Sonnet Encore G4 500
ZIF upgrade card for all Macs with ZIF socket.

The card comes in a box containing CPU card in a foam pad and antistatic bag, a CD-ROM containing the software, a "powered by Sonnet" label to stick on the case and a big and detailed printed manual. The manual is the same as for the G3 card, but since both contain info for both card types (G3 and G4), this is really no problem. It includes all the info you'd expect to find there and is printed in French, Spanish and English.

Special about Sonnet's CPU upgrades is that they automatically detect which bus speed is used, and then set their internal multipliers in order to match the speed they were designed for. That means that you'll never have to tamper with jumpers or dip switches, which is great for lay persons, but on the other hand also inhibits you of overclocking the card without upping the system bus speed. The latter being a rather frustrating thing, as it won't work, because the jump is too high for the CPU to still run properly. That virtually makes the Sonnet upgrades "non-overclockable".

The hardware is very clean and carefully made, but also has this extra bulk block and the short pins we know from the Met@box upgrades. However, the pins are gold coated and the hardware doesn't look cheap, which it isn't either. What made me wonder a bit is that the cards come pressed into a tough foam pad. Releasing the chip from this pad requires quite a lot of strength,which is a bit dangerous given the pins are so fragile.
It's best to carefully pull the chip and the foam apart evenly, making sure not to bend any pins in the process. This again might cast some sweat on the foreheads of lay persons.
Update: In fact it seems I'm the lay. Sonnet informed me that you can actually release it without requiring any strength at all, by using a trick (or probably by reading the manual). Sorry about that.
Like the Met@box upgrade, the pins are not 100% aligned, and the card has to be pushed in slightly in order to really fit. The chip version used was 2.9, again up to date.

The software is different on Beige G3s and B/W G3s. While an extension on the the Beige, it's an Enabler in the Blue&White. The software ran perfect on the B/W with good performance and excellent stability, but on the Beige G3, using Mac OS 8.6, it crashed whenever an application called an Altivec instruction (that means all OpenGL apps, and all Altivec enabled apps), this of course rendered the card useless on the Beige G3, since disabling the extension will also disable the backside cache, and then the card is even slower than a G3 500. Sonnet says "Mac OS 9.x required for G4 Altivec use" and the supporter also thought it might be because I was using Mac OS 8.6. If you have a Beige G3 and a Sonnet G4 500 card and are experiencing no problems, please let me know.
I hope you understand I did not test the G4 on the Beige then, even though the XLR8 extension would have worked, but then it would have returned virtually the same results as the XLR8 card, and I can't do that with products of 2 different and still existing companies.

Since this card can't be overclocked, there is nothing to report on overclockability.
Temperatures very low in both machines, usually between 20 and 30°C, without thermal paste. Sonnet chips also have a frame of some white material to protect and stabilize the chip, which most certainly also helps dissipate heat from the chip to the heatsink.

Overall a very positive impression from the Blue&White G3, and a very negative one from the Beige G3 using Mac OS 8.6. I can thus only recommend you to buy a copy of Mac OS 9.1, if you plan to buy a Sonnet G4 upgrade, as Sonnet does too.


  • no jumpers need to be set


  • unfinished and slow software
  • not OS 8.x compatible (on Beige G3s)
  • not overclockable
  • rather high price

Pictures of this card

page6: Testing machines>>>