Upgrade vs. New - Which is for you?
by Jamie Dresser

Friday, December 19, 2003
Welcome back to another round of benchmark testing here at OWC!

In the 16 previous series of benchmark tests we have performed on AGP upgrade cards, the tests were done using Mac OS X 10.1 or 10.2. With the release of Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther", we decided it was time for a complete retest of all available processors. Note that I said "available processors". We don't have all of the original speed processors available from prior tests - that hopefully will change with availability in the near future. This report is the first installation of what is bound to be another monumental round of updates to this test series, just like the last series was.

New over the few updates are some of the fastest personal computers available anywhere, at any price. We have 3 varieties of Power Macintosh G5 in our testing stable and you'll be able to compare your older system with a fast upgrade vs. one of these brand new machines. Also included is the fastest PowerBook on the planet, many of our customers expressed interest in gauging how fast a portable desktop replacement would be.

And, in the past two weeks, the long awaited return of DUAL PROCESSOR upgades! We have the very first published tests of the brand new GigaDesigns Dual processors, and also the PowerLogix Dual 1.2GHz(with only the 133MHz bus systems), but it is the first upgrade to use the Motorola 7457, it's results were very nice and prove why Duals are a great upgrade.

Since the first series of tests were run, we've added testing with Unreal Tournament 2003, Cinebench 2003, and Adobe After Effects Pro 6.0. These tests are all very interesting, especially the After Effects Pro 6.0 testing - it's a real CPU hog.

Also, starting with this new round of testing, Mac OS 9 results are no longer being obtained. We've gotten a wealth of information accumulated on Mac OS 9 and the old test results will always be available on our site, you can check back and approximate what the newer, faster processors that come to market will do using Mac OS 9 still. It's not that we don't like OS 9 anymore, it's just a time factor as these tests you see here today took 20 work days to generate as it is. That's right, 15 tests performed on 42 system configurations takes a lot of time! :>)

Onto the tests. I always welcome your comments and questions, feel free to email me.

Test Results
clicking on each link will open up a separate window for comparison purposes.
Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" Testing
100MHz Bus System Tests
133MHz Bus System Tests
Time to boot system into Mac OS X 10.3
Time to rip an entire audio CD (already residing on the HD)
Time to execute a 21 routine script using Adobe Photoshop 8 CS
Time to open and close 1000 windows in the finder
Time to export a 500MB DV File to MPEG-4 w/ Final Cut Pro 4
AltiVec Fractal Carbon - Overall Score
Quake 3 - Average Framerate
Return To Castle Wolfenstein - Average Framerate
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II - Average Framerate
Unreal Tournament 2003 - Asbestos Map Flyby
Unreal Tournament 2003 - Asbestos Map Botmatch
Adobe After Effects 6 Pro - Render 10 Frames
CPU Loading (stress test) - iTunes & Photoshop CS
Cinebench 2003 (CINEMA 4D R8) - Overall Score
XBench 1.1.3 - Overall Score Comparison
Let's talk about the companies that are manufacturing these processor cards:
GigaDesigns has quickly established itself as one of the best upgrade manufacturers in the Mac market. Their products are quite new, and they have been in business only since January, 2003 - but don't let that keep you from considering their product, they are excellent, judging by the many happy owners responses at XLR8YourMac! And, take a good look at their 1.2GHz product, it tests consistently at 1.4GHz, making it a REAL bargain! Also be sure to check out their brand new DUAL processor cards! They offer both the best performance available for Dual upgrade cards, and the best prices as well!

Other World Computing has been serving the Mac community since 1988 and these are our first AGP processor upgrades we've brought to market. A big plus of the entire family of OWC Mercury AGP Processors is the integrated fan & heatsink - no need to reuse a heatsink that was never intended to be used with a much faster processor. Combining the latest technology, top-quality components, and a heatsink engineered from the beginning to keep everything running cool, the OWC Mercury Extreme is a very solid upgrade.

Sonnet Technologies is the oldest, and one of the most respected companies in the Macintosh industry. Their acceleration products have always been rock solid performers, and their slogan is quite apt - "Simply Fast". With any of their Encore/ST upgrades, your AGP system will truly be up to speed, with a minimum of hassle.

PowerLogix was the first company to really start shipping "fast" upgrades for the AGP systems. Back in August, 2002 we were delighted to receive our first upgrades that really made it worthwhile to extend the life of your AGP system, the PowerForce Series 100 cards. PowerLogix has just started to ship their latest Dual Processor cards using the Motorola 7457 processor, and this test includes results from one of their 133MHz based cards, other speed test results with more platforms will follow soon.
The following components have been used in all testing performed in this article.
Controller Card - FirmTek SeriTek/1S2 Serial ATA Host Adapter

The SeriTek/1S2 Host Adapter provides an easy and affordable way for Macintosh users to take advantage of the latest in Serial ATA storage interface technology. Macintosh users can achieve SCSI-like high-performance and data protection without the SCSI-like price. The SeriTek/1S2 boosts overall system performance with data transfer rates of up to 150MBytes/sec or 1.5Gbits/sec.
(not installed in the G5 systems - onboard SATA controller used for those tests)


Hard Disk Drive - Maxtor 250GB SATA High performance 7200RPM 8MB cache Hard Drive. Currently the fastest performing Serial-ATA drive we've tested, this drive is about 30% faster than the stock drives shipping in the G5s - that's performance!

Video Card - ATI RADEON 9800 Pro Mac Edition 128MB High Performance Dual Head Video Card, for these test running at 1280x1024, Millions of colors, hooked up to a 17" Apple LCD Studio Display.

The ATI RADEON 9800 is the ultimate upgrade for any AGP based Mac system. Currently is the absolute fastest retail video card for the Mac market.


Memory - All of the following systems are utilizing 2GB(100MHz machines) or 1.5GB(133Mhz machines) of high quality OWC Memory, either 512MB PC-133 SDRAM CL2 chips or 512MB PC3200 333MHz DDR chips, depending on the system tested.

Upgrade any Macintosh system with OWC Memory and you won't be disappointed!


TEST SYSTEMS

For testing and comparison purposes, the acceleration cards were installed into one system for each bus speed tested.

The above listed components round out the installed equipment - the same test equipment was utilized with both systems tested, there are no variables other than the bus speed.

Take a few minutes and check out the individual results from each test, comparing them to a stock Power Macintosh G4 system. We will be rounding out the testing of different stock factory machines over the coming weeks and try and publish updates as soon as possible.