Vectronic's Power Macintosh G3 300 (B & W)
Originally Published: July 21, 2008
The three original Power Macintosh G3 models shipped with a 300 MHz, 350 MHz, or 400 MHz PowerPC 750 (G3) processor. Our model has a 300 MHz processor. The 400 MHz model was a new speed record for Apple at that time. These models offer a 100 MHz system bus instead of the 66 MHz bus of the previous beige G3 models. The 400 MHz model has 32 percent faster CPU performance, 52 percent faster disk speed, and a whopping 95 percent faster graphics speed than the older top line Power Macintosh G3 300 MiniTower.
But above the increased performance, the most striking thing about the Power Macintosh G3 is the chassis, which has in additional to the stunning blue and white curvy polycarbonate plastic enclosure four curved handles on the corners that make this Mac less unwieldy when you need to move it. Its ribbed translucent white side sports a blue Apple logo with a bold G3 silk-screened onto the metal case, just visible behind it.
In additional to the colorful exterior, the Power Macintosh G3 design is impressively easy to upgrade. The Power Macintosh G3 was the most easily accessed and upgraded Mac anyone had ever seen at that time. Just pull on the small round handle on the side of the tower, and the entire side of the computer opens up. The G3's motherboard is mounted on that surface, giving you easy access for upgrading RAM or installed PCI cards. It is even possible to boot the computer with the door open.
Aside from the flashy blue and white enclosure, the biggest change over the older beige G3 MiniTower is the way you hook up peripherals. Apple added new ports (USB and the much-anticipated FireWire) that took the place of historic, and quickly becoming antiquated, Mac serial (printer and modem) ports. The Power Macintosh G3 has two USB (12 Mbps) ports, two FireWire (400 Mbps) ports, one 10/100BaseT Ethernet port, an RJ-11 jack for an optional 56K modem, a sound out and sound in jack, and one ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) port. Our G3 has the optional 56K modem card installed. The G3 also has a small built-in speaker residing on middle of the front of the case. The inclusion of an ADB port is a curious decision for Apple. ADB was replaced by USB on the original iMac, released the previous year, but Apple felt that the more expansive tower configuration had enough room to include it and the G3 would be the last tower to include the port. The G3 was targeted towards professionals, many of who had substantial investments in peripherals that used the port, unlike the iMac, which was targeted toward first time computer buyers.
The original iMac lacked FireWire, and thus did not offer any high-speed means of connecting external devices. FireWire was introduced on the G3 as a replacement for SCSI. It was an impressive technology that was much faster and easier to connect than SCSI. FireWire spelled the end for built-in SCSI on future Macs, but the option was still available on the G3 through a PCI SCSI card. The top-of-the-line Power Macintosh G3 400 shipped standard with an internal 9 GB Ultra II SCSI hard drive connected to a PCI SCSI card. Our system has a SCSI card installed, but does not have an internal SCSI hard drive.
The Power Macintosh G3 has three general-purpose PCI slots. Several technologies commonly placed on PCI cards are built-in or available as options that don't use up slots. For example, a fast Ethernet card is not necessary because the system has a built-in Ethernet port and MPEG-2 decoding, necessary if you want to watch DVD movies on your Mac, is made possible by an optional daughter card that plugs into the system's video card, and in the case of graphics, the graphics card is installed in a special dedicated graphics slot.
Apple originally shipped the G3s standard with an ATI Rage 128 graphics card that fits into a special high-speed PCI slot that runs at 66 MHz as opposed to the 33 MHz bus speed of the Power Macintosh G3's three other PCI slots. The Rage 128 supports resolutions up to 1600 x 1200 at 32 bits per pixel (millions of colors) on Apple's 17-inch Studio Display, but the max resolution for the card is 1900 x 1200. Because the Rage 128 graphics card used SDRAM (16 MB), a different type of video RAM than SGRAM, which was found on previous Mac towers, it was less expensive. The card's Rage 128 chip gives the G3 3-D power for graphic-intensive games and other 3-D applications.
Apple created a matching line of CRT displays and a flat-panel display to use with the Power Macintosh G3. The CRT monitors have the same translucent plastic as the computer they are matched with. Apple's 17- and 21- inch Studio Display monitors stand on a sturdy tripod that doubles as a space to stow away the pint-sized iMac keyboard that shipped with the G3. Apple priced the 17- and 21-inch monitors at $499 and $1499, respectively. The 21-inch monitor has ColorSync, but the 17-inch monitor does not. We have the 17-inch Studio Display. Apple remade its flat panel Studio Display to match the G3, picking up the style of the new computer by adding a ribbed white plastic casing and they dropped the price by $200 to $1099.
These monitors use the newer VGA video connector (15-pin mini D-Sub VGA connector), which means that it is necessary to use a Macintosh to VGA adapter to connect them to Mac graphics cards that use the older Mac monitor connector. Our G3 has an ATI XClaim VR Pro card that requires an adapter to connect it to our 17-inch Studio Display. It is an older card that actually uses one of the 33 MHz PCI slots and not the dedicated 66 MHz graphics slot. It does, however, have the advantage of accepting video in.
Apple included an accessory kit that has all the documentation and the system software for the Power Macintosh G3. Also included in the accessory kit is the much lampooned iMac mini keyboard and hockey puck mouse, neither of which is adequate for the professional market this computer was designed to serve. The G3 originally shipped with Mac OS 8.5.1 and it supports up to Mac OS X v10.4 (Tiger). X v10.4 requires at least 256 MB of RAM and a DVD drive for installation. Our G3 is currently using Mac OS 9.1.
Desktop images taken from Power Macintosh G3:
The maximum RAM for the G3 is 1 GB. It has four RAM slots that use 100 MHz / 8 ns PC100 SDRAM. Each slot can address up to 256 MB. RAM can be installed independently in each slot. Our G3 has 320 MB RAM.
The G3 has three internal bays for installing additional drives and two more for externally accessible 5.25-inch bays for storage devices such as a CD-ROM drive, or optional DVD-ROM and Zip drives. An internal SCSI hard drive can be added by installing a PCI card. Our G3 has an Ultra ATA 6 GB internal hard drive and a CD-ROM drive. A floppy disk drive was not an option for this model. Our G3 has one unoccupied 5.25-inch bay and two empty hard drive bays.
Apple offered the following standard configurations:
The Power Macintosh G3 was a variation on a popular and successful theme - the iMac. Like the iMac, the G3 was daring, eye-catching, and even a bit shocking. Their whimsical look was a far cry from what people had been conditioned to think of as a professional-looking computer. Apple took its mini-tower concept, so obvious in the older G3 MiniTower, and dared its users to show theirs off. But aesthetics aside, the Power Macintosh G3 was a game-changer for Apple. Apple changed the rules of what a professional computer was supposed to be, rules which were slowly pushing the company into bankruptcy, by producing a new Macintosh line with amazing industrial beauty, substantially improved internal architecture, fast processors, easily assessable interiors, and they did so at a remarkable price for each standard configuration.
Apple would go on to sell our model, the Power Macintosh G3 300, for only six months. It was discontinued in June 1999, but Apple would continue to sell the 350 MHz and 400 MHz models, along with a new 450 MHz model introduced the same month, until August 1999. Apple discontinued all the G3 models and replaced them with the Power Macintosh G4 by September 1999. The Power Macintosh G4 used the same chassis with graphite highlights instead of blue. The G3 chassis was so revolutionary and functional that Apple would continue to use it on all the G4 towers and finally retired it with the introduction of the all-metal chassis of the Power Macintosh G5 in June 2003.