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Gigahertz Mac maker Xtrem backtracks on speed promise

It's 1066MHz now, instead of 1200

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Xtrem, the Swedish Mac upgrade maker that whipped up a whirlwind of controversy last summer with a plan to ship a gigahertz Mac, has been forced to scale back its scheme.

Instead of shipping a 1.2GHz machine, the company will offer a Mac clocked up to 1066MHz, a drop of around 12.5 per cent.

To make up for the drop, Xtrem has decided to offer owners of its overclocked machine the chance to by a 24in Trinitron CRT display kitted out in a decidedly sci-fi shiny metal shell (but only shown by a 3D modelled mock-up). It is also planning to offer a dual-processor version, according to the Xtrem Web site.

Xtrem appeared on the Mac scene last July with the audacious claim that it intended to offer a Mac kitted out with top-spec. hard drive and graphics card, new steel enclosure and, to top it all, a liquid-cooled G4-class PowerPC processor running with a clock speed 1.2GHz.

Many observers poo-poo'd the claim, but we were more cautious. Xtrem's plan is certainly technically feasible, and the company admitted the machine was still in the development stage - to the extent that they didn't even have a working prototype.

Deadlines came and went, and it appeared that the company was waiting for the arrival of the PowerPC 7450, aka the G4 Plus, before coming to market. The reason? While a regular 600MHz G4 could potentially be clocked to 1.2GHz, its design means that Mac users certainly wouldn't see a twofold performance boost. In any case, Motorola's attempts to get 600MHz PPC 7400s out of the door largely proved fruitless.

The 7450, on the other hand, is designed to support much higher clock speeds than that, so it makes sense to use that as the basis for the gigahertz machine. Xtrem is at least being smart in that it is obviously going for the 533MHz version of the chip - doubling up to 1.066GHz - rather than the decidedly difficult to get hold of 733MHz part. Even Apple has only just begun shipping 733MHz machines, and since the Xtrem is essentially a standard, off-the-shelf Power Mac placed in a new case with new internal peripherals, the availability of Apple systems is key to the availability of Xtrem machines.

That 533MHz chip also gives us some - not much, though - cause to believd that it's not a con trick. If it were, surely Xtrem would boast that the machine runs at 1334MHz or even 1466MHz?

Of course, while the company may not be a bunch of hoaxers, that doesn't mean it will ever ship the thing. Xtrem promises full details come "week nine of 2001", which by out reckoning is this week - and we're already most of the way through it.

Last time we contacted Xtrem, the company promised news of the miracle machine early 2001. That's another deadline that's been and gone without anything to show for it. We hope the company can stick to this one. ®

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