The day before reporting its fourth quarter financial results last week, Apple 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 a choice of 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 realistically 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 picks 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 the 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, gigabit Ethernet is standard, as is more RAM (using new PC133 RAM, instead of the PC100 used by the original model), and the new square power adapter is included. Apple claims that the new models have improved AirPort access 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 (and perhaps the students who realized during the fall semester that they really needed one), which undoubtedly played a part in Apple’s recent release of the new low-end iMac as well.