|1.4 GHz G4 Upgrade,
With my G4 clocking faster than the lowend upgrades, I went for the fastest upgrade I could get my hands on. This review is for the 1.4 - 1.5 Ghz G4 upgrade (which actually clocks in on my G4 at 1.47 Ghz after installation).
Given the sensitivity of this operation, I was very careful to not just read each step of the instructions, but to ensure a full understanding of each step along the way. I did not want to leave any doubts lingering. So when I came across the step which mentioned that I needed to upgrade my firmware, I became concerned. The instructions were titled for an AGP G4, which my Quicksilver G4 is not. Likewise, Apple's web site indicated that there is no firmware update available for my machine. Just to make sure, I contacted Fastmac support, and they confirmed that the firmware update is only required for AGP G4's, and that I didn't have to worry about it.
With that issue resolved, I proceeded to disassemble the old G4 processor. The process required a Phillips screwdriver, and consisted of removing the processor fan (2 screws and a connector), the heat sink (2 clips), and then the processor itself (4 screws). The instructions are specific to the AGP G4, so it only shows 3 screws, but my Quicksilver processor has a small extension that utilized a 4th screw. You have to be careful during these steps, such as being gentle when removing the heatsink (so that you don't bend the processor module beneath it) and lifting the processor out from a specific side (so as not to damage the computer and void Apple's warranty).
The Fastmac processor
is preset for the AGP G4 which uses a 100 Mhz bus. The instructions provide a chart
for jumper settings that include the 133 Mhz bus, as well as varying speeds. I set
the jumper to match the highest speed in the chart, 1.467 Ghz.
NOTE: If you are one of those kinds of people that likes to "browse" instructions (or completely ignore them) and just wing the project using "common sense", you may be tempted into disaster. Read the instructions! When dealing with a $2000 machine, I believe it is far better to be safe than sorry.
Finally, it was time to close up the case, and turn on the computer. I anxiously waited to hear the Mac startup chime, and was greatly pleased when it played. I quickly went to the About This Mac menu option, and was further pleased to see it read "1.47 Ghz PowerPC G4". The operation was a success.
NOTE: If you didn't already have Mac OS X Panther, no worries, because the Fastmac upgrade kit comes with Panther installation CDs.
I ran some traditional benchmark tests using various freeware benchmark tools. The three benchmark tools I used were CocoaBench, Benchmark 1000, and XBench. Some of them provided more details than the others, but they all illustrated the same bottom line: The upgraded machine is faster. The benchmark scores are illustrated below, and the higher the number, the better the score. The last column shows the improvement of the upgrade over the original processor.
On average, the 1.47 Ghz upgrade scored twice as good as the original processor. These were impressive results, but what about running the everyday tasks the I perform routinely? As an end user, we are less concerned about the numbers game as we are about having the tasks we perform regularly run faster. I picked a handful of common tasks that I run often, and timed these tasks on both processors. The results are illustrated below.
Once again, the Fastmac processor ran things faster on average, although not twice as fast as the benchmark scores above might imply. It was just a few seconds faster on bootup, and no speed gain at all on the Gaussian Blue filter in Photoshop; however, there were significant speeds improvements on opening the Photoshop application and running the Charcoal filter.
Benchmarks aside, my G4 Quicksilver feels much zippier now, making it more desirable than it was with my old processor. Although my old processor felt fine at 867 Mhz for my every day tasks, once I stepped up to the Fastmac upgrade, it didn't feel fine when I went back. If you are happy with your machine, and strapped for cash, you may want to avoid experiencing a faster machine, as it will only make you drool for an upgrade.
*ADDED NOTE: FastMac has indicated that they will be including printed manuals specific to each G4 model in the future.