August 4, 1997 2:00 PM PDT

New PowerPC chips put to work

Power Computing unveiled systems today with speedy new PowerPC processors, catapulting their performance past current Macintosh systems and pointing the way toward a new generation of Macintosh computers.

The company introduced new PowerTower Pro systems with 275-MHz or 250-MHz versions of the PowerPC 750 processor, also known by the code-name Arthur.

The new systems won't use the long-awaited CHRP (Common Hardware Reference Platform) technology, which increases overall system performance. At least not yet. CHRP-compliant hardware and Mac OS 8 are key technologies that will allow Mac clone vendors to enhance system performance and introduce innovative products more rapidly.

But in spite of the older design, Power Computing claims the processor is still capable of outperforming current PowerPC systems by 70 percent and will even outperform new 350-MHz PowerPC 604e systems in many tasks. The PowerPC 604e is currently the processor of choice in high-end systems used for applications such as graphics and video production.

The PowerTower Pro G3 275 and G3 250 will come with 64MB of memory, a high-performance 2GB hard drive, a 24X CD-ROM drive, and built-in Ethernet networking capability. Prices for the PowerTower Pro G3 250 will start at $3,695 and extend to $4,295 with added features. Prices for the G3 275 will start at $4,795 depending on configuration.

In the new systems, Power Computing is overcoming the limitations of the older design by incorporating a large "backside" (1MB) secondary cache that operates at the same speed as the processor. Cache is very high-speed memory that keeps the processor "fed" with data. Otherwise the processor would "starve" as it waited for data from the rest of the system, which is relatively slow.

But Power Computing does plan to eventually bring out CHRP systems, according to company documents. In its IPO filing, the company says "Unrestricted CHRP availability would allow the company to decrease its reliance on Apple for key components and no longer pay Apple royalties on hardware."

One of the critical enhancements for future CHRP systems is better overall performance based on fast "system bus" designs. A faster system bus means that not only processor performance is increased but also the performance of other components, such as memory.

Increasing this speed is important since speedy new PowerPC 750 processors have to slow down to talk to the older Macintosh system bus.

Also for Power Computing, which has outlined plans to make Wintel machines, CHRP would be a way to use identical industry-standard components in both Mac and Windows clones. The company would be more competitive in the Mac market because by reducing overall system cost it would be purchasing a larger volume of parts at a better price.

But by all appearances, Power Computing, which is known for pushing forward with technologies before Apple has officially endorsed them, is tired of waiting for all the components of CHRP to become available. A small ROM chip is still needed from Apple before the company can build CHRP systems and no firm dates on its release have been given.

Power Computing's frustration with Apple is showing in other areas as well. The company will begin shipping Mac OS 8 preinstalled on all systems starting next week, even without a definitive licensing agreement in place. The company will rely on a previous agreement for OS licensing, as outlined in the company's stock-offering documents filed with the Securities Exchange Commission, to ship OS 8. In doing so, the company may beat Apple, which expects to ship OS 8 preinstalled on systems by the end of August.

In related news, Power Computing is now selling 24-inch and 21-inch monitors based on Sony's Trinitron CRT technology. The new monitors will give the company an edge in selling to content producers who need large viewing areas for designing things such as Web pages. The 24-inch monitor will be priced at $3,495, while an equivalent Sony monitor is priced at more than $4,000. The 21-inch monitor will be priced at $1,395.

 

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