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Affordable graphics card upgrade options for G4 Cube

EvieSigma

Young ThinkPad Apprentice
I'd like to upgrade my G4 Cube's graphics a bit but I don't really want to spend $100+ on a video card. What are some good affordable options? Was there ever a Mac Edition Radeon 9200 AGP card that could fit in the Cube, or a GeForce 4 MX440/460?
 

ScutBoy

Well-known member
From the old CubeOwner.com site (sorely missed) a chart of video card compatibility. A bit dated, but still useful.
 

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Byrd

Well-known member
Apple branded Radeon 7500 is a passable upgrade, or the XFX GeForce 6200 "WANG" branded card you flash and chop up yourself, they are around
 

EvieSigma

Young ThinkPad Apprentice
The 7500 seems like a decent bet. I'm not planning to go insane with my Cube but even by the standards of January 2001 (which was when my Cube was purchased, according to the shipping label on the original box), the ATI Rage card is pretty weak.

Actually...I have a GeForce 2MX something card in my Quicksilver I was planning to upgrade from anyway, that should work in the Cube right?
 

Byrd

Well-known member
The Apple part Radeon 7500 is a good card for the era, as with any Cube upgrade I'd put in a slow 80mm fan (doesn't have to be slimline) in the case. The Apple part Geforce 2 MX will also be a suitable choice. Both OEM cards you'll need to chop up their PCI backplate to get them to fit the Cube.
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
I just found this on eBay while searching for a Radeon 7500, which doesn't seem to be available in a Mac variant: https://www.ebay.com/itm/251126702780?hash=item3a785162bc:g:F3UAAOSwh1haBsn4

It's a Radeon 7000 that is supposedly G4 Cube compatible for $25 shipped. I don't love that its description states that sleep mode functionality cannot be guaranteed, but otherwise, this seems like it would be a step-up from the stock GPU.

I also found this video about the XFX GeForce 6200:

These GPUs seem to cost somewhere between $40 and $100 on eBay. You'll need to buy the pricier AGP variant, and not the PCIe variant though. They also need to have their ROMs flashed for Mac compatibility, as well as some minor hardware modifications.
 

ScutBoy

Well-known member
There are 3D printable fences for the Radeon 7500 to go into the Cube. Not sure if there are other fences for any other cards, since I haven't needed to look...
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
There are 3D printable fences for the Radeon 7500 to go into the Cube. Not sure if there are other fences for any other cards, since I haven't needed to look...
There are also models for the GeForce 6200 --https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4659096
 

ried

Well-known member
I just had a set of those NVIDIA 6200 Cube mounting brackets printed. Unfortunately, they do not fit the DVI + VGA version of the 6200 that I have very well at all. The bracket's S-video port is slightly off and the distance between the DVI port and the Cube's T10 mounting screw is too wide.

I took the VGA port off of mine, as it's only attached with a ribbon cable and I have no plans on using it.

I know there are a couple of versions of the 6200 and perhaps others will have better luck.

 

ried

Well-known member
@ried is that the XFX 6200?
I'm not sure, to be honest. It's an NVIDIA 6200 (DVI + VGA) that has 128MB RAM. The DVI output works as expected, and I did not have to tape over pins 3 and 11 to make it work in the Cube. Here are some better photos (VGA ribbon cable and port removed):

IMG_2987.jpeg
IMG_2988.jpeg
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
@ried is that the XFX 6200?
I don't think that this is an XFX 6200. From what I have seen online, those models have a black-colored PCB and a green DVI port. I have also seen a PCI variant that has a blue PCB, but it wouldn't be compatible with a G4 Cube. I wonder if this particular GPU was an NVIDIA instead of one that was made by a licensing agreement with a third party?
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
I just found this on eBay while searching for a Radeon 7500, which doesn't seem to be available in a Mac variant: https://www.ebay.com/itm/251126702780?hash=item3a785162bc:g:F3UAAOSwh1haBsn4

It's a Radeon 7000 that is supposedly G4 Cube compatible for $25 shipped. I don't love that its description states that sleep mode functionality cannot be guaranteed, but otherwise, this seems like it would be a step-up from the stock GPU.

Maybe a little late to comment on this, but that listing is deeply suspicious, in so far as it seems to be implying it's some kind of official "Mac Edition" Radeon card. I would bet a million InternetBux (meaning, I dunno, a shiny new nickel) that it's actually a very, very low-end OEM PC card flashed with a hacked firmware. The real Mac Edition Radeon 7000 had both VGA and DVI ports on it, as did almost every "retail" PC Radeon 7000 card I recall seeing back in the day. Heck, even the PCI Radeon 7000 that Apple OEM'ed to stick in the low-end configurations of the Xserve used a PCB board that had the space for the DVI port, even though they didn't populate it. Low-profile Radeon cards like the one in that listing were almost exclusively the domain of companies like Dell that sold business-class PCs (like the Optiplex line) that included low-profile case versions. (The same card would show up in the "regular" versions too, just with a different bracket.)

Anyway, my vague recollection is that with some of the Radeon cards the Mac editions had larger flash ROM chips than the PC versions, so you couldn't flash the PC version with the exact ROM image used by the Mac cards; ROM hackers came up with "lite" versions that would fit without replacing the flash memory but the hack versions would have issues like, well, sleep not working.

Also, FWIW, I've moaned about this before but I'll repeat it: in terms of raw 3D performance the Radeon 7000 is barely a step up from the Rage 128, in a game like Quake it benchmarks like 50% faster at best, which makes it almost a pointless upgrade for OS 9 (if that matters). It might vaguely be worth it for OS X to get Quartz Extreme support, but that's about it.

(I *think* a GeForce 6200 is also mostly useless for OS 9? For an OS X only machine it might be a good choice.)
 

Byrd

Well-known member
I'm not sure, to be honest. It's an NVIDIA 6200 (DVI + VGA) that has 128MB RAM. The DVI output works as expected, and I did not have to tape over pins 3 and 11 to make it work in the Cube. Here are some better photos (VGA ribbon cable and port removed):

It looks like a tidy (PC flashed) card - you can see where the seller cut pins 3, 11 on the AGP pins themselves. The XFX card is a cheaply made card, but it has the claim for shipping with one of the worst PC box graphics card art :D

Anyway, my vague recollection is that with some of the Radeon cards the Mac editions had larger flash ROM chips than the PC versions, so you couldn't flash the PC version with the exact ROM image used by the Mac cards; ROM hackers came up with "lite" versions that would fit without replacing the flash memory but the hack versions would have issues like, well, sleep not working.

Also, FWIW, I've moaned about this before but I'll repeat it: in terms of raw 3D performance the Radeon 7000 is barely a step up from the Rage 128, in a game like Quake it benchmarks like 50% faster at best, which makes it almost a pointless upgrade for OS 9 (if that matters). It might vaguely be worth it for OS X to get Quartz Extreme support, but that's about it.

(I *think* a GeForce 6200 is also mostly useless for OS 9? For an OS X only machine it might be a good choice.)

To be fair, a flashed Radeon 7000 AGP for $19.80 USD! For the price, a passable upgrade for something that'll perform fine for nearly all 3D applications in Mac OS 9. Many PC flashed Radeon 7000 cards had cut down 32K ROMs which I recall has some never used resolution and refresh rate settings removed to reduce the ROM size, sleep issues could happen but not on every machine.

JB
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
To be fair, a flashed Radeon 7000 AGP for $19.80 USD! For the price, a passable upgrade for something that'll perform fine for nearly all 3D applications in Mac OS 9. Many PC flashed Radeon 7000 cards had cut down 32K ROMs which I recall has some never used resolution and refresh rate settings removed to reduce the ROM size, sleep issues could happen but not on every machine.

Sure, I guess for $20 it’s probably a “fair” value for the functionality, most of my issue with it is the somewhat misleading ad copy. (Just come right out and say it’s a flashed card instead of the bogus graphics…) My frank evaluation would still be it’s probably *not* worth upgrading if OS 9 is your main focus, though, because the performance delta between that thing and a Rage 128 really is remarkably small. (The 7000 has all the T&L hardware of a regular radeon stripped out.) For OS X, sure, maybe worth it for quartz extreme. (It’s not the speed difference that enables that, it’s support for arbitrary size textures, the main hardware gimme of the Radeon the 7000 actually supports.)

If you had a machine capable of flashing an AGP card lying around (I think you need to use a PC) a better idea might be to buy an unflashed card that has the DVI port (looks like that’s available for under $20 if you dig around) and see if you can DIY it. DVI/dual head capability would make the mediocre performance a little more tolerable.
 

EvieSigma

Young ThinkPad Apprentice
Sure, I guess for $20 it’s probably a “fair” value for the functionality, most of my issue with it is the somewhat misleading ad copy. (Just come right out and say it’s a flashed card instead of the bogus graphics…) My frank evaluation would still be it’s probably *not* worth upgrading if OS 9 is your main focus, though, because the performance delta between that thing and a Rage 128 really is remarkably small. (The 7000 has all the T&L hardware of a regular radeon stripped out.) For OS X, sure, maybe worth it for quartz extreme. (It’s not the speed difference that enables that, it’s support for arbitrary size textures, the main hardware gimme of the Radeon the 7000 actually supports.)

If you had a machine capable of flashing an AGP card lying around (I think you need to use a PC) a better idea might be to buy an unflashed card that has the DVI port (looks like that’s available for under $20 if you dig around) and see if you can DIY it. DVI/dual head capability would make the mediocre performance a little more tolerable.
I have plenty of PCs, including multiple with AGP slots, so flashing a card isn't a big deal. The hard part is picking a card to flash in the first place...
 

davidg5678

Well-known member
I've not looked into this, but I would bet it's possible to flash the GPU ROM with an inexpensive CH341A clip-on USB programmer if you don't have a period-accurate PC lying around. (I recycled all of mine to make more room for Macs!)

 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
have plenty of PCs, including multiple with AGP slots, so flashing a card isn't a big deal. The hard part is picking a card to flash in the first place...

If you Google up a review of the actual, official ATI Radeon 7000 Mac Edition you’ll see it has a PCB with an SVideo, DVI, and VGA port filling up the back panel; I remember the PC retail editions looking identical so I guess I’d probably prioritize that one, but alas I have no idea how much the differences matter for flashing. If they worked the low profile Dell OEM cards that used a splitter to break out that weird DVI-ish port you find on those business class machines into two heads might be attractive for a Cube installation? (Compact and it’d make the monitor plugs more accessible.)
 
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