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Mac

New Cube for Cube owners

I love my Power Mac G4 Cube. Small. Elegant. Takes up little desk space, and you want it on your desk so it can be displayed as the work of art it is.
The only problem with owning a Cube is that you are somewhat limited in processor and video card upgrades. Because the Cube uses convection cooling, you have to be careful that you don’t overtax the external power supply and overheat the system. Most processor upgrades for the Cube come with a small fan that, once installed, blows air up the Cube’s “chimney,” assisting in keeping the little Power Mac at peak operating performance.
As video cards have become more and more powerful, they have also increased somewhat in physical size. Sure, anything you buy these days will easily fit in the AGP or PCI slots of your Power Mac tower, but the Cube is limited to certain models whose physical proportions match those of the Cube.
PowerLogix thinks they have the answer to these Cube-owning quandries: the PowerCube Enclosure. The PowerCube offers improved ventilation, allowing faster processor upgrades to be used without adding on fans. It also features 20 times more room for video cards than the original Cube enclosure, by moving the DC/DC card.
I realize that these enclosures are hand-crafted from machined aluminum, but I’m not sure if it’s worth $269. Yes, I understand that (a) this is an expensive process to produce these enclosures, and (b) that the Cube-owning market is pretty small. All the same, I’d be more tempted to buy one if it were running around $150.
My Cube is pretty much maxed out in all areas. It has the full complement of 1.5 GB of RAM. It has a 100 GB hard drive; the only larger drive I could put in would be a 120 GB model, since the Cube’s bus limits drive size to 128 GB or smaller. My Cube sports a nVidia GeForce3 video card. I’m not a gamer, and at this stage, I’m not working with a lot of digital video, so it’s a great card for me. The only upgrade missing is a new processor, and the price on 1.2 GHz upgrades keep slowly falling, so that’s just a matter of time (and finances, now that I’m unemployed).
I had always thought that after the proc upgrade, I would eventually just buy a faster Mac, lusting after a new 15″ PowerBook and the dual 2 GHz G5. The Cube could then be put to other uses.
Laurie Duncan had a hand in seeing the PowerCube brought to production, and offers thoughts on her two test enclosures, as well as giving an overview of the transplant procedure. Response on Laurie’s forums and the Cube email list run by Eric Prentice seems very favorable.
I watched the online version of the install video. (Warning: designed for low bandwidth, so it’s low-res and really jumpy. The one that comes on DVD with the enclosure is very smooth, according to Laurie.) There are a couple of items of note that should give the Cube purists out there pause. One, the new recessed power button. On the one hand, a good idea, since many a Cube owner has put his system to sleep by accidentally brushing the button on top of the Cube. On the other hand, there is something so inherently cool about there not being any push buttons on the original Cube, that simply gliding one’s finger across the acrylic top will power on the system.
Second, no more “core removal.” While the internal chassis of the original Cube is used, with a slight modification of the Airport antenna and the DC/DC board, said chassis is screwed to the PowerCube enclosure. So you can’t simply flip your PowerCube over, push down on the latch, and lift the chassis out by the handle. Not that Cube owners do that all the time, but it’s still an incredibly easy way to get to the Cube’s internals, no longer available with the PowerCube.
Finally, and this is the purest of the purely aesthetic: I just like the way the original Cube enclosure looks. The clear acrylic shell, with nothing behind it for a good two inches or more at the bottom, makes the system look like it’s floating on one’s desk. You don’t get that with the PowerCube Enclosure.
So even if I could afford it, I just don’t think the PowerCube is for me. Though I wouldn’t say no if Robert at PowerLogix wishes to send me one to review