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Vimage's Vpower PF G3 320/325 Install Review
for the 6400/6500

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Check out my Vpower G3/240 review


Vimage G3 card

Vimage has just released their long awaited high speed copper based G3 upgrade for the 6400/6500 and others based on the same mother boards. They had announced their intentions on making a faster card back in the beginning of the year and here it is! It's slightly faster than the others 300Mhz cards being a 320Mhz G3 with 1M cache. It will run 325Mhz on a 50Mhz bus such as the 6500's. That makes this G3 the fastest clocked G3 CPU for the 6400! Both Sonnet and Newer announced 400Mhz cards which are meant for the 50Mhz bus systems and they say it will run at only 320Mhz in a 40Mhz bus system such as the 6400 but the $800+ price of these puts them well out of proportion compared to Vimage's $499 price tag for their 320/325 card. Now the line up looks like this:

240/225Mhz G3 with 512k cache
320/325Mhz G3 with 1M cache

The initial announced price was $1499 and has since dropped to $499 which is even lower then what Sonnet or Newer lists their 300/1M cards for! The box includes the G3 card, software on a floppy, manual, and a disposable ground strap. Since this G3 is copper based it doesn't produce enough heat to warrant the need for the added fan that Vimage included before. The one thing I didn't like was that the card was not in an anti static bag? It may be because mine was a demo model, but this is rather strange. The manual is the same one that came with the 240 card and still reads 240/300 models but you will be shipped a 320/325 card. I talked with Vimage and we both concluded that this was a minor detail and that they may include a leaflet to tell people of this difference. (the picture below is from the 240Mhz card which had the extra heatsink/fan)

Stuff that comes with G3 card

ABOUT THE CARD

This Vpower PF G3 runs at 320Mhz on a 40Mhz bus like the 6400 or 325Mhz on a 50Mhz bus like the 6500. It has 1M of L2 cache running at either 160Mhz or 165Mhz depending on CPU speed. It is a copper based G3 like Sonnet is using for their 300Mhz cards so temps are lower then the 240Mhz model. Low enough that the extra heatsink/fan is not needed on Apple clones as I mentioned earlier. The cards dimensions are the same as the 240's but it came with a black heatsink instead of a green one.

INSTALLATION

This is copied from my other Vimage review so if you already read that one feel free to skip ahead.

Installation is very simple. Just a step more from adding a traditional L2 cache. First you install the software from the floppy disk. This includes the Vpower extension, Vpower Control panel and Vpower folder that contains the Vpower Info app. Then you power down the Mac and the rest is just like adding a L2 cache. You will need a Phillips screw driver, the G3 card, ground strap, and a magazine. Before removing the power cord, touch the metal covers for the PCI slots to ground yourself and try not to move after this point (computer electronics don't like static electricity!) The manual says to use the ground strap and to attach it to the power supply or other metal parts to keep you and the computer at the same electrical potential (this helps reduce the risk of static electricity). I stuck it to the PCI slot covers.

Rear of 6400

Now remove the 2 screws that hold the motherboard in then carefully pull out the board. Place it on the magazine so you don't damage the components on the back. If you have a L2 card already installed, it will be necessary to remove it before inserting the G3. I found it easy to remove the L2 cache by using a small flathead screw driver (like a jewelers screw driver). I put it under the very end of the cache card and used it to help pry it out. These cards are in very tight so you will have to use some force but please be careful! Now insert your new G3 card and here's the crucial point, you MUST press the motherboard reset button found right next to the Ram slots. If you do not do this then your G3 may not be recognized or worse your computer might crash. This is not limited to the G3 card and you should press this button when installing or removing any card from the 6400. Now just put your mother board back in and your done. Your now ready to experience G3 speed!

Vimage in L2 cache slot
1 - stock 603e
2 - Vimage G3 in L2 cache slot
3 - mother board reset button

HERE WE GO!

It was time to see the differences now! My first hope was that the double boot was gone but it still exists :( I mentioned on my web site that Vimage may be doing this to prevent stability problems after the G3 has kicked in? Anyway expect slightly longer boots then with Sonnets G3's. I then went to check the CPu temp using Power Logix's Speedmeter and it runs about 51c. This is about 30c cooler then the Vpower 240 but hotter then all 3 of Sonnets G3's! this is where Sonnets massive heatsink come to play. Although Vimage's is hotter, its still well cooler then the older card and is well within G3 CPU temp specs. The software installed are the same as the 240's so nothing new to mention here. The computer definitely fees snappier but not as much as I had hoped. After all, 320Mhz is not much faster then 300Mhz. I tried the Geo modem just to make sure it worked and it connected and ran for a few hours with no issues. Here is where Vimage's G3's out shine Sonnets. Sonnet has had complaints about stability issues with the Geo modem (and other stability issues) which makes the Vimage a more worthy buy , BUT it does have compatibility issues which may make it not even operable. I will be explained later.

BENCHMARKS

I tested the same apps that I used in my Sonnet G3 review for comparison. My times were taken using the second hand on a watch so there is a +/- 1s error. First a bit of info on the test system.

MacBench 5.0 Scores
MacBench 4.0 scores

This upgrade really puts us close to a stock beige G3 300. The only other piece of hardware needed is a better IDE HD. Apples stock HD's are maxed out and become the bottle neck once a G3 upgrade is added. I ran some tests with my Maxtor drive and got scores around 1000% which puts me right on par with the beige G3. Also you may notice that the FPU score for the Vimage 320 is less then the Sonnet 300. Sonnet installs LibMoto which accelerates FPU to get very high scores. I did try LibMoto and got 1328 which is faster then Sonnet's but I keep LibMoto disabled now because I heard it can interfere with the Geo modem. Why take chances! I have it for download from my Updates & Upgrades page if you want it.

Application Launch Times
603e 180/0k Vimage G3 240/512k Vimage G3
320-325/1M
Sonnet 300/1M
Boot Speed 1m 53s 2m 4s 2m 4s 1m 32s
PhotoShop 4.0.1 17s 8s 8s 7s
Corel 6 15s 8s N/A (I removed Corel 6) 6s
Word98 15s 9s 9s 7s
AOL 4.0 Preview II 19s 10s 10s 9s
Netscape 4.0.5 14s 7s 6s 6s
RealPC 1.0.4 3m 10s 1m 35s 1m 8s 1m 20s
Speedometer 16bit graphics test 1.206 2.431 2.876 3.167
CPU temp after test completion N/A 75c 51c 27c

When comparing application launch speeds it become apparent that Vimage's cards are not as fast as Sonnets. According to these results it would seem that Sonnet has faster disk access which gets you faster launch times. RealPC is faster on Vimage's only because it is more CPU intensive. I had removed Corel 6 so I couldn't test that app but I expect the score to be around 7s to 8s. In actual usage the Vimage 320 feels faster but the tests I run won't show it. You'll really see the difference when editing a file in Photoshop or rendering a 3D image. Also playing the latest games should be a better experience. ATI hasn't shipped its Rage 128 cards yet so I wasn't able to include tests using it. I have ordered one and they should be shipping in a week or so and if I still have this card, I'll test them for sure!

PASSING TIME

My first day's use went flawlessly but on the second day I ran into some trouble! When I booted up the Vimage extension was crossed out with a big X. It took me some trouble shooting but I finally narrowed it down to Speed Doubler 8.1.2. Both Speed Doubler and the Vpower extensions are programed to boot before other extensions even though they are somewhere near the end of the list. But because S comes before V, Speed Doubler will load just before Vpower and this was causing the Vpower extension to not load enable the backside cache. The G3 was running though according to the Vpower Info app. Just no cache. I added a space before Vpower which made it load first and this solved the problem. I did not have this issue with the 240Mhz card and I don't know why its happening now? So try adding a space to Vpower if your having this problem. I tried running a bunch of FPU benchmarks and staying online with the Geo for long periods of time but never got a hotter CPU reading then 51c. Even though its hotter then Sonnets, its nothing to worry about. You won't have any heat issues with this card. Vimage waited to use a copper CPU just for this reason. A 300+ Mhz G3 non-copper would get way to hot and fail. Sonnet made many claims that their large heatsink fixed that problem but ended up using copper CPU's also.

COMPATIBILITY

The 320/325 card has the same issues as the 240 card. Here is what's listed in the manual:

  1. Geoport modem: you must have Mac OS 8.1 and Apple Telecom software 3.x installed to use this modem
  2. Virtual Memory with OS 7.x.x: You must disable VM or the Vpower G3 will not take over and your original CPU will come on
  3. Avid Cinema doesn't record: In some cases, it's possible that an error message will appear and recording will be impossible. If, before you record, you play the sample movie that came with Avid Cinema, this problem will go away.
  4. Avid Cinema doesn't play back properly: Select "More Compatible" mode in the Vpower control panel.
  5. My PCI card won't work: Xclaim GA, and Twin turbo are incompatible. for more information please visit http://www.vimagestore.com/compatibility54.html or call tech support at (877) 559-0074
  6. My screen doesn't look right when I use a Xclaim series card: There may be cases in which a Xclaim card produces strange screen effects when it is activated. This problem only occurs at the time of activation, however, and will not affect normal usage.

Click here to view my Vimage Compatibility page which lists much more hardware that works or not.

SUMMARY

After just a few days of use I'd have to say like the 240Mhz card, this one rocks! Ya the double boot still exists and there are a lot of incompatible video cards but the stability of Vimage's L2/G3 beats the competition hands down. And for Geo modem users, stability is the key word. Remember though that you must have OS 8.1 for the Geo and Vimage card to get along but I haven't heard from anyone that has complained about the Vimage causing issues with their 6400's Geo modem. Sonnet on the other hand has had complaints on this plus other issues such as startup crashes. In the end it comes down to either getting the Vimage's G3 for better stability specially with the Geo or get Sonnets G3 if you have or expect to get one of the incompatible video cards.

Vimage Corporation
970 W. 190th Street, Suite 480
Torrance, CA 90502

(877) 4-VIMAGE, or (877) 484-6243


Check out my Vimage Info page for more information
Check out my L2/G3 comparison page to see what else is available


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This page last updated 11/7/2002