Should I upgrade my Mac, or replace it?

I have a 5 year old Mac G4 Cube, OS 9.2, 128 MB RAM.

I want broadband (this is #5 on my things-to-buy list, right after four items of household infrastructure). Broadband requires OS 10.4, which requires an additional half gig of memory.

I like the small footprint and noiseless, fanless operation of the Cube. But I’m starting to wonder if it’ll be up to scratch even with a system upgrade.

So I could upgrade to an Intel-based Mac. The drawback to this is, I understand that part of the price of OS 10’s stability is that it is not backwards compatible; Classic mode was dropped as part of the migration to the Intel platform. So most of my software would become insta-coasters.

What do folks suggest – that I upgrade my system, or that I replace it? And replace it with what?

Although the decision is ultimately up to you, OS 10.4 may not run all that great on your 'cube, even with the ram upgrade. Concerning purchasing a new computer, you are correct, classic support was all but completely abandoned on newer apple computers. Classic mode doesn’t always work flawlessly anyhow, it was always more of a band-aid solution for those migrating over a few years ago. At any rate, there is a fair chance that your software has an OS X compatible version OR there is some sort of alternative that will run quite happily on OS X. Something worth considering is keeping your current computer for it’s ability to run classic programs and purchasing a new computer for all of your general tasks (until you have replacements for all of your software).

What do you use, software and hardware-wise, on your Mac - just e-mail and web surfing, or other, more specialized applications? OS 9 hasn’t been supported in years, and I’m pretty sure Apple intended for you to have migrated to OS X long ago, but if you use it for things like Photoshop, Office and so forth, that’s all available for OS X. Short of some games, specialized apps and drivers for old printers and scanners, just about everything should be available. Do you rely on an old ScanJet or anything? Can you afford, say, $3000 for a new iMac, printer and a copy of Office?

Not to hijack, but I’m a bit confused. Am I to understand that a Mac G4 cannot access a broadband internet connection without OS 10.4? Or are you talking about going up to a high speed wireless? Or are you talking about something different entirely that I’m not understanding?

the PowerMac G4 Cube is a decent system, not particularly upgradable, but good for basic computer use, websurfing, e-mail, light to medium photo editing…

that said, by todays standards it is underpowered, the biggest bottleneck you’ll encounter is the 100MHz System Bus, you can get processor upgrades and add more ram, put in a bigger hard drive, a better video card, yes, but they’d all be constrained by the system bus

the Cube can support up to 1.5 GB of RAM (PC-100 or PC-133 DIMMS), and can support up to a 120GB hard drive (hardware limited to 132GB), the question is, should you do it…

personally, i’d say no, you’d be putting a lot of money into an out-of-warranty machine, the most i’d do to the Cube would be bump up the RAM to 256MB or 512, maybe slap a 120 gigger in it, and use it for a backup machine/fileserver, both upgrades are relatively inexpensive…

a new Mac Mini (Intel Core Duo model) is much faster all around (1.67 GHz Vs. 450 MHz Cube), and of a similar form factor, uses faster RAM (PC2-5300(667 MHz) Vs. 100MHz) and has a faster system bus (667MHz Vs. 100 MHz) all for around $800ish

your Cube has given you a nice, long service life, so unless you have a major sentimental attachment to it, it’s time to upgrade…
just my opinion as an Apple authorized Tech, upgrading the Cube beyond RAm and HDD space would be throwing good money after bad at this point

If money is a concern, I’d replace it with a Mac Mini.

Note that if you get an Intel-based Mac, though, it won’t run Classic at all. Though I’d recommend upgrading all of your Classic apps and replacing them with MacOS X versions anyway for improved performance – I did that when I moved from 9.1 to 10.1, and never regretted it.

I use an intel dual core mini at work, and I really like it. It’s quiet and compact and doesn’t take up much space on my very crowded desk. When i bring work home, i pack it up and plop on top of my G4 tower, where it takes up less space than the speakers.

Thanks for the advice so far.

I mainly use my home computer for Internet, games, and light home productivity stuff – and I think that last task will be filled with OpenOffice, or some Mac equivalent thereof. I’m a computer guy by trade, and I do too much heavy computer use on the job. I don’t want to take work home with me.

The only two games I really care about porting over are Tropico and Railroad Tycoon II, and Tropico has an OSX version on the CD. Pretty much all of my other games are over five years old. (I still play Spaceward Ho! 4, which I got TEN years ago.)

As for hardware issues, I have the following items on my to-buy list:
17" LCD monitor
home-use small-footprint laser printer
Mouse with 2 buttons + wheel

And waaaaaaay down on the list is Photoshop Elements.

Cheesesteak, the broadband issue is that Verizon has been running a special since December of $20/month DSL, 768kbps – but for Mac, it requires OS X.4.

MacTech, thanks for the tech details. I kept my previous Mac (PM 7300/180) around as a backup, I will likely rotate machines and keep the Cube as the new backup.

No it doesn’t. The auto-install software requires 10.4. You can do the setup manually.