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As I write this article the G3 that is the topic of concern is sitting several feet from me in a large box waiting to be shipped across the country to a new waiting owner. This is not because its a bad machine but because I can basically do everything I personally need to do as far as Mac gaming on the older more portable 7600 that coupled with the fact the Power Mac 9600 still has my eye for eventually being my go to high end classic Mac. So before this machine leaves my life lets take a look at it and let me give you my impressions.

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The G3 minitower uses a case like the 8600 and 9600 but according to Wikipedia it is slightly shorter. First off let me say this thing has a fair bit of weight to it. On top we have a 1.22 floppy followed by a CD-ROM drive and under that is a 100mb Zip drive. The Zip was optional but I see them on a large number of G3’s I come across. The Zip and CD-Rom drives are both IDE. As you can see my machine has a Sonnet badge on it since it received a G4 CPU upgrade at some point. Middle bottom you can see the speaker  and on the right is the little power button.

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Now we have the back of the machine with its various ports. On the very top left is the external SCSI port followed by the ADB port for your Macintosh keyboard/mouse. Below that is the Ethernet port, your printer/modem port and finally the VGA port. The G3 still does not use a standard VGA port so if your using a PC VGA monitor your going to need one of those adapters.

macvgaA few MAC to VGA adapters

Below that you have the A/V ports. There were three levels of a “personality card” that would go here. The lowest version known as “Whisper” was just the sound card for the system and offered no A/V capability. The card installed here is the mid level card known as “Wings” and offered sound as well as some A/V capture and output abilities. The highest level card known as “Bordeaux” featured improved sound capabilities for the system as well as better A/V capture quality and DVD movie playback ability. Finally there are 3 expansion slots for three PCI devices, somewhat of a step down from the six PCI slots in the Power Mac 9600.

The machine is very simple to open. The side comes off by depressing the aquamarine colored “button” on top and pulling out.

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From here you just flip up those two colored plastic tabs near the bottom and both sides easily just pull up and out of the way.

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Here is the motherboard exposed.

1) First off the CPU is a little more traditional looking at this point compared with some older MAC models from the mid/late 1990’s that used PDS slots for CPU cards. The G3 tower came with a G3 CPU anywhere from 233 to 33mhz. The G3 is roughly equivalent to the Pentium II of similar speed though most tests place is as slightly faster. My machine came with a 500mhz G4 upgrade, something I didn’t especially want or need. This upgrade placed this machine on par with a Pentium III PC.

2) Here is the personality card as I mentioned before. It is installed in a special PERCH slot. The one installed here is the mid level “Wings” card that acted as the machines sound card as well as a video capture and A/V out card offering composite and S-video connections.

3) This is the built in video and video SGRAM. Early motherboards had an ATI Rage II+ chip used for graphics but mine was a later revision and had the updated ATI Rage Pro Turbo onboard graphics chip. The slot below the graphics chip is for the SG video RAM. Mine here has been fully expanded to 6MB of video RAM. The ATI chip, especially the later Rage Pro Turbo is a decent video chip and can handle most games of the time competently.

4) Here is the ROM slot with said ROM inserted which are common on most older MAC’s.

5) Three slots for RAM. Officially the G3 tower model supported up to 128MB of PC66 SDRAM but can easily support up to 768MB via three 256MB sticks. 768MB is the amount currently installed in this machine.

6) These are the the IDE ports and above that one 50 pin SCSI slot. Early ROM A G3’s only support one device per IDE cable but this was corrected in later revisions of the ROM.

7) Floppy cable for the 1.44 MB floppy drive

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So final impressions on this machine. The G3 Mac is really the last and fastest of the old world Macintosh computers and as such The G3 minitower makes a excellent “tweener” Mac, meaning that its really good at transferring files between newer macs and older macs where a direct process may have format incompatibility issues. It can run early versions of OS X as well as OS 8 and 9 without issue. The built in ability to use SCSI and IDE is also very convenient as you can enable and format and enable SCSI hard drives on it for use in older Mac’s if you wanted. For me though it seemed just a bit to fast for the era of Mac games I was looking to play as well as not offering the enhanced expandability I was looking for in more PCI slots. It gave me a lot of audio and video stuttering issues with games like Sim Isle and Full Throttle and I never could figure out why. Its possible to much Ram was at fault but I never bothered to check. Games like Quake though ran beautifully on this machine and the option to add USB or a Mac Voodoo card via the PCI is a great bonus. I would definitely recommend picking one of these up if you see them locally for a good sub $50 price. If you have one shipped though they are heavy so be prepared to pay a hefty shipping cost.

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