G4 Cube Love


#1

The Power Mac G4 Cube Thread

At MacWorld New York, 19 (?) July 2000, Steve Jobs unveiled a whole new Mac paradigm, melding the power of the G4 tower with the miniturisation and elegance (his words, not mine) of the G3 iMac. The result: an 18cm Cube suspended in a 19.4cm x 19.4cm x 25.4cm clear plastic case.

Featuring either a 450Mhz or 500Mhz G4 CPU, up to 1.5GB of RAM and 60GB HDD, with a choice of graphics cards including support for the Apple Studio Displays, and topped with a vertically mounted slot loading DVD-ROM or CD-RW drive, this machine packed quite a punch for a such a small package.

At a time when your (Mac) desktop choices were limited to either a G3 (CRT based) iMac, or a G4 PowerMac, the Cube attempted to straddle that market, intimating an answer to the iMac’s rigidity, without needing the space of a tower. The 18cm cube itself could be easily pulled from the casing to facilitate upgrades. The main issue with the Cube however, was that at the end of the day, the only functional benefit that the new device had over the iMac was swappable video cards, and choice over monitors

One of the Cube’s both features and detractors, was the inclusion of 3rd party speakers. Harman Kardon’s clear plastic spheres connected to the Cube via a small USB powered amplifier. The Cube did not feature the ubiquitous 3.5mm audio sockets of every other Mac since 1990. If the stock spheres didn’t impress, you could upgrade to the Harman Kardon “Sticks” with subwoofer, also featuring the clear plastic design.


Clearly, Steve was quite passionate about cuboids, given his infamous creation following his departure from Apple in 1985, and one can’t help but think that upon his return, he wanted to bring his NeXTcube design with him, albeit aesthetically redesigned by Jonny Ive, and shrunk by 36%…

Largely probably due to the price tag - being more than the iMac (which of course, had a built in screen), and only marginally less than the tower, the Cube is often termed one of Apple/Steve’s failures. It, for example, is said to have only reached 33% of its sales target for the last quarter of 2000 (with 29,000 units sold), followed by only 12,000 units for the next quarter.

Support for the cube however proved strong despite the apparent small market, with Sonnet providing various CPU options, and the availability of a plethora of compatible graphics cards.

Ultimately, despite anything else, the G4 Cube paved the way for the Mac Mini, and has taken its place in Apple History as probably one of the Top 5 most collectible machines of all time.

And I want one. :slight_smile:


#2

Wasn’t it someone in Mactalk who shoehorned the guts of a Mini into a Cube case? Can’t remember.


#3

There are 3 Cubes currently on eBay…

  1. Has a 1.4GHz upgrade, no extra bits - speakers & USB amp in separate sale.
  2. Just plain jane
  3. Just plain jane, but power supply isn’t working (from same seller as 2)

The first is buy it now @ $500, which from what I’ve seen over the past month of eBay watching, is probably about right… The other 2 are currently under $100 with 2-3 days to go… Another unit recently sold for $300…

I bring these to your attention now, as I know I wont be partaking… (And… to anyone hoping these would slip by quietly and let them get a bargain… sorry! :blush: )


#4

I won’t be partaking either. Financial challenges prevent further indulgence (and I’d rather buy cameras instead :))


#5

Well, despite the above, my wife picked up a day of work (thank god for Sunday penalties) and thus decided to bid on, and won the upgraded Cube, plus speakers!

I’m… going to be… a Cube Owner… :grin:

In related news, one of the other bare bones Cubes sold for approx same as mine… and the other one is ending in 40min - currently at - the same price as the first 2! (but this last one has the dead power supply… though now there’s presumably a lot of interest in it, for those who missed out on the other 2…)

Mind is still reeling! Will be doing a lot more serious reading regarding what kind of video playback this beastie can do… though because of the 1.4GHz card (ie I’ve no idea what doors it may open), I think I’ll just have to wait and see before making any major decisions. If it ultimately can’t pull off the main HTPC role for my living room, then I’m sure I’ll enjoy it in my office as a multi media centre coupled with my 17" Studio Display.

So glad she also managed to pick up the speakers PLUS amp… Those things (amp) seem to be rare as hens teeth.

Next… HK Sound Sticks/Sub…


#6

Congrats! Looks awesome and a good buy I think. Post pics of final setup.


#7

Glad I didn’t bid on it. When I saw it still sitting at $250 with only a few mins to go I was tempted, but refrained (don’t need another one). Was going to bid $280 for it.

With upgraded CPU and graphics cards the Cube VRMs can fail.
I’d be interested to know what CPU is in it and whether it’s a genuine cube upgrade or something designed for a G4 tower which don’t usually fit quite as well.

I have an ATI7500 with spiraca heat sink and fan in mine. 1.5GB RAM, Airport and standard 500MHz CPU.

I Have the genuine iSub with stock speakers. If you get HK sound sticks, then you can’t use the regular Cube amp and speakers.

Plenty of reading for you to do at Cubeowner. If looking to push the system of be looking at making sure there is an adequate cooling fan in the Cube and look at possible VRM upgrades if it doesn’t have one already.

The main upgrade to GPU when I was into my cube was the WANG 6200 card (Nvidia). I think over on cube owner there’s a new king card now.


#8

Thanks @Erwin! Yes, I was happy with it. As noted, my wife was doing the bidding, without knowing how high she should go, so I was relieved when she said it was under $300… (which was what one went for a few weeks ago) (well, under $300 until she also picked up the speakers/amp.) Still, $333 inc postage for Cube with 1.5Ghz card, power supply, speakers, amp… Yay! I’ll be sure to post pics etc when it arrives. I’m looking forward to setting it up with my 17" Studio Display - purely for aesthetics… before working out how to best set it up as a HTPC.

On that topic… I had asked about HD video on a Cube… and told - not likely… Well, in retrospect… I don’t think it’s going to be an issue - I find I’m still opting for SD video files at the moment anyways due to storage size, and I’m still using a non-HD TV… so SD will be fine.

@leon - G’day! How are the kids? Yes, glad you didn’t push the price up! :slight_smile:

At a guess, I presume my Samsung TV’s built in speakers are probably going to be better than the little spheres… So in the short term, I think I’ll use them with my lampshade iMacTV… But more importantly, I’ve got the amplifier, which I gather I can use to export sound via 3.5mm stereo plug to my TV’s sound-in…?? Then later on, when I track down the Sub/Sticks, I’ll set them up with the TV…

I had no idea about the VRM issues… or what VRM stood for! Have been reading up… Am curious now to see whether it’s already been upgraded or not… So many questions! Tuesday (“estimated delivery”) can’t come soon enough!

I gather the Cube’s standard Airport card would probably struggle to cope streaming video… Which is fine, as I was already considering hard wiring one of my Media Servers to my HTPC - be it the Mac Mini or Cube… Of course, wifi would still be good for moving data over… Am thinking the airport card I retrieved from my old Dome Airport Station is the right one for the Cube… Will dig it out and see.

Today I bought a VGA cable from Dick Smith… thought it was 2 metres but it’s 5m long… $20… Never thought I’d need one of them… Will be interested to see how it looks compared to the MacMini’s DVI->HDMI…


#9

G’day!

My Cube arrived a day early!

First Impressions:

Gee whiz she’s a heavy set gal! I’d never thought of them being as heavy as they are… I guess I was expecting more like a Mini… Not that that’s a problem.

The speakers’ foam grills are both cracked… (so are most that I’ve seen on eBay) And - I hadn’t realised that the amplifier is actually “part” of the speakers - IE inseparable! I’d assumed that the Cube came with a standard pair of the sphere speakers, plus stand alone amp. So, there’s my new thing learned for the day. Not that that’s a problem.

The Cube itself - Did I mention heavy!? - I’m a little disappointed with the presentation… There’s quite a bad scratch on the left hand side - looks like someone took an engraving tool to the side and ran it round… And the top has a fair few scuffs, but also along one edge it looks like a crack has formed… I know I saw a some hits RE polishing the Cube… I’ll be reading up in the near future I’m sure. Not that that’s a problem.

Second surprise of the day - there’s an Airport Card installed! That wasn’t specifically mentioned in the ad, so bonus… makes up for the scratches, almost. I couldn’t tell from looking what the graphics card was… nor anything else inside the machine - but it did look free of dust, so didn’t have to get the compressed air out.

Now to the problem…

I dug out my 17" Studio Display which used to run with my PowerMac G5, and hooked it up… Hit the Cube’s power button, and - nothing. :worried: Re-check everything… and find the wall power cable wasn’t properly seated in the power supply. It’s a black cable - I suspect not the Cube’s original, given it’s got a tag on it saying 2002… Later, I’ll hunt through my collection to see if I’ve got one that fits better.

Try again… :neutral_face: Speakers work! Startup chime is (quiet but) fine… but no image on the screen… no glowing power button (on the screen)… Computer is clearly working however (fan noise - must be a fan on the upgrade card?), and then the computer starts playing the “Welcome to OS X” music - it’s trying to let me register it/etc, but I can’t see anything…

Apple.com presented me with the Cube’s User Manual, so I did a quick bit of troubleshooting, but ultimately all it suggested was Turn Off/On, or reset the PRAM (which I tried).

So, I suspect that the display’s connector has perished… There’s a bit of corrosion around the silver outside edge, and whilst the pins are all nice and shiny, when you tilt the head on the ADC connector, it sounds a bit crunchy… :disappointed_relieved:

So my pointless desire to see the Cube “in its original state”, so to speak, looks like it’s gone up in smoke, but I bought the VGA cable on the weekend, so will attempt to hook it up to my TV tomorrow instead - which is the intended goal anyway. My only drama there is - no 90• VGA connector to allow the Cube to stand upright… (Ahhh so that’s why several online Cube sellers show the machine laying down…)

Will report back when I’ve hopefully got it hooked up to my Samsung 32" LCD TV…

Cheers

cosmic


#10

It’s never the destination, it’s the journey. Enjoy the ride bringing this back to life!


#11

For a brief moment, my thought was - Ok… So… This is my… First Cube… (ie I’ll just find another, prettier Cube down the track one day…) But… already now she’s just simply MINE… :stuck_out_tongue:

Tried some isopropal alcohol and gently brushed the connector… just to try it… but of course - nothing. Need to forget that objective and move on to figuring out how the hell to fit the Cube nicely into my existing televisual cabinet universe…


#12

The Cube is now hooked up to my TV, and the VGA out at least IS working!

Airport - So… it’s the old card… and can’t see my AIrport Extreme… Is that now a complete incompatibility, or is there a trick to getting them to talk?

The graphics card is a Nvidia GeForce2 MX - so, not the low end card…

Only had time to test a DVD so far, which was perfect… though of course not as intensive as an AVI/etc… I’ll ethernet to my Mac Mini if I have to, seems they are next to each other, so I can start some trials of playing mov/avi files…


#13

Sounds like you’re having fun.
Have you opened the case to see what’s inside?

What type/brand CPU is in it?
Is the GeForce 2 MX a genuine one that shipped in a Cube (huge silver heat sink) or have they bunged in a regular Mac tower card (tiny black heatsink)?
If you have the big silver then you’re ok, but little black will overheat if pushed hard.

Do you have a fan installed in the base of the cube? It was designed to have one, but Steve wanted a silent machine so it was never added.


#14

The excitement level was certainly up there… I think the concerns of buying a 16 year old, potentially “fragile” computer did take away a little of the excitement, but it was still a buzz unboxing it - even if the box was just from AustPost, and the wrapping was a tonne of bubblewrap…

“Is it meant to do that?? DO you know what you’re doing??” asks the wife as I pull the CPU/frame out of its shell… :slight_smile: (Didn’t tell her I was winging it, having only seen a few pics of how to pull the frame out…)

That’s how I knew about the Airport Card - de-frocked the Cube on day 1. I’m wondering if the card’s antenna isn’t seated correctly, as the system isn’t seeing ANY wifi networks. The Airport Extreme is set to 802.11a/n to 802.11b/g/n. Is that going to let the older style Airport Card in? The Cube is running 10.5.8… Do I need to move off WPA2??

I’m pretty sure it was a black heatsink on the graphics card… Bit disappointing if it is; Can I use iStat/etc to monitor the computer’s temp sensors?

I couldn’t identify the CPU from under the other bits, but I’ll have a proper look on the weekend maybe.

As a test for the main intended function of the machine, I transferred an AVI file directly onto the Cube’s HDD. (Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child part 1; of course!) It was a 640x480 sized movie file, and - after installing Perian (of course) - ran quite well from within a window in Quicktime. However when I went full-screen, whilst I couldn’t really see any dropped frames per se, at times the footage just appeared slightly “slow-mo”…

I then just tested an ep of The Walking Dead… So - more pixels etc… And - no good. Plays, but with the slow-down then jump to catch up… :frowning:

Speaking of the HDD - it is a 120GB WD “WD1200B” 7200rpm drive! So no complaints there. My intention was to ethernet the Cube to one of my 4TB Cloud Drives, so that it wont need to stream from the cloud via the old Airport Card - but can still access the internal and wider net. As such - the internal drive wasn’t really intended as a storage place for movie files… though I may consider trying to use it if it provides better performance than the ethernet…?

I am pretty sure there’s a fan in there somewhere, cos I don’t think it’s just the hard drive making all the noise when it’s running… and I can feel air coming up and out thru the upper vent.


#15

FYI

I don’t think I really expected this to work… but tried anyway. I set the monitor resolution down so it was basically just bigger then the video file I was trying to play, ie around 800 x 600. The result, playing in a Quicktime window, was only just too annoying to consider due to dropped frames/slowness. Full screen was worse.

FYI2

As suggested here/elsewhere - the Cube can handle MPEG2 aka DVD files well. I just tried it out on a ripped DVD, and it’s perfect (as perfect as VGA on an LCD tv can be). On the positive side, I’d been wanting to rip all my DVDs anyway, so this may well seal that decision… though it doesn’t help with other media files… other than to convert all AVI/MOV MP4’s to MP2’s… which would be timely and gain no quality… but allow Cube playback.

  • Looking at Activity Monitor… Playing the MPEG2/DVD Rip, and 4:3 ratio AVI, the CPU reaches around 90-95%. But, on the 16:9 modern tv show AVI file, the CPU is running at about 97%, and occasionally maxing out, and playing poorly…
  • Is there something that can monitor the graphics card in a similar way?

FYI3

Despite initially not finding any WiFi networks, after a few days, suddenly the Airport Card is finding my 2 local WiFi stations - my Airport Extreme Base Station (which I do use), and iiNet’s Modem/WiFi box (which I don’t use).

However, when I’d try to connect (to either), it would just time out. Then I realised - settings… So I had a look, and noted the Cube can’t handle WPA2, only WPA… So, I changed the setting on the AEBS from WPA2, to WPA/WPA2… But - still no good… Time Out when try to connect. Is there some other setting I need to modify? The AEBS is set to 802.11a/n - 802.11b/g/n (Automatic).

FYI 4

I just pulled the core out again so I could re-seat the Airport Card… No change there… Whilst open, I had a lil poke around… There is definitely a fan; mounted just under the grill at the base of the core. The video card has a fairly small black heat sink… (Doh)… And all I can see of the upgrade card is an “OWC” sticker.

This is the same model as the video card in my machine:
http://www.amazon.com/600-9144-630-3785-900-04023-4313-60D3-180-P0040-0000-C-NV878-0/dp/B00B86SJ80

Next step, I’ll be digging out my Pismo to raid its original Airport card, to see if that’s the problem… At that point, I’ll look at pulling the video card out so I can see the upgrade card better.


#16

Swapped the Airport Card in the Cube for the Airport Card that was in my Pismo… And straight away - we have WiFi!

Curiously, I’d only just been told over on Apple Discussions that cards with serial # ending A, B, and C were original series cards, that can only do WEP security… the card in the machine was I think a C, and the Pismo’s was a B… Well, it’s connected fine with the WPA/WPA2 security settings.

Can now control the Cube from the comfort of my sofa, on iPad or MBP, instead of standing next to the tv cabinet, using myself as a mousepad…

For fun, I tried streaming a video file… played a few seconds flawlessly… but that was about it.


#17

That’s odd about the Airport card.
I don’t recall my cube having problems with WPA, only WPA2.

That card is definitely not a Cube card. BASE FAN WILL BE HELPING COOLING SLIGHTLY, but reports on Cubeowner are that they eventually cook when pushed.

There is an Nvidia 6200 WANG on eBay at the moment. I made a best offer and it wasn’t accepted.


#18

Is that the dream Cube card?


#19

It was the best card you could get for quite some time (stuck a good balance between grunt, heat and power requirements).
I think that in the last few years there was some other card that trumped it, but by that stage most people had given up upgrading their cubes so no one really cared.

In the mid 2000’s when I was really into my Cube, it was all about the WANG 6200.

The only thing about this card is it stages it is a T44D. Most cards that were flashed in the 2000’s were T44A. Whether this means it is a Rev D card versus the earlier Rev. A cards, who knows.

As I already have a 7500 in my Cube I wasn’t looking to spend a lot on a 6200 to see if it was even flashable.


#20

This was the very first Mac I ever saw to make me pay attention. Back in 2000 I was 16 and doing work experience at an Apple reseller just at the time of Macworld New York. The day I came in to work, a bunch of the other techs were talking about it and showed me. Holy shit, that was the exact moment I thought Apple was cool and I should pay attention to them.

The rest, is history :slight_smile: