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Open Mouth, Insert PowerBook, Go to Sleep, Drool

My article about the new PowerPC-based PowerBooks in TidBITS-292 had a few omissions and errors. First, I forgot to include information about upgrades from the 500-series. The daughtercard upgrade provides a 100 MHz PowerPC 603e chip and comes with 8 MB of RAM on the card. You don’t get the expansion bay or the infrared networking, but you can keep any additional RAM that you’ve added, and the price will range between $700 and $750. Upgrades should be available in mid-October.

Second, I’d like to note that my earlier article was not a review. I haven’t played with these machines at all, and Apple certainly never sends them to us before they’re released (or after, for that matter). All of those details come from Apple propaganda or from folks who have managed to try the machines. The main thing we couldn’t have known, because of this, is that the 68K emulation for the new PowerBooks is pretty lousy, according to tests run on pre-release units by MacWEEK and other sources. Performance of native applications ranged from good to excellent, whereas MacWEEK’s tests in MacBench placed the new PowerBooks around the speed of the IIci and IIfx when running emulated applications. The upshot of this is that you might wish to test your favorite 68K applications on one of these PowerBooks before buying, especially if those programs aren’t available in PowerPC versions.

Third, it turns out that the built-in infrared networking runs at the speed of LocalTalk, or 230.4 Kbps. This is good news, since I expected the performance to be a good bit slower.

Fourth and finally, I blew it by mentioning my pet peeve with desktop Macs not being able to sleep like PowerBooks. It turns out (and I’m astonished that I didn’t hear about this until I opened my mouth in TidBITS) that the new PCI-based Power Macs (the 9500, 7200, 7500, and 8500) can all enter some sort of sleep mode. Since we don’t have any of these machines and they’re difficult to find in stock anywhere, it’s hard to test for sure, but it seems that the feature set may differ between the 9500 and the slightly more recent Power Macs (and the 9500 cannot use the newer Energy Saver 2.0 control panel). It’s clear that all of these Power Macs can spin down the hard drive, and, if connected to an Energy Star monitor, can put the monitor to sleep.

Reports vary on whether or not the fan shuts off as well, as would be ideal given the fan’s additional noise (although at least one person commented that his 7200 fan is very quiet). One reason not to shut off the fan would be because you can’t know how many heat-generating PCI cards might be installed. Apparently the machines remain aware enough that sleeping Power Macs can still appear on the network as file servers, and connecting to a sleeping machine wakes it up. The same is apparently true if you call one of these Macs that’s using its GeoPort to act as an answering machine – no word on if that would work for just any attached modem.

The sleep feature works as you’d expect, with separate idle time settings for the monitor and the disk in the Energy Saver control panel, and the capability to wake up at a certain time. When asleep, the 7200 apparently draws less than 30 watts of power, with the other models drawing a little bit more.

All I can say is that I want one. Congratulations, Apple, for adding this much needed feature, and I hope it appears in all new desktop Macs from now on. I’d like to see Apple make a bigger deal out of this capability as well; the fact that I hadn’t heard of it indicates that it’s certainly not being trumpeted as a major reason to buy one of these machines. I’ve been happy with my 660AV, but frankly, this sleep capability will induce me to upgrade much sooner than I would have otherwise.

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