Apple's PowerBook series no longer holds the top position it enjoyed in the notebook computer market for a while; recent DataQuest analyses show IBM and Compaq portables leading the pack. Apple hopes to reclaim the lead, though, with the immensely popular 500 series ("Blackbird") PowerBook models, introduced earlier this year, and the newly introduced PowerBook 150.
A direct replacement for the low-end PowerBook 145B, the PowerBook 150 weighs in at a svelte 5.5 pounds, comes with a pre-installed software bundle that includes ClarisWorks and Apple's PowerBook Mobility Bundle (which includes the PowerBook Control Strip), has a bigger display and more hard disk space than its predecessor, supports more memory, runs faster, and has an Apple Price of $1,449.
Apple expects the PowerBook 150's fan club to include computer novices whose needs don't include vast amounts of processing power, people having limited budgets, and existing Macintosh owners who need a notebook computer but plan to keep their current desktop Mac. The resulting attention to cost means the 150 lacks such niceties as external monitor support, SCSI disk mode, and audio input, but these, and other absent features, are available in the other members of the PowerBook family.
One likely market segment for the PowerBook 150 will be users who don't need fancy features, but want a light PowerBook. Apple's PowerBook Duo series is lighter still (4.2 to 4.8 pounds) but lacks an internal floppy disk drive and some standard ports when not connected to a dock or docking adapter. The new 500 series PowerBooks weigh from 6.3 to 7.3 pounds, and the only remaining sibling in the 100 series PowerBook line, the 165, weighs 6.8 pounds.
Other than the weight and video output, the PowerBook 150 is similar to the 165. Each sports a 33 MHz 68030 processor without a math coprocessor, and each has a grayscale display. (The PowerBook 150's screen offers four shades of gray.) Using memory expansion cards designed for the PowerBook Duo series, though, the 150 supports up to 40 MB of RAM, while the 165 stops at 14 MB. Other than the memory, the PowerBook 150 supports accessories used in previous 100 series PowerBooks, such as add-on AC adapters, batteries, chargers, and modems.
How did Apple manage to make the PowerBook 150 lighter without changing its size or shape, and without making it more expensive rather than less? According to an Apple spokesperson, several engineering advances enabled the designers to shave off that pound. For example, the logic board uses a single-board approach similar to that used in the Duo series. By comparison, previous 100 series PowerBooks had a motherboard and daughterboard, which was good for modularity reasons but added weight. Also, the 150 includes a floppy drive which is functionally the same as that in the 145B, but is smaller and lighter. Meanwhile, the PowerBook 150's display, even though it has a 640 x 480 display area, is both lighter and less expensive than the 640 x 400 display on the 145B.
The PowerBook 150 won't satisfy eager Mac users who were hoping for a low-priced PowerBook with all the features of a 540c (what would?), but it should do well with first-time Mac users and those without especially demanding computing needs. We suspect it will be a best-seller when students return to U.S. college campuses in several weeks, and casual notebook users will find a winner here as well.
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