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Pumping The New Macs Out

Apple doesn't stop. They keep introducing new models of the Macintosh at an increasingly fast rate. If only they could ship those new models in quantity when they announce the fool things. Teasing your customers works, but only for a while, after which the only emotion the customers feel is pure unadulterated... frustration.

We'd also like Apple to specify and name machines with thought to the people who must memorize and order new and old Macs in a comprehensible way. The average consumer who buys a Mac every five years won't care, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep the top ten facts about each Macintosh model in active brain cell memory, and the fact that the 165c is much like the 180 only with a color screen does not facilitate memorization. If it's that close to the 180, take a clue from Toshiba and call it the 180c.

A number of people have passed on information about the new machines, and although I'm sure Apple will send me pounds of paper that tell me all about it in two weeks, I figured there was no reason to wait. I have to hold off on the specs on the new LaserWriter Select 300 and 310 for lack of space this week - wait for that next week.

New Macs -- The new Macs due in two weeks span the range of the Macintosh line, from the low-end Color Classic to the high-end Quadra 800. On the whole, the prices and features look excellent, and should make for some good deals on the older machines, as Mark says above.

The RAM configurations struck us as interesting. The desktop machines offer at least one slot for additional RAM. These slots, however do not take the usual 60-pin SIMMs that Mac aficionados are used to. Instead they sport what Apple will tout as "industry standard" 72-pin SIMMs. We hope to have more details in a future issue, but one reason for the change is to eliminate the rules concerning banks of RAM and SIMM placement.

Color Classic -- The 4 MB Color Classic looks like a pudgy Classic II with a facade-style front. The exciting thing about this machine (one hopes) will be its built-in, 10-inch, 76 dpi, 512 x 384 pixel, Sony Trinitron color monitor that does 256 colors standard, and accepts 256K more VRAM for 32,768 colors.

The Color Classic uses a slightly modified LC II motherboard. As such it accepts LC PDS cards, uses a 16 MHz 68030, suffers from a 16-bit data bus, and only addresses up to 10 MB of RAM. Rumors imply that you will be able to upgrade this Mac to a PowerPC in the vaporous future. I'll believe it when I see it, but it does come with a socket for a math coprocessor should you need one. All this for a suggested retail price of $1,279 in the 4/40 configuration.

LC III -- Apple has finally broken their ban on using the number three in a machine name, a ban reportedly started when the Apple III flopped. I predict that the LC III will not suffer the Apple III's fate - it's basically a IIci in an LC case with its 25 MHz 68030 and full 32-bit data bus.

The LC III's expansion slots make sense for a cross between the now outdated LC/LC II and IIci, with a single NuBus slot (although the internal size limits the NuBus card length to 6.5 inches), an LC-type processor-direct slot, and a socket for a math coprocessor.

The LC III takes up to 36 MB via a new single 72-pin SIMM slot. Its internal video can do 256 colors, expandable to 32,768 with more VRAM. Interestingly, the LC III will include RAM disk software - presumably the same sort that comes with the PowerBooks. The price is pretty good at $1,379 for a 4/80 configuration with no monitor. After a long life in the Apple product line, the IIci will no longer be sold, so look for some major price cuts in the near future.

Centris 610 -- The Centris 610 introduces a new case design reminiscent of a fat LC, and sounds like a promising machine. It features a 68LC040 and can include an on-board Ethernet adapter and internal CD-ROM drive. The Centris 610 expands to 68 MB of RAM via two 72-pin SIMM slots, includes RAM disk software, and has the basic 256-color internal video. Apple claims the Centris 610 will check in at about twice the speed of a IIci, even without a math coprocessor. Like the IIsi, the Centris 610 takes an adapter card that lets you choose a single NuBus or PDS slot, but it apparently does not have a math coprocessor on that adapter card. Bummer. The 4/80 configuration will run you $1,859, without a monitor, of course.

Centris 650 -- The Centris 650, oddly enough, uses the same case as the IIvx and Performa 600. The 650 uses a 25 MHz 68040 and is slated to replace the Quadra 700. Unlike the 610, the 650 holds up to 132 MB of RAM via four 72-pin SIMM slots, has three NuBus slots, has an inline 68040 processor-direct slot, includes a socket for a math coprocessor, and even has an 8K cache architecture. The two machines share similar video abilities, RAM disk software, optional on-board Ethernet, and an optional internal CD-ROM drive. The price is still decent, at $2,699 for a 4/80 machine sans monitor.

Quadra 800 -- The Quadra 800 is basically a Quadra 950 in an upright mini-tower case. It uses the same 33 MHz 68040 and comes with three NuBus slots, but because the Quadra 800 uses interleaved memory (when SIMMs are placed in adjacent banks, I hear) and has an 8K integrated cache, it is supposed to clock in 5-10% faster than the 950. Like the Centris 650, the Quadra 800 has three NuBus slots and an inline 68040 processor-direct slot (which blocks one of the NuBus slots, unfortunately), and you can install an internal CD-ROM drive. Memory expands to 136 MB from the 8 MB on board. The price goes up fast at this level, a whopping $4,679 for a 8/230 configuration.

PowerBook 165c -- As far as we can tell, the PowerBook 165c is a PowerBook 180 with a 9-inch, 256-color, passive-matrix screen. It uses a 33 MHz 68030 and a 33 MHz 68882 math coprocessor, has 4 MB of RAM expandable to 14 MB, and includes the same internal slots and external ports. Apple claims battery life will be between 1.5 and 2 hours, but early reports we've heard that suggest times more like 45 minutes. Ouch, but if you absolutely need that color screen... The PowerBook 165c is a bit heavier and thicker - about seven pounds in the end. Price? $3,599 with the 80 MB hard disk.

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