A look at the Xtrem Mac



We probably all know it by now and yet nobody has seen one live. I'm talking about the Xtrem Mac, a Mac that is altered and overclocked so much, you can barely believe it. For all the details check out www.xtrem.com if you are not up to date. This machine and the company behind it has been much discussed recently, and Xtrem continued to add fuel to the fire with rumors of buy-out offers and prototypes floating around.

Please understand that I don't say this machine will never be produced or anything, I'm just saying what I think about it and I have also asked famous Mac Guru David K. Every on the topic and he was kind enough to drop a few lines regarding his opinion. I'm going to paste our little e-mail conversation and sum up my conclusions afterwards. ">" and italic marks my questions, while David's comments are in normal text


> I'm sure you have heard about the "Xtrem Mac". A Mac from a Swedish
> "company" "running" at 1200Mhz with everything overclocked.
> www.xtrem.com in case you missed it.


> A lot of people are starting to believe their claims, only I am not.
> After I threw up issues like RAM speed (150MHZ bus) and Cache ratio etc
> (and I bet others did too), they today published a new spec sheet
> explaining all that. (Ratio is not decided yet and they claim to be
> using PC-166 SDRAM).
> Now I still have big doubts, after all there is also the FireWire Bus
> into the CPU, running at bus speed (100MHz), wouldn't that screw up at
> 150?
> And does UMA 1 even support PC-166 SDRAM etc.
> I'm not going to believe it until I see it myself. Those rendered
> "photos" don't impress me, also they throw up the idea of an old
> microphone, and the lack of any external drive bays for CD or all the
> removables they claim will be BTO.

I am skeptical with the DEGREE of performance they claim they will achieve.
They can improve speed... with today's technology, they'd be doing pretty
good to get a 50-75% performance increase... so 750, 800, I could
understand... 1200 just seems too much. That's over 100%. They could be
speculating on UMA-2 motherboard and what they will do next year. But it
just smells fishy to me.

Plus they aren't just cooling the processor. They are talking about cooling
the entire motherboard and all the chips (including RAM)? Do these guys
think they are Cray? That brings in many other engineering issues. And at
the price point they are talking about ("less than Apple's high end machine"
for their entry level), I'm even more dubious -- especially the way they are
trying to solve it. They are trying to build a super cooled desktop for only
a couple thousand (or few thousand) dollars? If they do it, I'll probably be
a customer, and very impressed.

If you were going to do something like this, it makes sense to keep it quite
until release and shock the industry. Telegraphing your punches makes no
sense unless you are trolling for investors or attention.

So I'm highly suspicious of their claims. The concepts of what is trying to
be done (at some level) is theoretically possible... but it just doesn't
sound right the way they are talking about approaching it. So it smells
wrong. From a marketing point of view it is wrong. From an engineering point
of view, they seem to be doing it the hard way. From a cost point of view
they don't seem to have enough margin.

Conclusion so far

The facts that add probability are:

  • The claims are technically feasible to some extent.
  • The system as shown wouldn't violate and currently known limitations from Apple or others.
  • Most BTO options they offer do exist.

...and the cons:

  • The degree of alteration is too much to remain plausible.
  • The photos so far are computer renderings, the case resembles an old microphone and seems to lack any external drive bays fro CD or Removables.
  • The marketing and public approach of Xtrem.com is questionable.
  • Pricing aims are definitely not realistic.
  • MacThrust product remains unspecified, unconfirmed, which doesn't add to the company's reputation.
  • Still faint specs on the cooling and other components such as RAM, Cache, FireWire, PCI, AGP etc.
    (questions about clockspeeds and compatibility to the UMA-1 board arise)
  • No actual hardware seen to date.

Text: © by G-News & David K. Every, Aug. 2000, all trademarks are property of their respective owners.