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.


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.


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


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

TruckSimulation 16 guide: How to succeed...
Remember those strangely enjoyable truck missions in Grand Theft Auto V whereit was a disturbing amount of fun to deliver cargo? TruckSimulation 16 is reminiscent of that, and has you play the role of a truck driver who has to deliver various... | Read more »
The best GIF making apps
Animated GIFs have exploded in popularity recently which is likely thanks to a combination of Tumblr, our shorter attention spans, and the simple fact they’re a lot of fun. [Read more] | Read more »
The best remote desktop apps for iOS
We've been sifting through the App Store to find the best ways to do computer tasks on a tablet. That gave us a thought - what if we could just do computer tasks from our tablets? Here's a list of the best remote desktop apps to help you use your... | Read more »
Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade guide - How...
Warhammer 40,000: Freebladejust launched in the App Store and it lets you live your childhood dream of blowing up and slashing a bunch of enemies as a massive, hulking Space Marine. It's not easy being a Space Marine though - and particularly if... | Read more »
Gopogo guide - How to bounce like the be...
Nitrome just launched a new game and, as to be expected, it's a lot of addictive fun. It's called Gopogo, and it challenges you to hoparound a bunch of platforms, avoiding enemies and picking up shiny stuff. It's not easy though - just like the... | Read more »
Sago Mini Superhero (Education)
Sago Mini Superhero 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: KAPOW! Jack the rabbit bursts into the sky as the Sago Mini Superhero! Fly with Jack as he lifts impossible weights,... | Read more »
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes guide - How...
Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting heroes, powering them up, and using them together to defeat your foes. It's pretty straightforward stuff for the most part, but increasing your characters' stats can be a bit confusing because it... | Read more »
The best cooking apps (just in time for...
It’s that time of year again, where you’ll be gathering around the dinner table with your family and a huge feast in front of you. [Read more] | Read more »
Square Rave guide - How to grab those te...
Square Rave is an awesome little music-oriented puzzle game that smacks of games like Lumines, but with its own unique sense of gameplay. To help wrap your head around the game, keep the following tips and tricks in mind. [Read more] | Read more »
Snowboard Party 2 (Games)
Snowboard Party 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Crowned the best snowboarding game available on the market, Snowboard Party is back to fulfill all your adrenaline needs in... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Holiday weekend: Apple Watch on sale for $50-...
B&H Photo has the Apple Watch on sale today for $50-$100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - Apple Watch Sport: $50 off - Apple Watch: $50-$100 off Read more
Holiday weekend: iPad Air 2s on sale for up t...
B&H Photo has iPad Air 2s on sale for up to $80 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $459 $40 off - 64GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $569 $30 off - 128GB iPad Air... Read more
Holiday weekend Mac sales roundup: B&H Ph...
B&H Photo continues to have all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday/Holiday weekend sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more
iMobie Releases its Ace iOS Cleaner PhoneClea...
iMobie Inc. has announced the new update of PhoneClean 4, its iOS cleaner designed to reclaim wasted space on iPhone/iPad for use and keep the device fast. Alongside, iMobie hosts a 3-day giveaway of... Read more
U.S. Cellular Offering iPad Pro
U.S. Cellular today announced that it is offering the new iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular, featuring a 12.9-inch Retina display with 5.6 million pixels — the most ever in an iOS device. U.S. Cellular... Read more
Newegg Canada Unveils Black Friday Deals for...
Newegg Canada is offering more than 1,000 deep discounts to Canadian customers this Black Friday, available now through Cyber Monday, with new deals posted throughout the week. “Black Friday is... Read more
Black Friday: Macs on sale for up to $500 off...
BLACK FRIDAY B&H Photo has all new Macs on sale for up to $500 off MSRP as part of their early Black Friday sale including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $... Read more
Black Friday: Up to $125 off iPad Air 2s at B...
BLACK FRIDAY Walmart has the 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - 16GB iPad Air 2 WiFi: $399, save $... Read more
Black Friday: iPad mini 4s on sale for $100 o...
BLACK FRIDAY Best Buy has iPad mini 4s on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store for Black Friday. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available): - 16GB iPad mini 4 WiFi: $299.... Read more
Black Friday: Apple Watch for up to $100 off...
BLACK FRIDAY Apple resellers are offering discounts and bundles with the purchase of an Apple Watch this Black Friday. Below is a roundup of the deals being offered by authorized Watch resellers:... Read more

Jobs Board

Specialist *Apple* /Mac Desktop - University...
…technical support, expertise and user training for a variety of Apple /Macintosh hardware, software and devices.Researches, analyzes and resolves complex Apple Read more
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
# Apple Site Security Manager Job Number: 42975010 Culver City, Califo ia, United States Posted: Oct. 2, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** The Apple Site Read more
WiSE *Apple* Pay Quality Engineer - Apple (...
# WiSE Apple Pay Quality Engineer Job Number: 44313381 Santa Clara Valley, Califo ia, United States Posted: Nov. 13, 2015 Weekly Hours: 40.00 **Job Summary** Join our Read more
Holiday Retail Associate with *Apple* Knowl...
…and assertive.Someone who can troubleshoot iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) and Apple Mail issues.Someone who can offer solutions.Someone who can work weekends.Someone with Read more
*Apple* Systems Engineer (Mclean, VA and NYC...
Summary:Assist in providing strategic direction and technical leadership within the Apple portfolio, including desktops, laptops, and printing environment. This person Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.