Mac Processor Upgrade
June 7, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

This old Mac: My 450 Mhz G4 has held up for about 5 years now. I was on the market for a new iMac G5, but as we Mac people will be wanting to upgrade to intel machines in a couple years, this seems like an unwise purchase (the Osborne effect and all). So I'm thinking a processor upgrade might be a good stopgap. Anyone have any experience with this?
posted by aladfar to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I've upgraded a 450Mhz G4 tower to 1Ghz. It seems about as snappy as the 1Ghz Ti Powerbook I'm typing on now.

I use it as a video playback device at my entertainment center. It's damn loud, so it might get a replacement for that.

I realize it's not really your question, but buying a replacement G5 for that G4 now isn't a bad decision - PPC and Intel OS and Apps will be cross-compiled for years after Apple is fully transitioned to x86 in late 2007.
posted by tomierna at 8:39 PM on June 7, 2005

I have done CPU upgrades on both 604s and G3s. It's... ok, I guess. If I had to do it again, I would have just bought a new machine.
posted by mwhybark at 9:02 PM on June 7, 2005

From my experience, the best time to buy a new computer is when you need one. It never seems to pay to just put it off, especially for as long as you're talking. If you need (or want) a new Mac, then buy it now.
posted by jdroth at 9:08 PM on June 7, 2005

I'm writing this post on an original 450 MHz G4 that was upgraded to a 1.4 GHz G4 a year ago. Machine runs Tiger just fine, and my audio apps are much happier.

For a machine of this age, I would, however, factor the cost of a power supply into the cost of a processor upgrade, if you're waiting two years to buy a new Intel-based Mac.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:21 PM on June 7, 2005

I upgraded a PowerMac Digital Audio from 733MHz up to a 1.2GHz with a Gigadesigns upgrade card. Very painless upgrade and worth the money at the time. Prices now make for an even better deal.

That said, you might want to just break-down and buy a Mini or even an iMac to tide you over. The earliest we'll see any Intel based Mac is probably 1Q 2007 and, even then, it's not guarateed to be a a conumser level machine -- Apple may roll-out Powerbooks or XServes first, letting the iMacs straggle on till Q4 2007 with G5s.

Plus it's not like existing Apple hardware is going to simply stop running in 2007. I'd say we'll be seeing strong PPC support through at least 2009, 2010. You could very easily buy an iMac now and get another five years out of it.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2005

I know we all want the "new thing", but there's really no reason for the Intel switch to influence your purchase decision, especially with it being 2+ years out. It's more about long-term strategy for Apple than an immediate performance boost. The G5 iMacs are incredible machines, and PowerPC Macs will be supported for a very long time.

I'm not a very big fan of processor upgrades on Macs; they tend to be rather expensive for the performace difference. Something like a Mac mini might be more appropriate if you don't want to shell out the cash for a real Mac.
posted by trevyn at 9:29 PM on June 7, 2005

FWIW according to the roadmap presented yesterday it'll be the end of 2007 before Apple stops shipping PowerPC Macs. that's roughly 2.5 years before Apple finishes shipping G4/G5s - and the PPC will be supported for a while afterwards as well. it'll be a year before anyone who's a regular user can get an Intel Mac. if you buy a new G5 and it lasts as long as your G4 has so far you'll probably be part of the crowd that gets dragged into the Intel Mac scene kicking and screaming (whether or not you actually are ;-) since that'll be about the time when people are going to stop bothering to cross-compile.

to be honest, if you really need a newer and/or faster machine, grab a Mac mini; even the 1.25GHz one will outpace your G4 unless you have >1GB RAM in the G4 now. cheap FW400 enclosure from NewEgg for your existing hard drive and possibly some putty knives and a stick of DDR RAM (running about $100 now) and you're good to go. quite a bit more than the 1GHz CPU upgrade (as the 1.25GHz mini is $499 retail, and the 1GHz OWC Extreme CPU upgrade is $200) but you'll (probably; unless you've upgraded your G4 already) get faster video, USB 2.0, a faster CD writer (or possibly a DVD burner), BlueTooth and Airport Extreme capabilities, warranty, and you'll hvae to worry less about your PSU giving out. the internal laptop drive in your mini may even outperform your existing HDD.

if you decide to go with the CPU upgrade, it's easy - remove the retaining clips, take the screws out, pull up CPU (it's on some weird connector; kinda a ZIF thing without the levers and stuff), drop new CPU in. depending on whose upgrade you buy you may have to set jumpers. get as much RAM as you can afford if you're not above or at 512MB RAM now too - that'll help Tiger more than anything, as will a video card upgrade if your machine has AGP (and, unless you typoed 450, it probably does). I found that Tiger was pretty zippy on an old TiBook 667 with a 16MB Rage video card - no cool ripple effect when I dropped widgets onto the Dashboard but the zoom in/out was still fast and all - so you may be happy with the CPU upgrade too.
posted by mrg at 9:37 PM on June 7, 2005

Of course, if you don't mind spending about $1500 now, to give the machine back in late 2006, you could buy a Select developer program seat and get the x86 dev kit right now....

(That's $500 for the dev subscription and $999 for the x86 dev machine)
posted by tomierna at 9:43 PM on June 7, 2005

There's no reason not to buy the iMac -- everybody will still be making software for it 5 years from now. It's 2 1/2 years until Apple finishes the transition to Intel, and PowerPC will be a significant segment of the installed base for at least 3 years after that. Anybody who puts out Intel-only Mac software before 2010 is foolishly limiting themselves to a minority segment.
posted by jjg at 10:33 PM on June 7, 2005

Response by poster: I considered the mini. But I didn't really think about the video card and other improvements it would bring. It probably makes more sense to go that route than to patch up the old G4.

Which is still perfectly good for most tasks - I'd be able to pass it on to my parents.

Thanks much for the advice!
posted by aladfar at 10:40 PM on June 7, 2005

You might also look at the used market for Macs. There is anecdotal evidence that the Intel announcement has people seeking to unload their Macs for what I'd guess are irational motivations. You might be able to turn it to your advantage.
posted by Good Brain at 11:05 PM on June 7, 2005

it'll be a year before anyone who's a regular user can get an Intel Mac

Not true. Apple announced they'll definitely be on the market by this time next year, but they didn't give any indication of how long before that they'll start shipping. I reckon they'll announce the first one in January at Macworld.
posted by cillit bang at 12:44 AM on June 8, 2005

ANY Mac Apple might be shipping in June 07 will fly circles around any computer you buy now from them now, even if they were not going to Intel. I'd make an educated guess that you can expect it to have the same useful life span as most Macs, about 5 years or so. Remember, there is a huge installed base of Power PC based Macs out there, most software companies who do Mac apps will still want to capture those sales. There will only be a few million Mactels in the wild as of 2007, compared to the tens of millions of PPC ones.

Over the years I Frankensteined the hell out of my beloved original G4 Yikes! tower (600 MHz CPU, 32 MB Radeon, new hards drives, USB 2 card, etc) and it's still running like a champ. My son plays Freedom Force and edu software on it.

I wouldn't do it now though, I'd get a new iMac, I hear nothing but great things about it.
posted by Scoo at 6:31 AM on June 8, 2005

I wouldn't do it now though, I'd get a new iMac, I hear nothing but great things about it.

You haven't looked very hard then. Noise has been an issue for many iMac g5s, and performance isn't much better than n eMac.

I love them, I'm just sayin'.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 1:44 PM on June 8, 2005

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