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More PowerPC Reports

Reports flowed in over the past week from kind readers with extra bits of information to share about the upcoming PowerPC introductions, as well as a few corrections. With just two weeks left before the Power Macs arrive (whatever they might be called), we’re pleased to have the latest facts (and speculations) to share.

SoftWindows Performance — The biggest single point of contention in comments we received disagrees with our statement that the low-end 6100 model will be too slow to run SoftWindows. Word is that – even at the low end – the PowerPC Macs provide sufficient Windows responsiveness to impress even staunch DOS-heads. Some said it "felt" like a 33 MHz 486 computer, but were disappointed to hear that SoftWindows emulates the 286 chip, and so might not support some software that requires a 486. Insignia has apparently promised an update to SoftWindows, with proper 486 emulation, around the middle of this year. One reader characterized SoftWindows performance on the high-end Power Mac 8100 as "way screamin."

Upgrades — Another issue of great interest to many is the PowerPC upgrade picture. We’re sorry to say that logic board upgrades will only be available for three "boxes" or "form factors" – the Centris & Quadra 610/660AV box to the Power Mac 6100; the Performa 600, IIvx, and Centris/Quadra 650 box to the Power Mac 7100; and the Quadra 800/840AV box to the Power Mac 8100. (The Workgroup Server 60 and 80 models are included.)

The rest of the computers we listed last week (TidBITS #214) will be eligible for PDS card upgrades. The 1 MB RAM cache on these cards probably won’t make upgraded Macs faster than the low-end "original" Power Macs, we’re told, but should help make up for the performance bottleneck the machine would otherwise suffer from the PowerPC chip not having direct access to the RAM. These cards will run at twice the clock speed of the "host" computer, presumably to take advantage of the machine’s own clock crystal.

Povl H. Pedersen <[email protected]> tells us that Apple is advertising free PowerPC PDS upgrade cards in Denmark to entice hesitant buyers into buying a Quadra now. In the U.S., recent Quadra price drops and rebates – see TidBITS #212 and #214 – are having a similar effect. Another reader, who asked to remain nameless, said that our prediction that upgrade pricing "should start at less than $1,000" was conservative, and while he didn’t specify a price, added that "Waaaaaay less" would be more accurate.

Configurations — It’s interesting to hear that the Power Mac 7100 and 8100 models have processor-direct slots that are already filled, right from the factory. In the "regular" configurations, the included PDS card has 1 MB of video memory (or VRAM) on the 7100 and 2 MB on the 8100 (which upgrade to 2 MB and 4 MB, respectively), to support a second external monitor right out of the box. The AV models have a special AV PDS card installed instead, with all of the AV features built in.

The Power Mac configurations that will ship with a bundled copy of SoftWindows will reportedly include 16 MB of memory.

One reader pointed out that, as in the Centris and Quadra 610 models, the slot provided is actually a PDS that can be used as a NuBus slot (for cards up to seven inches in length) with the addition of an adapter. It’s not technically a NuBus slot.

Closing Ceremonies — MacWEEK reported this week that a Power Mac 6100/60 they managed to test without Apple’s knowledge performed impressively, running almost all of 100 applications and 33 extensions from a loaded Quadra 840AV. Of these, only two minor applications failed under emulation mode. They pegged emulation speed at just a bit faster than a Duo 270c with a 33 MHz 68030. Not too shabby.

Thanks, gentle readers, for sharing what you’ve overheard around the office water cooler these last couple of weeks. We’re certainly looking forward to Apple’s PowerPC unveiling two weeks from today. Warm up your satellite dish – we’ll pass along downlink details next week so you can watch the introduction live.

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