I have seen the object of my unknown lust, and it is titanium. The date is January 9, and my upgrade fever is once more in full swing. For those that weren't watching, Steve Jobs just managed (again) to pull some incredible products from somewhere mysterious. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Apple Computer Powerbook G4.

First of all, it looks cool. Silver. Wide so that it can support widescreen DVD. One inch thick, 5.3 pounds, but still sporting a slot-loading internal DVD drive.

Sorry. Here's more spec info.

  • Processor: AIM PowerPC 7410 aka G4 at 400 or 500 MHz.
  • Cache: 1MB backside
  • Screen: 15.2" Active Matrix LCD (TFT)
  • Drive: Internal DVD/CD slotloading
  • Weight: 5.3 lbs
  • Construction: Titanium metal, in what Apple is touting as '99.5% pure' grade.
  • Internal memory: comes with 128 or 256, maximum unknown but at least 1GB.
  • Internal HD available at 10,20 or 30 GB
  • Network: onboard 10/100 Ethernet, and Airport-ready for 802.11 with no external antenna ($99 add-on)
  • Peripherals: USB port, FireWire (IEEE-1394, iLink, etc.) port.

Price points: An astonishingly reasonable $2,599 USD for the low end, 400MHz/128 RAM/10GB hs model - still with the 15.2" screen and DVD drive. $3,499 USD for the midrange, which has a 20GB drive, 256 RAM and a 500MHz G4.

Sigh. Now if only I had a job, I'd be on the phone to Apple RIGHT NOW...oh, and, obviously, it runs MacOS 9.1 or MacOS X right now.

As if the Apple's Powerbook G4 was not lust-worthy enough, the high end model now sports a 17 inch display. 17 frickin' inches. I have one of the 15 inch models and used to think that had a big screen. This one is a monster. This latest (and certainly not least) update to the PowerBook G4 came at the January 2003 MacWorld Expo. You might want to note that this machine will not boot into Mac OS 9.

Out with the old and in with the new

The basic stats haven't changed: It's still a 1 Ghz G4 PowerPC with 1Mb of L3 DDR cache, but inside (and indeed outside) much has changed:

  • Motherboard architecture: This latest version sports a new motherboard architecture that uses PC2700 DDR SDRAM. Unfortunately it's highly likely that, as with the current desktop machines, the processor's FSB is still SDR.
  • Casing: The casing is now made of anodised aluminium. This time it's not painted, so no more unsightly paint chips. There is now one big central hinge, that is as wide as the keyboard. The lid opens in a way similar to the iBook.
  • Wireless: Many changes here. The Airport antennas are now in the screen. Apple tells us that the reception will be as good as on the iBook, and I'll add that it's about time too as the reception on previous iterations was pretty awful. But that's not all, the new Powerbook G4 comes with an 802.11g WLAN card, which Apple calls Airport Extreme. And lastly it has built-in Bluetooth.
  • Keyboard: Steve Jobs claims that this is their best keyboard to date, but the best thing about it is that it is backlit! If light sensors detect that it is too dark then the keyboard will be lit up via some clever fibre optics. You can of course turn this off.
  • 800 Mbps Firewire: Also known as IEEE 1394b this is the latest version of Firewire. There's also a 400 Mbps port for all those old devices.
  • Superdrive: Although originall announced as writes DVD-Rs as 2x, this was silently changed to 1x. There is an (unofficial) firmware patch that will restore 2x writing. CD-Rs can be written at 16x and CD-RWs at 4x.
  • Graphics: Whereas previous powerbooks had used ATI graphics (in order Rage 128 Mobility, Radeon Mobility, Radeon 7500 Mobility, Radeon 9000 Mobility) this latest version is powered by a Nvidia GeForce 440Go with 64 Mb of DDR, running off a 4x AGP interface.
  • Storage: The same 40 or 60 Gb 4200 RPM drives, but connected to an Ultra ATA 100 interface instead of an Ultra ATA/66 interface.
  • Speakers: If you look at the Quicktime VR models you will see that the speaker grille's are much bigger. Apple has used some of the extra space to put bigger speakers in. Some would have prefered it if Apple had used the extra space for a keypad.
  • Screen: 17 inches of pure joy. And unlike some laptops you won't need a magnifying glass to read small text, since the native resolution of the display is 1440x900. That's an aspect ratio of 16:10, previous versions had resolutions of 1152x768 or 1280x854, with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Ports Galore

Most of the ports have been moved from the back of the case to the right hand side, and the remainder have move to the left hand side. In case you're worrying about whether you'll be able to connect your favourite peripheral, here's a complete list of ports:

Size matters

Inevitably the big screen has made the Powerbook G4 bigger and heavier. It's now 15.4 inches by 10.2 inches as opposed to 13.4 inches by 9.5 inches and weighs 6.8 pounds instead of 5.4. A bit big to use on the move but perfect if you just need a computer you can move around without actually needing to use it much on the go. But if that's really too big, the 15 inch models are still available, as well as a new 12 inch model which is a shade smaller and lighter than the iBook while retaining many of its big brothers' characteristics.

April 8, 2003: Over the past 2 weeks or so, Apple has been shipping powerbooks to those who had preordered. Mine's due to arrive later this week, yay!

April 15, 2003: I've finally got it. Words cannot describe how great this macine is. The screen is huge and bright. The keyboard feels great. The speakers sound pretty decent, I would actually consider listening to music on them. The build quality is absolutely top notch. Apple, I salute you!

sources: http://www.apple.com/powerbook/
Macworld January 2003 keynote

UpdateAt the 2003 Apple Expo in Paris, the PowerBook lineup was updated, the 17 inch model got niceties such as a 1.33 Ghz processor, USB 2, and ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 graphics.

Apple's new 12" PowerBook G4 is really just a modified iBook.

With Apple's January 7, 2003 introduction of the 12" PowerBook G4, Apple has taken a page from the automakers. Although Apple won't publicly acknowledge this, Apple's new "full-featured subnotebook" is nothing more than an badge-engineered iBook. In other words, it's an iBook with a slightly more luxurious appearance and feature set, but its fundamental design, a.k.a. "platform," is the same. This is the same practice used by Honda (Honda Accord and Acura TL) Toyota (Toyota Camry and Lexus ES300) and Nissan (Nissan Maxima and Infiniti I30) among others. (See Badge Engineering.)

Not convinced? Let's take a closer look:

Apple could have designed a clean-slate product with the 12" PowerBook, as it did with the 17" PowerBook Apple also introduced at Macworld SF 2003, and come up with a product a bit smaller and much lighter. Why not? Clearly, with the economy in its current crappy state, spending gobs on R&D for a brand-new product is much more risky than simply offering an more powerful version of the same product. Apple did spend gobs on R&D for the 17" though, isn't that risky? Yes, but also keep in mind that Apple's last subnotebook offering, the PowerBook 2400c of 1997, was a commercial flop in the USA. That was six years ago, so obviously Apple wants to take its re-entry into the subnote market one step at a time.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to whine at all. Let's not forget the fact that the 12" PowerBook--particularly the SuperDrive model--kicks ass. I think Apple made the right decision to design the 12" PowerBook this way. Not only because of Apple's past history with subnotebooks, but also because the iBook is such a solid product to begin with. I love my July '02 model iBook 700 more than any other computer I've owned. I'd also consider buying a 12" PowerBook, should my needs increase.

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