Who Wants a Faster iMac?

A way to boost the processor speed on your iMac has been as difficult to come by as a million-dollar check from Regis Philbin. Not possible. Can't be done. Don't even ask.

The problem? The iMac's processor comes on the same card that houses Apple's proprietary ROMs. Remove the processor, and you remove the ROMs. Remove the ROMs, and all the luck in the world won't get your computer to work.

But Newer Technologies may have a solution for iMac users looking for a boost in speed. The Mac upgrade specialist has developed the iMAXpowr G3 466, which works with the first four versions of the iMac (those released before October 1999). The iMac upgrade uses a 466MHz G3 microprocessor with 1MB of backside cache running on one 155MHz cache bus. Not bad, considering that the models it upgrades originally came with G3 processors that topped out at 333MHz.

The iMAXpowr upgrade comes with an installation video and a printed manual. To make the upgrade, just open the iMac's case, pull out the stock processor card and install iMAXpowr. The catch? Swapping the original processor with iMAXpowr will violate your Apple warranty. (Macworld.com tempted fate and installed one anyway -- for the details on how it went, see " iMac Surgery.")

Newer plans to sell iMAXpowr for $699. But it's offering a $200 rebate if you mail back the iMac processor card that you remove from your computer. Why? Because Newer is retrofitting those ROM-carrying cards with the faster processors, and then selling them to other customers. That's the product's other catch: While you're getting a faster processor, the board it comes on may not be new. Newer promises to test every processor board it receives and every one it ships out to make sure they're up to snuff.

Newer's upgrade adds a clear boost to processing power. In Macworld lab tests, adding iMAXpowr to a 266MHz iMac boosted processor speed by 66 percent. Improved disk performance was less dramatic -- not surprising since disk performance is a function of the hard disk, not the processor. Running Photoshop 5.5 on the faster iMac also showed off the new processor's prowess: color-space conversion on a 25MB Photoshop file was 30 percent faster on the new, iMAXpowr-enabled iMac.

Newer says it will ship iMAXpowr later this month. The upgrade is compatible with all versions of Mac OS that shipped with the original iMacs, including OS 9.

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