TweetFollow Us on Twitter

First Look: The New PowerBooks

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 2
Column Tag: Reviews

First Look: The New PowerBooks

by Michael R. Harvey

At January's MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, Apple wowed the crowds with the introduction of two new PowerBook models, once again raising the bar for all other computer makers to aspire to. Introducing both a monster 17 inch PowerBook G4, and the smallest laptop Apple has produced, they have widened the line of choices mobile computer users can consider, and gave desktop users pause to reconsider the possibility of leaving that old tower behind. From the outward appearance, to the guts, this new iron packs a punch both large and small.

Aesthetics

On the outside, the new laptops are pure eye candy. They just look very sleek, and professional. Constructed of aircraft grade aluminum, they are far sturdier than their titanium counterparts. They are rounded along the edges. Just as a dome has a high strength inherit in its design, so does the rounded design add to the strength of the PowerBook cases. The flex that exists in the lid of the Titanium PowerBooks, just isn't there on these new machines. They are very stable. The hinge on both the 12- and 17-inch PowerBooks is taken from the current Dual USB iBooks. The sleep indicator light now sits within the latch release button. The keyboard on both models is now locked down. You can't get to the internals by removing it any longer. This allowed Apple to firm up the keyboard. You no longer have that bend in it that was necessitated by having it be removable. It has a much better feel to it now when typing. Installing RAM and Airport are now done via a removable plate on the bottom of the units. Also related to the keyboard is a problem that plagued earlier models of PowerBook. Apple has managed to design these new systems so that the keyboard no longer touches the screen when it's latched closed. You can look right through the closed PowerBook and see they are separated. No more gunk building up on the screen.

The 12-inch model is the smallest Laptop to ever come out of Apple. It is smaller, even, than the old Duo sub-notebooks. It weighs in at 4.6 pounds, and has dimensions of 10.9x8.6x1.18 inches. The keyboard is full sized. The 12.1 inch (diagonal) TFT XGA display has a maximum 1024x768 pixel resolution.

Conversely, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 is just a behemoth. It looks and handles great, though. It's large size is obviously to handle the 17-inch (diagonal), 1440x900 pixel, TFT widescreen display. That leaves a lot of real estate to work with. The full sized keyboard looks almost lost on the machine, with what seems like four miles of wrist rest to cross before actually typing. It feels just fine, however, and is very comfortable to type on. There are stereo speakers on either side of the keyboard. The laptop weighs 6.8 pounds. It is rather heavy, but not overly so.


Figure 1: 17" Screen on the G4 PowerBook

Then there is the coolest thing Apple has come up with yet. On the 17-inch model, there are two light sensors hidden under the speaker grills on either side of the keyboard. When the ambient light drops, two things happen. The keyboard lights up from underneath (via fiber optics), glowing through the keycaps, and illuminating the lettering on the keys. The computer also dims the LCD, making it easier to look at in darkened conditions. Trying to describe it just doesn't do the feature justice. You truly have to see it to appreciate how cool it is.

Horsepower

Under the hood, the new systems pack a wallop. They are computers loaded with first time features. Both the 17- and 12-inch models come standard with G4 processors, the first PowerBooks to ship with G4 chips inside. The 12-inch models come equipped with 867 MHz processors, and the big 17-inch models fly along at 1 GHz. Additionally, these are the first computers to ship with Bluetooth built in. They are also the first with the ability to handle Airport Extreme, the 54-Mbps 802.11g wireless networking standard. The 17-inch comes with it installed, and the smaller model is ready for the $99 Airport Extreme card. Each has antennae running up the sides of the LCD screen. Apple reports that these PowerBooks will have much improved wireless connectivity performance over the Titanium PowerBooks.


Figure 2: Top down view of both PowerBooks

Each of the new PowerBooks come with the standard compliment of ports: modem, USB, audio in and out, and video out. The 12-inch version has 400 Mbps FireWire, and 100 Mbps 10 Base-T Ethernet. The 17-inch tops that with gigabit Ethernet, and FireWire running at 800 Mbps. This faster FireWire is backwards compatible with 400 Mbps, but uses a new connector type, so an adapter is needed to connect older devices into the new jack.

The 12- and 17-inch models are equipped with slot loading optical drives. The larger, 17-inch model comes with a Super Drive. It is the only option for this machine. The 12-inch comes standard with a Combo drive, or Super drive can be had as a build to order option. The standard version of the 12- and 17-inch systems have 40 GB and 60 GB hard drives, respectively.

Both have the latest NVIDIA graphics chips on board. NVIDIA provided Apple with their newest GeForce4 Go chips, the 420 for the 12", and the 440 for the 17", with 32 MB and 64 MB of DDR SDRAM respectively. Both run on a 4x AGP bus. With a .15 micron manufacturing process (the last iteration from NVIDIA was a .18 micron size), the small graphics chip size provided Apple with alternately more room for features, and the ability to wedge full graphics features on a small board. Features like mirroring and dual monitor support on both models are thanks to the power of this graphics subsystem.


Figure 3: Top down view of the 17" PowerBook

Look and Feel

Apple really has done it again in the coolness department. The machines look great. The Titanium's were a great industrial design, and these new G4 PowerBooks are even better. They are stylish, functional, and hardy. These are also the first machines to boot solely into OS X. OS X, however, is a whole other article.


Figure 4: 12" Screen on the G4 PowerBook

The Bottom Line

The 12-inch PowerBook has a price tag of $1799. The 17-inch version weighs in at $3299. Both have the usual build-to-order options available. Higher processor speeds, bigger hard drives, more RAM, or add an Airport card (for the 12-inch). The 17-inch PowerBook is about as tricked out as it can be at the above price point. Bumping it up to 1 GB of RAM will dent your wallet to the tune of $3599. On the other hand, loading up a 12-inch PowerBook with Airport Extreme, a Super Drive, bigger hard drive, and more RAM will set you back $2298. Both models should be shipping by the time you read this. They are drool-worthy systems that anyone looking for a new computer should consider seriously. Steve Jobs said in his keynote that this is the year of the laptop for Apple, and with offerings like these, 2003 will very likely be just that.


Michael R. Harvey

 
AAPL
$99.76
Apple Inc.
+2.09
MSFT
$44.08
Microsoft Corpora
+0.45
GOOG
$520.84
Google Inc.
+9.67

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

TechTool Pro 7.0.5 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
PDFKey Pro 4.0.2 - Edit and print passwo...
PDFKey Pro can unlock PDF documents protected for printing and copying when you've forgotten your password. It can now also protect your PDF files with a password to prevent unauthorized access and/... Read more
Yasu 2.9.1 - System maintenance app; per...
Yasu was originally created with System Administrators who service large groups of workstations in mind, Yasu (Yet Another System Utility) was made to do a specific group of maintenance tasks... Read more
Hazel 3.3 - Create rules for organizing...
Hazel is your personal housekeeper, organizing and cleaning folders based on rules you define. Hazel can also manage your trash and uninstall your applications. Organize your files using a... Read more
Autopano Giga 3.7 - Stitch multiple imag...
Autopano Giga allows you to stitch 2, 20, or 2,000 images. Version 3.0 integrates impressive new features that will definitely make you adopt Autopano Pro or Autopano Giga: Choose between 9... Read more
MenuMeters 1.8 - CPU, memory, disk, and...
MenuMeters is a set of CPU, memory, disk, and network monitoring tools for Mac OS X. Although there are numerous other programs which do the same thing, none had quite the feature set I was looking... Read more
Coda 2.5 - One-window Web development su...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few... Read more
Arq 4.6.1 - Online backup to Google Driv...
Arq is super-easy online backup for the Mac. Back up to your own Google Drive storage (15GB free storage), your own Amazon Glacier ($.01/GB per month storage) or S3, or any SFTP server. Arq backs up... Read more
Airfoil 4.8.10 - Send audio from any app...
Airfoil allows you to send any audio to AirPort Express units, Apple TVs, and even other Macs and PCs, all in sync! It's your audio - everywhere. With Airfoil you can take audio from any... Read more
Apple iMovie 10.0.6 - Edit personal vide...
With an all-new design, Apple iMovie lets you enjoy your videos like never before. Browse your clips more easily, instantly share your favorite moments, and create beautiful HD movies and Hollywood-... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Angry Birds Transformers Review
Angry Birds Transformers Review By Jennifer Allen on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRANSFORMED BIRDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Transformed in a way you wouldn’t expect, Angry Birds Transformers is a quite... | Read more »
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of...
GAMEVIL Announces the Upcoming Launch of Mark of the Dragon Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] Mark of the Dragon, by GAMEVIL, put | Read more »
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay
Find Free Food on Campus with Ypay Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 20th, 2014 [ permalink ] iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad | Read more »
Strung Along Review
Strung Along Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GOT NO STRINGSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A cool gimmick and a great art style keep Strung Along from completely falling apart.   | Read more »
P2P file transferring app Send Anywhere...
File sharing services like Dropbox have security issues. Email attachments can be problematic when it comes to sharing large files. USB dongles don’t fit into your phone. Send Anywhere, a peer-to-peer file transferring application, solves all of... | Read more »
Zero Age Review
Zero Age Review By Jordan Minor on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: MORE THAN ZEROiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad With its mind-bending puzzles and spellbinding visuals, Zero Age has it all.   | Read more »
Hay Ewe Review
Hay Ewe Review By Campbell Bird on October 20th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SAVE YOUR SHEEPLEUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Pave the way for your flock in this line drawing puzzle game from the creators of Worms.   | Read more »
My Very Hungry Caterpillar (Education)
My Very Hungry Caterpillar 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Care for your very own Very Hungry Caterpillar! My Very Hungry Caterpillar will captivate you as he crawls... | Read more »
Dungeon Dick (Games)
Dungeon Dick 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Dungeon Dick is a fantasy adventure where you must discover the wicked plot to destroy the lands . 'Fling' at your foes and land... | Read more »
Here’s How the Apple Watch Could Transfo...
With the Apple Watch’s generic release date of, “early 2015” hovering on the horizon, it’s only a matter of time before gamers begin to ask “What’s in it for us?” The obvious choice would be to place entire games directly on the face of the watch,... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

2013 15-inch 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro availa...
B&H Photo has leftover previous-generation 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pros now available for $1599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $400 off original MSRP. B&H... Read more
Updated iPad Prices
We’ve updated our iPad Air Price Tracker and our iPad mini Price Tracker with the latest information on prices and availability from Apple and other resellers, including the new iPad Air 2 and the... Read more
Apple Pay Available to Millions of Visa Cardh...
Visa Inc. brings secure, convenient payments to iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3as well as iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Starting October 20th, eligible Visa cardholders in the U.S. will be able to use Apple Pay,... Read more
Textkraft Pocket – the missing TextEdit for i...
infovole GmbH has announced the release and immediate availability of Textkraft Pocket 1.0, a professional text editor and note taking app for Apple’s iPhone. In March 2014 rumors were all about... Read more
C Spire to offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3,...
C Spire on Friday announced that it will offer iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, both with Wi-Fi + Cellular, on its 4G+ LTE network in the coming weeks. C Spire will offer the new iPads with a range of... Read more
Belkin Announces Full Line of Keyboards and C...
Belkin International has unveiled a new lineup of keyboard cases and accessories for Apple’s newest iPads, featuring three QODE keyboards and a collection of thin, lightweight folios for both the... Read more
Verizon offers new iPad Air 2 preorders for $...
Verizon Wireless is accepting preorders for the new iPad Air 2, cellular models, for $100 off MSRP with a 2-year service agreement: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi + Cellular: $529.99 - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi... Read more
Price drops on refurbished Mac minis, now ava...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on Apple Certified Refurbished previous-generation Mac minis, with models now available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 MacBook Airs available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is free.... Read more
Refurbished 2013 MacBook Pros available for u...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros available starting at $929. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros (4GB RAM/... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** At the Apple Store, you connect business professionals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need in order to put Apple solutions to work in their Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple Store is a retail environment like no other - uniquely focused on delivering amazing customer experiences. As an Expert, you introduce people Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** As businesses discover the power of Apple computers and mobile devices, it's your job - as a Solutions Engineer - to show them how to introduce these Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.