SGI Octane
Buyer's Guide

 General Information


So you want to get hands on an Octane, but you don't know what you have to care about. This page tries to give you some valuable hints and tips that should help your decision.

1. CPUs:

The following CPU options are available for the SGI Octane:

Processor Cache Single Dual
R10000SC 1MB 175 Mhz
195 Mhz
225 Mhz
250 Mhz
175 Mhz
195 Mhz
250 Mhz
R12000SC 2MB 270 Mhz
300 Mhz
400 Mhz
270 Mhz
300 Mhz
400 Mhz
R12000SCA 2MB 360 Mhz
400 Mhz
360 Mhz
400 Mhz
R14000 2MB 550 Mhz
600 Mhz
550 Mhz
600 Mhz

The higher the CPU brand (R10000 etc), the newer and faster the CPU. There are both single and dual configurations of all CPUs available for Octanes. Unfortunately you cannot simply upgrade a single CPU Octane to a dual CPU one by plugging in a second processor; you have to exchange the whole CPU module by a dual CPU module, because the CPU(s) are soldered onto the module (the CPU module is a small board, not the whole motherboard).

The R12000 CPU is the best affordable CPU at the moment, but in many cases you are better of with a dual R10000 Octane (2x195MHz R10000 is faster in many cases than a 1x300MHz R12000 CPU). I did not see a single R14000 SGI on ebay yet, and dual-R12000 modules are already rather expensive.

2. Graphics:

The following graphic options are available for the Octane - the Octane2 also has newer graphic options (the VPro series), but these are still very rare and aren't affordable for hobbyists.

Option Improved Option GEs REs Texture
SI ESI / SE 1 1 none
SSI ESSI / SSE 2 2 none
MXI EMXI / MXE 2 2 4

You can updare a SI to a SI+TRAM by adding a TRAM module (expensive) or a SSI to an MXI by adding two TRAM modules (even more expensive)

For the newer ESI/ESSI series you need special TRAM modules for upgrading, these are really, really expensive.

There are also newer graphic cards, the VPro series, and their name is V6, V8, V10 and V12. But these graphic cards don't appear on ebay very often and already the worst , V6, which really isn't that much faster than MXI, really gets expensive.

3. Memory

Most Octanes come with 512MB RAM - that should be enough for most applications. 256MB will also suffice, but you should not take an Octane with less memory, as IRIX 6.5 will perform worse with less than 256MB.

Octanes with an older mainboard (part no 030-0887-00x) can hold up to 2GB of RAM, Octanes with newer mainboards (part no 030-1467-xxx) up to 8GB. BTW this is the most important difference between the old and new version of the motherboard. You can use almost all CPUs in both boards, only the 270MHz R12000 does not run in the old mainboard - as far as I know.

The memory modules itself are again special modules - you cannot take simple PC memory modules. Fortunately these are often available on ebay.

4. Disc Drives

You can plug in up to three Harddiscs into an Octane, plus it has an external SCSI connector which uses a second SCSI bus for additional extensions, like a CD-ROM drive or DAT drive or external harddiscs. For internal drives, you need special drive sleds and SCA harddiscs with an 80pin connector.

If you buy an Octane, I would suggest it should have at a 9GB harddisc or even bigger - of course this depends on the work you are planning to do. A 4GB harddisc seems to me a bit too small, especially if you want to install many other programs, like the tons of freeware, which can be obtained from

5. Power supply

There are two ersions of PSUs for the Octane: The old from Lucent (part no 060-0028-xxx and 060-0038-xxx) with a black handle and a newer from Cherokee (part no 060-0035-xxx) with a silver handle. The newer PSU is needed for VPro graphics and is a bit more silent. The first versions of the Lucent PSUs are said to fail a bit more often. On the other hand, VPro graphic cards are still that expensive that it would be best to wait another year and replace your complete Octane, so I wouldn't spend too much attention on this detail. My own Octane has an old Lucent Power supply and works great.

6. Other extensions

There are some other extensions for the Octane like a Video Option for Video Input/Output. Most of these extensions use a proprietary form factor and connector, the XIO format. And most of them are really expensive, especially the video options are rare on ebay and cost a lot. There is also a PCI-cardcage, this is an add on which enables you to install PCI cards itno your Octane - but there is only a handfull of PCI cards actually supported by IRIX.

7. Other Details of Interest

There are some other items you should check before buying a specific Octane:
  • What is the general cosmetic condition?
  • Does the lightbar work? Often the lightbar does not work any more, because SGI didn't use LEDs but only simple bulbs. You may replace these with a LED.
  • Is the lockbar present? It prevents opening the case by unauthorized people.
  • Are keyboard and mouse included? Of course, any PS/2 keyboard and mouse will do, but maybe you really want SGI input devices.
  • Are the Octane speakers included? With the speakers its just the same, you can use any PC speakers, but maybe...
  • Is IRIX installed, which version? Is it a clean install? Do you also get the installation CDs?