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Review: OWC's Mercury G4/500, G4/400 & G3/500
ZIF CPU Upgrades

How they compare in a Blue & White G3/350 System
By Mike
Published: 10/19/2001
(revised 10/26/2001 for G4/400 results)
= Links to Review Topics Pages =
Intro | Benchmarks  | Apps/Game Tests | Installation | Specs/Design

Note: This review was from fall 2001 comparing G4/500 vs G3/500 vs G4/400 ZIF CPU upgrades to the original G3/350 CPU in my B&W G3. In 2003 I posted a review comparing the OWC G4/533-550 ZIF (at up to 600MHz) to the Powerlogix G3/800 upgrade as well as including G3/500 and G4/450 comparison tests. The latest reviews are listed at the G3 upgrade reviews page and G4 upgrade reviews page. (Original article text follows)

Other World Computing sent review loaners of their G4/500, G4/400 and G3/500 CPU ZIF upgrades. This review compares the performance of the G4/500, G4/400 and G3/500 OWC upgrades in my B&W G3. Results of performance tests with the original G3/350 CPU module are also included for comparison.

These ZIF upgrades are also listed as compatible with the XLR8 CarrierZIF cards for owners of CPU Card slot Macs such as the 73-9600 and many clones (see below for a complete list). For more information on the CarrierZIF, see the CPU Cards page for a list of several CarrierZIF reviews and articles. If you're confused about ZIF upgrades with the CarrierZIF see my illustrated Setup Guide to the CarrierZIF for more information and important installation tips. (That guide was written in 1999, using the original CarrierZIF card. XLR8 now offers a smaller/revised "MPe" version.)

Although the Mercury ZIFs require motherboard jumper settings changes and come with no printed manual (online install guides are at OWC), the savings compared to some "name brand" upgrades could be used to a) add more RAM or b) add a better video card; therefore addressing two performance areas for the same price as a 'name brand' CPU upgrade alone. If you're not experienced with installing CPU upgrades make sure you read the guides linked on the installation page of this review.

Models Reviewed:

  • Z4500MA (Motorola 500MHz G4 with 1MB cache at 1/2 CPU speed)
  • Z500MZ (IBM 500MHz G3 with 1MB cache at 1/2 CPU speed)
  • Z4400MA (Motorola 500MHz G4 with 1MB cache at 1/2 CPU speed)

For the latest pricing, check OWC's Site Specials page. (Prices lowered again - check the Site specials page for the latest pricing - I think the G4/500 now is near $200 as of April 2002 but check OWC's site for the latest pricing.)

Review Table of Contents:

  1. Benchmark Performance: Altivec Fractal demo, CineBench 2000 and GaugePro memory bandwidth.

  2. Applications/Games Performance: How the upgrades compared to the original G3/350 CPU in iMovie2 (OS 9 and OS X), iTunes (OS X), Photoshop 5.5, Word 98 Scrolling, and popular 3D games like Quake3 (Classic and OS X) and Unreal Tournament.

  3. Installation: Important pre-installation tips, links to online installation guides and troubleshooting tips.

  4. Specs/Design: Photos and Details on both the G4/500 and G3/500 upgrade's CPU and Cache.

Is an OEM ZIF a Good Fit for You? There are two main things to consider when buying an OEM Jumperless ZIF CPU Upgrade like these.

  1. Since these CPU modules have no jumpers/switches for adjusting speeds, if you're installing them into an Apple Beige or B&W G3 you'll have to change the motherboard jumper settings to set the proper Bus/CPU ratio for the new CPU speed. The installation page links to photo illustrated guides on how to do this.

  2. OEM ZIFs are sold at lower margins than retail brand name models. This and the fact that they were not originally made for consumer/end user sales means they do not come with the nice documentation that many higher priced upgrades do. OWC's online install guides cover the install process, but I've also listed some pre-install tips and things to check at the installation page of this review.

As mentioned in all my past reviews of G4 CPU upgrades, without software that takes advantage of the Altivec core, a G4 runs most applications no faster than a G3 CPU of the same speed (all other factors being equal). Applications with Altivec support often show dramatic performance increases with a G4 CPU. For a partial list of applications that have G4 Altivec (what Apple calls the 'Velocity Engine'), see the FAQ's Apple G4 topic area.

System Compatibility:

The OWC Mercury ZIFs are compatible with the following Mac models:

  • Apple Beige G3 and All-in-One G3
  • Apple Blue and White G3
  • Apple G4/PCI ("Yikes")

Using a ZIF socketed card (XLR8 CarrierZIF, CarrierZIF MPe, PowerLogix Zforce) as a base card, you can use the Mercury ZIFs with the following Mac models. (The list below is based on previous info I have, check with the vendor of your carrier card to verify system compatibility.)

  • Apple: 7300, 7500, 7600, 8500, 8600, 9500, 9600
  • DayStar Genesis MP720 or later, Millennium
  • UMAX S900 & J700.
  • Power Computing PowerWave, PowerTower Pro, PowerCenter*, PowerCenter Pro*, PowerTower*
  • Power Computing PowerBase (for CarrierZIF MPe and ZForce cards only - original CarrierZIF model not PowerBase compatible.)

* Catalyst based motherboard Macs cannot use G4 CPUs due to a motherboard hardware issue. You can use G3 upgrades in these models however.

Other Owner Experiences: Many owners of Other World Computing Mercury ZIFs have posted their ratings, speeds and commenst in my searchable Rate Your G3 Upgrade database. Apple G3 owners should select 'Other World Computing' as the card brand and either Beige or B&W G3 as the Mac model. To see Mercury ZIF reports when used in a CarrierZIF (in older Macs), select 'XLR8 CarrierZIF' as the card brand and look for 'OWC ZIF' next to the CPU speed or in the report comments.

Test System Details:

  • Apple B&W G3 revision 2:
  • 256MB RAM
  • Stock 6GB Quantum IDE drive with OS X 10.1 installed
  • 27GB Maxtor (1999 model set as slave) with OS 9.2.1
  • ATAPI (IDE) DVD ROM and ZIP drive
  • ATI PCI Radeon (w/9.1 ROM update)

Display used was an Apple 15" LCD (VGA/ADB model) which as a maximum resolution of 1024x768.. 

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 OWC Mercury ZIF Review Pages

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

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