JoeCard G4 450/466
The card comes in a small box containing nothing but the CPU card in a foam padded folder and a CD-ROM containing the drivers and the manuals in various languages. The digital manual contains all the information you need, including information on installation, setting of the CPU/Bus ratio via the dip switches, installation of the software etc.
is only one manual for Met@box' whole product line, and I'm sure some
people will read the instructions for an upgrade card for a Tanzania board
upgrade or similar and will try to apply it to their ZIF upgrade. The
structure of the manual is not optimal. Also the fact that you have to
print certain things before you can actually install the card is a major
drawback. The printed manual can not be replaced by a CD-ROM.
The hardware looks, despite the touted "German engineering", rather cheap and bulky. The pins are not gold coated, which may have very little effect on performance or power dissipation, but it invokes the impression of economies that were made to safe cost. The CPU doesn't have any protective layer and there is no thermal paste supplied either. I can only recommend you to buy some before you install the card, as it gets hot, very hot even. The pins are also not soldered directly to the card, but instead to a small back plate that is then attached to the ZIF module. This extra bulk doesn't seem necessary and surely doesn't help heat dissipation. Also the pins are not 100% aligned, actually requiring you to push the card slightly into the socket, instead of just letting it slide inside, as with other modules (Apple's and XLR8's). This may be very irritating for novice users and also bears some risk of damage through rough handling. The G4 used was of version 2.8, which has a pretty big die size, compared to other chips I have seen. The CPU/Bus setting is set via the dip switches, which are located near the chip and which are covered by the heatsink, when the card is fully mounted. This requires users to remove the heatsink every time they want to change the processor speed. Very annoying, as you'll needto apply new (yet not supplied) thermal paste to the chip before reinstalling the heat sink.
The software and drivers are not what they should be. They crashed my machine on 50% of the applications I wanted to test, and only allowed for a 2.5:1 setting for the backside cache. Later on I found that also Sonnet's extension did that, namely that it would freeze every application that makes use of the Altivec unit. Sonnet says Mac OS 9.x is required for the extension to work on Beige G3s, but I don't want to rule out that this is a particular problem with my machine, and not Sonnet's or Met@box's fault. Still, the 2.5/1 chache ratio is not normal. No way to change this manually by software or hardware. Thus both performance and stability were far from where they should be and I was really dissapointed first.
Because of the lack of padding on the chip and the fact that the dipswitches prevent you from properly seating the heatsink on the CPU also caused the chip to often hit temperatures above 50°C, which is definitely too hot for my tastes. With extra cooling and very careful mounting of the heatsink I brought it down to a maximum of about 41°C, which is ok. Luckily XLR8's control panel and software turned out to work nicely with the Met@box card and I was able to run the cache at 2:1 and got back a lot of lost performance. If you have a Met@box card, I can only recomment you using XLR8's software, it's just worlds better. I then also tested everything with the XLR8 tools, since testing with the Met@box software was impossible.
Overclocking to 490/70/35 was unsuccessful, the machine didn't even boot into the Finder. Overclocking to 500/66/33 didn't even give a POST (no happy Mac). Of course you may find your unit overclock just nicely, but these are the differences between one chip and an other. Fact is that this chip can't clock much higher, because it would get too hot anyways.
Overall a fast CPU with several glitches and insufficient software. Aside from the low price nothing really speaks in favor of it. Good thing it works with XLR8's software.