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Buying advice

sh4

New member
Hi all,

I hope I post it in the right section of the forum...So, as title says, I need your advice on buying a Mac. My main requirements are:

- 32-bit clean (I intend to run OS 7.6.1)
- 68030+ CPU
- external SCSI
- Modem port
- 32MB+ RAM
- [optional] PDS slot
- should not cost all $$$ in the world... (ideally < $150)

I don't really care about hard drive, because I can use the likes of BlueSCSI to make a cheap SD card replacement. I intend to use it as a testbed for a software development project – having Mini vMac is good, but testing on real hardware is a must... right now I have following options:

- SE/30
- Color Classic I/II
- LC II / 500?

Thank you!
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
It looks like you are a new member, so, first, let me welcome you!

Personally, I'd seek out a Performa 63x or Quadra 630. Pretty much dirt cheap, and surpass what you are looking for. SE/30 is going to land you on the wrong side of that $150 if it is recapped and well taken care of....even if it is not, actually.

Color Classic will also run you the wrong side of a lot of cash.

LC II is not a bad idea otherwise, it has the LC-style PDS slot (as does the 630 series), but it has a hard max of 10 MB RAM, and the 630 would be faster.
 

cheesestraws

Well-known member
Quadra 630 is a good shout; Quadra 605 or LC475 are also good to look for. An LC III might be sensible too, they're less annoying than the LC II and last time I checked still weren't really expensive.

SE/30 has inflated prices for what you can actually do with it; CC likewise; CC II won't be in your price range by the sound of it. In "real" terms, a CC is just a really expensive LC II, anyway.
 

ArmorAlley

Well-known member
I will second the recommendation of the LC (or Performa) 475 and Quadra 630.

I would further add that I would look at any non-compact 68K Mac that works and is going at a reasonable price. Some are better than others, to be sure, but the difference in speed is less important now than it was back in 1991.

If you see a working non-compact 68K Mac going for $50, snag it.
A quick search on eBay US shows that 68K Macs are becoming pricey.

This Centris 610 is a 68040: https://www.ebay.com/itm/274981533932?hash=item40062d38ec:g:VUYAAOSwwJ1hY1vm
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
Welcome in!

My advice in general is to start looking and buy/get the first Mac you can put your hands on. Since you have a fairly clear idea of what you need right up front, you can amend that to "meets your technical needs." All Macs are closer together in terms of features, performance, and functionality than Macs themselves are apart from machines from other platforms. This becomes exceedingly true in the '90s, which is where most of what you're looking for will be found. Especially as it pertains to the more affordable machines (i.e. 630 vs. 700 or LCIII vs. IIci.)

If you pick something up and it ends up not quite working, just start looking again and then sell the other thing, there probably is someone who can get something out of something that doesn't quite meet your needs.

That said: Count this as a fourth vote for a 630 variant or a 605/475 variant as being a great option, if that's what you find first.

The 630 uses IDE, but you can get inexpensive IDE to SD card adapters that work well. That's more recommendable right now than the CF ones, just because these Macs are picky about some things most CF cards present "wrong" to the OS.

The 630s often have internal modems, and when they do the serial port for modem is often blocked off. If you need a faster modem than what's installed, you can pull the modem out and remove the plastic covering the serial port and use it. If you use CommSlot ethernet, the serial port should also work, since IIRC ethernet uses different signal lines than the modems do.)

One thing you can also plan on doing with most 68k Macs is swapping the CPU out. The 475/605/630 had "LC" CPUs by default, but you can swap that for a full '040. Software development is one of the workloads where you may notice a performance boost by going to a full '040.

One potential limitation of the 630, depending on what you're doing, is that its graphics "only" outputs 832x624 at 256 colors, or 640x480@thousands. (it should also do 800x600.) Most of the other Quadras will do 1152x870 or lower at varying color depths depending on how much VRAM is installed. There are LC-PDS graphics cards but in my experience those aren't common and LC-PDS ethernet is more common and easier to find than comm-slot ethernet. (although a 630 with an LCPDS graphics card and commslot ethernet would be fun.)
 

beachycove

Well-known member
I’d recommend a Quadra 650. It’s a boring 68040 office machine but is about as capable as any Mac that was made at the time, with solid state l.b. capacitors, a metal case, no problems with disintegrating case plastics like so many other period machines, plus having onboard AAUI Ethernet, Nubus and PDS slots, and being cheaper these days than most alternative 68k Macs. Will also cheerfully run A/UX if you like, and is the fastest machine that could run it natively.

The 630 is a cheap crap dullard by comparison, being one of the chief ‘disintegrators’ just mentioned, being unbelievably loud (what is that fan trying to do, achieve liftoff?), being more or less unexpandable, etc., etc. Hated, hated both that came my way.
 

joshc

Well-known member
LC III, LC 475, LC 605, LC/Quadra 630 and 650 are all good options. Way cheaper than SE/30 and more powerful than LC II or Color Classic.

The 610 that ArmorAlley pointed out is actually a great deal and a very nice machine.

Good luck with your search.
 

trag

Well-known member
The 630 is a cheap crap dullard by comparison, being one of the chief ‘disintegrators’ just mentioned, being unbelievably loud (what is that fan trying to do, achieve liftoff?), being more or less unexpandable, etc., etc. Hated, hated both that came my way.

To be fair, back in the day, you could find refurbished Q630s for about $700. A Q650 was going to cost well over $1000 and probably at least $2000.
 

AndyO

Well-known member
The 630 is a cheap crap dullard by comparison, being one of the chief ‘disintegrators’ just mentioned, being unbelievably loud (what is that fan trying to do, achieve liftoff?), being more or less unexpandable, etc., etc. Hated, hated both that came my way.

I generally don't disagree with the experts who regularly post here, but I will disagree with this. Not just because I have a Performa 630 and think that it is great (because it is), but because it is beautifully constructed, built like a tank - except the plastics which are no more, or less, fragile than any other of the age - is easy to work on, runs like a champ, doesn't make a great deal of noise and can be got on the network and internet with the addition of a $20 ethernet card from somewhere like OHG within a couple minutes.

Performance-wise it was probably not all that much to shout about when it was new on the market, but I'm mystified why that would be an issue these days, when power and performance are not amongst the reasons most of us buy and use, or collect, vintage systems.

It certainly out performs an SE/30, and works with a lot of modern displays, even if at restricted resolutions. And they are remarkably cheap in comparison to many other Macs from that era. All told, if a 27 year-old Mac that is fully functional, runs Mac OS 8.x, can happily be used to run just about any of the software around at the time, is reasonably expandable and repairable, and can be had for as little as $50, and rarely costs as much as $150, is a 'cheap crap dullard', then bring on some more cheap crap dullards.
 

joshc

Well-known member
Yeah, I've owned a few 630s and several 6200s (same thing but PPC) and I've found them all fine. Never had a problem with the plastics on them, and they run a lot quieter than a lot of other Macs.
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
+1 to I have a 6200 and it's plastics are fine, holding up better than my 7200 and beige G3 desktop. Maybe 630s that are up to about 18-24 months older are meaningfully worse? Most that I see are fine unless they've been explicitly and meaningfully mistreated, though.

The 650 is a higher end machine, but I think the 630 and its descendants are solid machines, actually good enough for what most people need, and they have a handful of things that make them logistically convenient. (IDE mainly, but at this point not because you can pop a new disk or even a CF card in but because IDE <> SD adapters cost less than SCSI <> SD adapters, and require less configuration.)

I realize "most" is doing a certain amount of work here and the other wildcard is basically, "what can our OP find?" - as I mentioned, my recommendation is for them to put their hands on the literal first thing they see that's within their needs. At best, it'll work great. At worst, they'll know more details about what they need and they'll have something they can use until they find something to better meet their needs.

Though, I mean, the 650's a great choice and isn't Desirable(TM) the way the 700/900/950 are. As mentioned, the 800 is basically the same machine in a tower case that has a couple more bays, but 8x0/8xx0 tower cases have plastics problems. (Although, really, most of the plastics that can break easily are fascia things or card retention clips so how much this matters will depend on the way you load up the machine.)

One note: Be sure to look out for both Quadra and Centris versions of the 650. The Centris versions sometimes didn't have ethernet, or had slower '040s, or perhaps even LC'040s, but it's the same base machine and you can slam NuBus ethernet and a different CPU in, just the same as with the 630 group.

Again, with the idea that "getting something" and "getting started" can be more important than getting the thing of your dreams on your first try.
 

AndyO

Well-known member
Maybe 630s that are up to about 18-24 months older are meaningfully worse? Most that I see are fine unless they've been explicitly and meaningfully mistreated, though.

I don't get to see many vintage Macs up close, other than the few I own, but my 630 is fine. I have seen some with broken or missing rear panels, but aside from carrying the icons identifying ports, these are just cosmetic anyway, and their clips do seem to break off relatively easily. Mine is fine, except for the small plastic panel on the back that surrounds the power socket, and that snapped off when I carelessly snagged it one day. The rest, including the front, is in good condition, and even the small breakage can be glued back in place because it was just a small tab that snapped.

Underneath the plastics however, the 630 is a classic piece of very solid engineering, which makes it expensive to ship, but remarkably robust.

Not as exciting as many other vintage Macs, but usually a great deal cheaper to buy.
 

just.in.time

Well-known member
If you are open to PowerPC based machines, a lot of the early systems are usually cheaper than their 68k counterparts and are compatible with 7.6.1. The 6100/7100/8100 are all NuBus based, I think all after that switched to PCI based.

Not sure where the 7.6.1 cutoff is. Pretty sure the Beige G3 shipped with 8/8.1, so definitely something older than that. The PowerBook 3400c shipped with 7.6 or 7.6.1, so anything up to around 1996/1997 should hit that 7.6.1 compatibility you mentioned.
 

joshc

Well-known member
If the OP is testing code to compile for 68k and wants the best/most realistic test bed, they should probably get a 68k machine.

But yeah, otherwise, there's lots of good PPC options too.
 
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