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The Mac Observer Talks To Xtrem About MacThrust And 1.2 GHz PowerMacs

The Mac Observer Talks To Xtrem About MacThrust And 1.2 GHz PowerMacs

by , 3:30 PM EDT, August 8th, 2000

When we first broke the story of Xtrem, the Swedish company that is planning on offering a 1.2 GHz PowerMac G4, we were somewhat skeptical. This was true of many Observers as well, based on the voluminous e-mail we received. In that story, we told you we had left messages with Xtrem's Swedish offices, but had not heard back from the company. Since then, we have spoken with Herbert Wahl, Administration and Management for Xtrem, and Mats Wahllberg, Chief Designer for the company.

1st things first

Xtrem will be releasing a product in the next two weeks called MacThrust. MacThrust is an overclocking device that will allow owners of Blue & White G3s as well as PowerMac G4s to increase the speed of their Macs up to 35%. Xtrem did not give us specific information on which systems would see the most performance increase, but the company has designed it to be installable by normal users. "It's a real simple product, a normal overclocker, " said Mats Wahlberg. "We wanted to make this technique possible for average users to install."

As Xtrem describes MacThrust, the product will be similar to the types of overclocking devices found in the PC world. The price for MacThrust will be approximately US$80.

And that microphone thing

The company's biggest and most interesting project is the Xtrem Mac, a rebuilt PowerMac G4 that has been accelerated from 500 MHz to 1.2 GHz, a 140% speed increase. "We have been working on this for one and a half years," Herbert Wahl told The Mac Observer. "We didn't start off with the idea to start Xtrem. It was more to push our own limits to see what we could do. We wanted to test ourselves and our theories about being able to do more with computers overall. It was more of a research project."

As with many research projects, Xtrem Mac is little more than an idea at this time. The company has not yet produced a working prototype, but they say they have found ways to exploit what they say are acceleration techniques already present in Apple's hardware architecture. According to Mats Wahlberg: "We hope to have the working prototype by the end of the year. We aren't making a whole new computer, so it is easier. It shouldn't be too long from prototype to final product."

Xtrem is planning on shipping the product at the beginning of next year. Pricing has not yet been announced.

How will they do it?

Xtrem Mac would basically be a repackaged PowerMac G4 that the company has moved into its own case. The system will have an accelerated bus and processor, with supercooled processor, cache, and "other parts of the motherboard" according to Mr. Wahl. "This is similar to KryoTech, but Macintosh is our field." Such cooling and accelerating techniques have been common place in the PC world for a long time, though relatively unknown in the Mac world. KryoTech is a company that worked with AMD to produce accelerated 1 GHz PCs with AMD's Athlon processors many months before AMD produced their own normal 1 GHz processors.

Xtrem is planning on either buying hardware direct from Apple or off the shelf should Apple not be cooperative. Says Mr. Wahl, "To begin with, we would make the whole package, but it is so early in the development process we aren't going to make those decisions yet. If we were making the decision today, we would be making the whole machine."

The Mac Observer Spin:

The company is legit as far as we can tell. Says Mr. Wahl in response to skepticism, "We have investors, we have a former Cisco person in the company. If anyone has doubts they can check out the site." As we said in our original report, the site does indeed make the company seem legit. After having talked with Messrs. Wahl and Wahlberg and understanding more of what they are trying to do, we believe them.

They have not yet proven they can do the things they say, but the MacThrust will be here in a very short time. MacThrust is specifically an attempt to show the market that they can do what they say. Watch out though kiddo's, it is likely that using the MacThrust may well void your warranty, though we have not been able to confirm this yet. Our guess is that even if this is the case, there will be plenty of people willing to take that chance for a 35% speed increase.

The real question is of course, what will Apple do? We don't know and Xtrem doesn't know. Mr. Wahl told us that Apple had not yet commented as they had supposedly been unable to see the site last week. There is no real reason for Apple to not work with Xtrem, except that we all know the iCEO of our favorite company has a penchant for controlling the entire user experience. Xtrem is not part of that equation. Would Apple somehow have support costs for units sold by Xtrem? Would there be a negative impact on Apple's image should the Xtrem Mac be a flop? Probably not for both cases, but we aren't the Corporate Suits making that decision.

One thing is clear, these units would not be "Mac Clones" as such. They would be rebuilt Apple systems, and there is a far cry between that and a clone. We are not sure of the legalities involved, but Xtrem may well be able to bring this product to market.

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