I love my PowerBook 1400. It’s served me well over the years, but it now seems boxy and heavy compared to the latest sleek PowerBooks and iBooks. And yet, despite its tiny color screen and the various dings I’ve put into it over the years, I’ve been loath to replace it. The good news for PowerBook 1400 owners like me is that Sonnet Technologies’ Crescendo/PB G3 upgrade cards can put a G3 processor inside the 1400. The bad news is, it’s still a 1400 — and there’s no denying it.
Installing the Crescendo/PB G3 upgrade card was relatively easy. Sonnet’s instruction manual is first-rate, and I was able to follow along effortlessly — although I did have to leave my 1400 open with its power button depressed overnight in order to completely reset its power system. Opening up the 1400 is a breeze, and installing the tiny upgrade card took only a few minutes.
When the system was up and running, the speed difference was palpable. The entire system felt more responsive. It didn’t quite feel like I was using an iBook, but it didn’t feel like I was trapped in 1997, either. On one hand, I had to use a PC card to connect to my Ethernet network; on the other hand, an AirPort PC card would theoretically work with the upgraded system, though I was unable to get my Orinoco card to work.
But the 1400 is fundamentally hampered by its old design, and there’s nothing the Sonnet card can do to change that. It’s got a slow system bus, no built-in Ethernet or modem (that’s what those PC cards are for), an 11.3-inch screen, a poky video card, a slow hard drive, and (perhaps most crippling) a maximum 64MB of RAM. That’s a lot for the time it was made, but a bare minimum these days. Our Macworld Lab tests showed that the Sonnet card provided a remarkable speed boost to the PowerBook, although it was still remarkably slower than our reference PowerBook G3/400 in almost every case. Moreover, we couldn’t even run all of our Speedmark tests because the 1400 was still incapable of running Quake.