restart: 67 (to login Window) Mac OS X Tiger w/ Original 500 MHz G4 Cold: 81 seconds (to login Window) Restart: 102 seconds (to login Window) Mac OS X Leopard With Original 500 MHz G4 (Installed then swapped out CPUs) Cold: 104 seconds (to login Window) Restart: N/A Grey Screen of Death NewerTech’s Benchmarks image This Processor upgrade screams under Leopard and Tiger, but one thing that really hinders either OS’s performance is the Video Card, which is very underpowered: an ATI Rage 128 Pro. This causes some problems in that the PowerMac, coupled with the G4 upgrade, is fast enough but it exposes the Graphics card as the Achilles heel. It causes some inconsistencies in the GUI such as slight lags in Coverflow and the obvious fact of a scaled down interface (I cover this more at my blog), but this problem did not arise when using the original 500 MHz Processor under Tiger.  While I can do everything I need to do, you should upgrade your Video Card to take full advantage of Leopard and tap the true potential of an upgraded PowerMac. I’ve found that any Core Image compatible Video Card should give you the full visual effects of Leopard.  Actual Use Sure, I could litter this review with benchmarks and the like, but that doesn’t tell me what I really want to know and appeals to a selective group of users. Chances are if you’re looking for a processor upgrade, you’ve done your homework and all you need to choose is how much speed you want from a Mac. Instead, it’s better to gauge the performance not in numbers (besides specs, of course) but how well it works overall.  And I am glad to say it works great; not to be a suck-up here, but there is no denying that this new processor breathes new life into this old PowerMac, although it’s not as fast as it should be. If you’ve ever used a PowerPC based Mac with about 2-300 MHz difference, you’ll really notice the difference even if it was manufactured in the same year, regardless of form factor. There’s a discernible difference between my PowerBook G4 1.5GHz and my Mac Mini G4 1.25 GHz, but this PowerMac G4 1.8 GHz doesn’t seem all that much faster than the PowerBook. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, if you’ll note earlier I mentioned this being an AGP based PowerMac so this is about a 9 year old Mac. Things such as Bus Speed and the slower IDE ports in use will create a speed difference but if you’re relying on raw numbers then you wouldn’t be able to know this.  Leopard compatibility is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Fortunately, it runs greater, in fact faster, than Tiger on this Processor upgrade. Besides describing this as being fast, it’s important to note a few things when actually using the PowerMac. An issue might be the cooling system; upon installation you’ll be prompted to not only connect the power through the processor but to plug in the power connector for the fan as well. This is a no-brainer when using computers but I have to say this thing runs cool, too cool probably. When my CPU usage spiked up to 100% for several hours (Visual Hub plus Handbrake encode) I touched the heatsink and it was as cool as if it were not even on, and the air coming out in the exhaust port was frigid as well. The sound is audible from several feet, it won’t break any windows but you can tell they’ve revved up. The fans are not thermally controlled though; as soon as you press the Power buttons, your CPU is being cooled Installation is a whole other beast. The process is relatively simple, but depending on your configuration it can be somewhat time consuming and, if you’re not careful, utter hell. The upgrade requires that your Mac’s Firmware is up to date. If not, you’ll have to do the upgrade using Mac OS 9.2.2, not 9.1 or even 9.0, but 9.2.2. After that is done, you’ll have to perform the Firmware flashes exactly as NewerTech notes it. If not, you can run into an unbootable Mac, which I ran into several times due to incompatible outputs using an HDTV.  To Upgrade Or Not To Upgrade? In a world dominated by Intel oriented hardware and software, the notion of upgrading to a faster G4 processor may seem out of the question to some but a godsend to others. As NewerTech notes, a G4 upgrade can be cheaper and in some cases faster. Even with Leopard, a G4 upgrade is still useful and downright essential for maintaining a useful Mac. In my case it’s vital, as I intend this PowerMac to be a souped up Media Center (and if you’re buying Chris Seibold’s book of Apple Hacks, you’ll be drooling over my piece on creating one sick Media Center PowerMac setup), so a G4 upgrade will function for some time to come. NewerTech’s G4 upgrade will not only bolster your Mac’s performance, it’ll make it usable for ages to come.  Rating: 4.5 Pros: Will make your PowerMac faster and Leopard compatible, software is accelerated in speed. Runs very cool. Cons: Noticeable fan, very difficult upgrade if you do not follow the instructions to the letter, slow bus speeds may hinder the real impact of a G4 upgrade.


  • I really think you should note that those speed comparisons are
    1.0x for Mac Mini CD 1.67 ROSETTA performance of Photoshop
    2.18x for iMac C2D 2.4Ghz ROSETTA perf. of Photoshop
    2.27x for G4 Dual 1.8 upgrade - NATIVE perf. of Photoshop

    I still think it’s entirely valid. I just bought my Wife an iMac C2D and she uses an older Photoshop. Your stats imply it should run just under twice as fast (via Rosetta) as her G4 Dual 900 did holds true.

    It also fits with some calculations I did that were hard to come by.  Namely if she replaced her dual G4 900Mhz with a MacMini 1.8 she’d see little change in speed (until she upgraded to CS3… RAM permitting!)

    So what was the cost comparison?

    Greg Alexander had this to say on Nov 16, 2007 Posts: 228
  • This article is very timely for me, as I have been considering the exact same upgrade for my Quicksilver 867Mz running Tiger. Hopefully you can answer a couple of questions for me.
    1. My Quicksilver will boot into 9.2.2, which is important to me. If I do this upgrade I assume it will still boot into 9.2.2 under Tiger, but if I upgrade to Leopard (which doesn’t support Classic), will I still be able to boot into 9.2.2?
    2. I’m clueless as to what video card I should upgrade to; considering I need both Sys 9 & X. and hopefully keeping core animation (assuming Leopard will allow a sys 9 boot). If Leopard won’t boot Sys 9, I’ll keep Tiger on this machine.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Fine article, BTW.

    timaeus had this to say on Nov 16, 2007 Posts: 1
  • @timaeus, I created the same setup you desire. You have one easy option (and this is the easiest I am assuming on your current setup) is to use the Leopard Installer to Partition your disks (non destructively of course, new feature of Disk Utility in 10.5) and have one allocated to Leopard and the other to Tiger.

    One thing to keep in mind, if you have a full partition or Hard Drive solely for the use of 9.2.2, you’ll have to remember to patch your Firmware for OS9 use, this is all detailed in the instructions.

    @Greg, the G4 1.8GHz upgrade is $350 and reaches into $500 for some very slick dual processor models. True you could use this money for a new Mac but for that same price, you could buy an underpowered Mac Mini (if you exclude CPU speeds) or keep your tricked out PowerMac. The upgrade helps if you’re aiming at keeping your current setup and having the features of a Mac Pro (expansion etc.)

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on Nov 16, 2007 Posts: 70
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