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PowerPC 750 upgrade card debuts

A small, fast company called Newer Technology gives Mac users the latest and greatest in PowerPC chips. The 750 was announced Monday.

    Boston--Newer Technology, a small company known primarily to Macintosh users, is making waves here at Macworld Expo with several PowerPC 750 upgrade products that not only raise the performance of Macintosh-compatible systems but in some cases push them beyond the fastest systems available today.

    The 750 is the newest and fastest PowerPC processor from IBM and Motorola and was just announced on Monday. Newer Technology, which for years produced upgrades and accessories for personal computers, first achieved fame in the Mac community for its docking stations built to accept Apple's now discontinued Duo 2300 subnotebook. In recent years, the company has been producing some of the most popular processor upgrade packages for desktop Power Macintoshes.

    Newer Technology has also been producing upgrades for aging Apple PowerBook notebooks, including upgrades to move older 68000 chip-based systems to the new PowerPC processor.

    Now, however, the company is showing a set of MAXpowr Pro/Pro+ upgrade cards that use Motorola's spanking-new, ultra-fast PowerPC 750 chip.

    Offering clock speeds of 250 and 266 MHz and compatible with most upgradeable Macs and Mac-compatibles, the upgrade cards give customers the latest-generation processor for their systems. At this point, Apple isn't marketing any systems based on the 750 processor. Motorola and other clone vendors have but a few systems available using it.

    The 250-MHz upgrade sells for $1,200, while the 266-MHz version sells for about $2,200. A 300-MHz version has been designed and tested, but the company has yet to secure a large enough supply of those processors for production.

    The upgrades aren't just a faster processor, either. They include a faster, larger cache memory system to support the increased speed of the 750, as well as electronics to adjust to the bus speed of the system they're installed into. The 266-MHz version comes with a larger 1MB of high-speed cache memory. Users whose systems have higher bus speeds can expect better overall performance from the upgrades.

    For users who own the first generation of PowerPC-based Macintoshes--from the 8100, 7100, and 6100 lines--Newer is rumored to be developing a line of upgrade cards that will be based on the PowerPC 604e processor. Due by Christmas, the new cards employ the older processor to reduce cost, a key issue for users of older systems who may not want to invest as much in a machine that has already served much of its expected life span.

    Newer also has a more interesting PowerPC 750-based upgrade in the works. The company is about to announce the tentatively named MAXpowr 2400 Pro, an upgrade for Apple's just-announced subnotebook, the 2400/180. Also running at 250 MHz, the upgrade would turn the diminutive 2400 into a system that's not only faster than the speediest off-the-shelf Apple notebook, the 3400/240, but faster than most Mac OS desktop systems.

    The upgrade's price hasn't been set yet, but it is expected to fall in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. Unlike Newer's desktop upgrades, the company will offer an installation program for the 2400 card, due to the delicacy of adding internal components to the tightly integrated subnotebook.

    Newer is also active on other fronts. The company announced last week that it had licensed the BookEndz line of docking stations for Mac laptops from Pilot Technologies. And it's showing off new docking stations for the 2400 and 3400. For $89 to $220 dollars, the stations allow PowerBook users to connect and disconnect their portable from desktop items such as monitors, keyboards and hard drives with a single action. The stations will be available in mid-September.

    Originally a Macintosh-centric company, Newer has begun to diversify into the Windows arena, planning to split its revenues evenly between the two markets by some time next year. Still, Frank Hopper, a product manager with Newer, anticipates that the major opportunities lie in the Mac market. "I see the Macintosh market right now as the hottest opportunity in the computer industry. It has nowhere to go but up."