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Power Mac upgrades due

The low-cost hardware upgrades in time for Macworld will include Newer Technology's circuit boards for the new PowerPC 750 processor.

Not a lot of new hardware is expected from Apple Computer at this week's Macworld Expo trade show, but a number of companies will be offering hardware upgrades for budget-minded users.

Newer Technology should Special coverage: All the Mac's a stage make a big splash at the show with circuit boards using the new PowerPC 750 processor. The boards plug into the original line of Power Macintosh 6100, 7100, and 8100 computers and are priced as low as $499.

Newer Technology says it has designed low-cost boards specifically for the first Power Macs because the majority of the 2.2 million units Apple sold are still in use.

Often, processor upgrades are nearly as expensive as whole new systems. At Macworld Boston last year, Newer Technology was offering a 250-MHz PowerPC 750 upgrade for $1,200, while the 266-MHz version sold for about $2,200.

Now, however, users can get access to a workstation-class processor for a fraction of the cost, as the PowerPC 750 is many times faster than the 60-MHz PowerPC 601 originally offered in these systems.

The upgrades aren't just a faster processor, but also include a faster, larger secondary cache memory system to support the increased speed of the 750.

Newer Technology claims that the large cache helps compensate for the slow system bus speed of the original Power Macs. The system bus speed is the rate at which the processor communicates with the rest of the system and is a critical factor in determining the computer's overall performance. By storing either 512KB or 1MB of data and feeding it to the processor at over 100 MHz, the processor doesn't need to access the slower system bus as often.

Newer Technology is offering the MaxPowr G3 for 6100, 7100, and 8100 systems with a 210-MHz PowerPC 750 and 512KB cache memory for $499. A 240-MHz version with 1MB of cache memory is priced at $699. The cards are expected to ship by the end of January.

Newer also announced a MaxPowr G3 processor card with 275-MHz PowerPC 750 and 1MB of cache memory. Unlike the MaxPowr cards for the 6100, 7100, and 8100 systems, these cards will move data from the cache to the processor at the same clock speed (275 MHz) as the processor, offering improved performance.

The cards are available for more recent Power Macs as well as Mac clones at prices ranging from $1,549 to $1,999.

Not to be left out of the market to upgrade the original Power Macs, Sonnet Technologies also will roll out new upgrade cards tomorrow. The Crescendo G3 card comes with the PowerPC 750 processor running at speeds up to 257-MHz and 1MB of cache memory. The card will be priced at $999 while slower versions with 512KB of cache will be priced at $699. Sonnet is also offering upgrade cards with up to a 240-MHz PowerPC 604e processor for $499. All cards will be available at the Macworld show in January.

In other news, Austin, Texas-based Mactell (MTLL) is offering new graphics accelerator cards for Mac OS-based systems. The Mactell Vision 3D, Vision 3D Pro, and Vision3D Pro II offer acceleration of functions such as MPEG video and QuickTime playback.

The high-end 3D Pro II offers Number Nine Visual Technology's "Ticket to Ride" and Imagine III processor with 8MB of video memory, while the midrange 3D PRO cards use Number Nine's Imagine II accelerator chip with either 4MB or 8MB of video memory. Mactell says the entry-level Vision 3D comes with 2MB or 4MB of video memory and the S3 Virge chipset.

Mactell did not announce pricing or availability for the cards.