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Apple Speed Bumps iBook and Titanium

The day before reporting its fourth quarter financial results, Apple has introduced enhanced models of its hot-selling iBook (Dual USB) and PowerBook G4 Titanium laptops. (For additional details, see "The Incredible Shrinking iBook" in TidBITS 579, "PowerBook G4 Titanium Burns Bright" in TidBITS 563, and "iBook or TiBook?" in TidBITS 583.) The iBook’s improved specs include either the original 500 MHz PowerPC G3 processor using a 66 MHz system bus or a new 600 MHz PowerPC G3 processor using a 100 MHz system bus. 128 MB RAM is now standard (but still not enough, and Apple’s RAM prices are far more expensive than you can find elsewhere); the 10 GB hard disk is gone in favor of 15 GB, 20 GB, or 30 GB hard disks; and there’s a new square power adapter that promises increased ease-of-use. Base pricing remains in the same range, from $1,300 to $1,700, depending on optical drive configuration.

The Titanium’s specs pick up new processors as well: 550 MHz and 667 MHz PowerPC G4s with 256K of level 2 cache on the chip. The 667 MHz model also sports a 133 MHz system bus (up from 100 MHz in the existing 500 MHz model and new 550 MHz model). Graphic support in the Titanium has improved with an ATI Mobility Radeon graphics accelerator and 16 MB of DDR video memory enabling full-frame-rate DVD video playback. A slot-loading CD-RW drive joins the DVD-ROM drive as an option, more RAM and gigabit Ethernet are standard, and the new power adapter is included. The major unknown with the enhanced Titanium is whether or not Apple has improved AirPort wireless networking range, which was disappointing in earlier models. Base pricing ranges from $2,200 to $3,300.

The improvements are especially welcome for the Titanium, which has been in need of additional differentiation from the tremendously popular iBook. It’s less clear why Apple chose this moment to beef up the iBook, though it does make the iBook even more attractive for the upcoming holiday buying season, which undoubtedly played a part in Apple’s recent release of the new low-end iMac as well.

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