Sonnet Works Their Magic, Releases Upgrade For 7200 Series

Sonnet Technologies has announced two breakthroughs in the processor upgrade market. Their Fortissimo technology allows the bus speed of a computer to be doubled, thus allowing for older machines to take full advantage of an upgrade. The first product to take advantage of the new technology is a PCI based upgrade card for the previously non-upgradable Power Macintosh 7200 series. According to Sonnet:

Sonnet Technologies, the worldwide market share leader in processor upgrade cards for Apple Macintosh computers, announces the development of Fortissimo, a breakthrough bus-doubling technology for processor upgrades. Fortissimo-enhanced CPU upgrades accelerate certain Macs beyond the previous limitations of the machineis local bus speed. As IBM and Motorola offer ever-faster PowerPC processors, Fortissimo allows owners of older Macs to take full advantage of these new chips. Fortissimo versions of Crescendo G3 and G4 upgrades for NuBus and PCI Power Macs take advantage of the fastest of these processors for the first time. In PCI Macs, Fortissimo additionally builds a compatibility bridge between the G4 processor and Power Computing PowerCenter, PowerCenterPro, PowerCurve, and PowerTower computers. The buses in these machines are not natively compatible with a G4 processor.

The PowerPC G3 and G4 operating speeds are limited to 10x and 9x the computeris bus speed, respectively. For example, a Macintosh with an original bus speed of 33.3 MHz would previously have supported a G3 running only up to 333 MHz, or a G4 running only up to 300 MHz. With Fortissimo, Sonnet has designed a separate bus on the upgrade card that runs at twice the speed of the host motherboard. In this example, G3 or G4 processors would operate based on a Fortissimo bus speed of 66.6 MHz, and would have the potential to run up to 666 MHz or 600 MHz, respectively, depending on the processor. The fastest G3s and G4s widely available today run at 500 MHz.

Sonnet has also announced the first G3 upgrade for the Power Mac 7200. Once considered impossible to upgrade, this best-selling system has a new future due to the unprecedented achievement of Sonnetis engineering team. The first product in this new Crescendo line will be G3 400 Mhz/1M model, and will boost performance up to eight times as fast as the original system.

"There were numerous challenges in designing an upgrade for the 7200 which we have been able to overcome using the knowledge and breakthroughs weive accumulated from our years of previous upgrade designs," states Sonnetis Chief Engineer, Henry Kanapell. The first challenge was to determine where the upgrade would be installed. The only option was to place the 7200 upgrade card in an available PCI slot, which had not previously been attempted. The original PowerPC 601 processor in the 7200 is soldered onto the logic board, so there is no processor slot. The cache slot in this system does not carry the necessary signals.

With the processor working on the PCI bus, the only way to get truly top-tier performance was to place local RAM on the card. To address this, Sonnet has provided 3 DIMM sockets that match those on the 7200 motherboard. While one small DIMM must remain in place to handle initial start-up duties, the remaining memory can be moved to the Crescendo card to minimize the need for incremental RAM purchases. Users can also opt for additional or larger DIMMs as desired.

The next hurdle to overcome was to surpass the maximum performance available on the 7200is motherboard, which run at bus speeds starting at 30 MHz. Sonnet felt it imperative that users be able to upgrade to truly modern performance levels, and this too has been achieved. Using design elements from Sonnetis recently announced Fortissimo? technology, Sonnet created an independent bus to run on the new processor card. This bus runs at a speed of 66 MHz, which allows the Crescendo 7200 to take full advantage of a 400 MHz G3 processor and beyond.

The Crescendo 7200 G3 upgrade card is available for US$499.95. You can find more information at the Sonnet Technologies web site.