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Review: Giga Designs 1.4GHz CPU Upgrade
By Mike
Published: 6/13/2003
= Links to Review Topics Pages =
Intro | Benchmarks  | Apps Tests | Game Tests | Installation | Specs/Design

Pros: Ran reliably at 1.467GHz in my Digital Audio G4 Tower (w/o any voltage change and no wake from sleep issue at 1.467GHz). Compact upgrade w/copper heatsink and attached fan is easy to install. Adjustable speeds via jumpers (see specs page for notes and jumper settings).

Cons: 1st sample was not reliable at 1.467GHz, although revised 2nd sample was.

Compatibility: PowerMac G4 Sawtooth, Gigabit, Digital Audio and Quicksilver 2001/2002 Towers running OS 9.2.1 or later (including OS X). 3yr warranty and 30 day MBG.


Giga Designs recently sent a review loaner of their latest and fastest CPU upgrade for G4/AGP Towers (Sawtooth through Quicksilver 2002 models). Like their previous models I have reviewed here (G4/800 no L3, G4/800 w/SDR L3, G4/1GHz w/DDR and SDR L3, G4/1.25GHz w/DDR L3), it comes with a pre-attached heatsink/fan which makes installation very simple and is adjustable for CPU speeds. Also included in this review are comparisons of the Giga Designs G4/800 (w/2MB L3 SDR cache) and 1GHz (w/2MB L3 SDR cache) and OWC Mercury Extreme 1.33GHz model (w/2MB DDR L3, at both 1.33GHz and 1.4GHz settings, although 1.4GHz with that upgrade would not wake from deep sleep due to L3 cache speeds at that setting).
Although I had some problems during stress tests at 1.467GHz with the first sample, the revised 2nd sample proved reliable at 1.467GHz in this system, including no problems waking from sleep at that setting. Based on performance with the 2nd sample, I have no hesitation recommending this upgrade.

See the linked pages of this review for benchmark, apps and game test performance as well as an installation page and specs page (w/jumper settings info). The Giga Design 1.4GHz upgrade has a 6:1 CPU to L3 cache bus ratio which helps avoid the wake from sleep issue seen with previous CPU upgrades when overclocked beyond their rated speeds. (This was noted in previous reviews of the Giga Designs 1.25GHz when set to 1.33GHz and with the OWC Mercury Extreme 1.33GHz when set to 1.4GHz.) This sample would wake from sleep fine at both 1.4GHz and 1.467GHz in my Digital Audio System. (If you have a wake from sleep problem with your original CPU, the upgrade may also. Also not all PCI cards support deep sleep.) The L3 cache ratio is the reason why the OWC 1.33GHz upgrade (w/5:1 L3 ratio) set to 1.4GHz scores a tiny (small %) bit faster in some tests than the Giga Designs 1.4GHz upgrade. This isn't a significant factor in real world performance but just a FYI to readers.

As far as fan noise, the Giga Designs upgrade fans I have used seemed to have less noise than my Digital Audio's (DP533) original CPU fan that was removed in the process. However that CPU fan is about 2 years old now, so perhaps it's noisier now than it was when new.

This review compares the performance of:

  • A Digital Audio (DA) G4/533 Dual CPU
  • The DA System w/Giga Designs 1.4GHz 2MB DDR L3 cache
    (at 1.4GHz and 1.467GHz speeds)
  • The DA system w/OWC Mercury Extreme 1.33GHz 2MB DDR L3 cache
    (at 1.33 and 1.4GHz since readers will be curious if it ran at 1.4GHz)
  • The DA system w/Giga Designs 1GHz w/2MB SDR L3 cache
  • The DA system w/Giga Designs G4/800 w/2MB SDR L3 cache,

For full details on the test system's hardware and software, see the system details listing below.

I no longer own any of the older G4 towers to use as test beds, but owners of older AGP towers can run tests described on the review pages to compare their performance to these upgrades.
To see what others thought of their CPU upgrades - you can search the Rate Your CPU upgrade database here for reader reports on most every CPU upgrade by brand and/or mac model. OWC's product pages also link to their comparison tests of AGP CPU upgrades.

CPU Upgrade pricing/availability can change at any time, but as of June 13th, 2003, site sponsor OWC sells the Giga Designs 1.4GHz upgrade for $629.99. (Update - as of June 19th, 2003 it's now $599.99) Check OWC site specials page for current pricing after this review posting date. OWC has also recently announced their own 1.4GHz version of the Mercury Extreme CPU upgrade with similar specs (1.4GHz CPU, 2MB DDR L3, adjustable for CPU speeds, although not voltage, and included heatsink/fan. Same form factor as the 1.33GHz model I reviewed here recently on the G4 reviews page.) They also announced a 1.25/1.26GHz model for $499.99 (current pricing as of this review date).

Review Table of Contents:

  1. Applications Performance: Tests with QT to MPEG4 conversion, iMovie3 quicktime movie export, iTunes4 MP3 encoding, multitasking, and Photoshop 7.0 (50MB image/21 filter tests).

  2. Games Performance: Tests with Jedi Knight II, UT2003 Demo, Unreal Tournament X, Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Quake3.

  3. Benchmark Performance: CineBench 2003, Xbench and Altivec Fractal (FPU) test results.

  4. Installation: Comments on installing the upgrade, photos of it installed, etc.

  5. Specs/Design: Details of the upgrade's CPU and Cache, jumper settings, etc..

System Compatibility:
These CPU upgrades are listed as compatible with the following Mac models:

  • Apple G4/AGP "Sawtooth"
  • Apple G4/AGP "GigaBit Ethernet"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Digital Audio"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Quicksilver"
  • Apple G4/AGP "Quicksilver 2002"

    OS Requirements:
  • OS 9.2.1 or OS 9.2.2
  • OS X

Other Owner Experiences: For owner ratings of most every CPU upgrade for any upgradeable Mac, search the Rate Your CPU Upgrade database.

Test System Details:

  • Apple Digital Audio G4 Tower
  • Dual 533MHz G4 CPUs (7410) w/1MB SDR L2 cache per CPU
  • 133MHz (SDR) bus w/1GB RAM
  • Western Digital WD120JB 120GB (20% free space) Hard Drive w/OS 9.2.2 and 10.2.6 installed
  • Onboard ATA/66 hard drive controller
  • Pioneer OEM DVR-103 Superdrive
  • Retail ATI 8500 AGP 64MB graphics card
  • Quicktime 6.2 (Pro)
  • Airport active for all tests

Display used was a Sony 19" F400. The hard drive was not optimized. For MP3/CD rip tests, a Lite-on 40125S (40x12x48x) CDRW in a Pyro Firewire case was used.

You can follow my preferred path through the review by continuing to the next page, or use the links below to jump to a specific page.

Index of Giga Designs 1.4GHz Review Pages

Intro | Benchmarks  | Apps Tests | Game Tests | Installation | Specs/Design

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