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New PowerBooks Announced in Paris

At Apple Expo in Paris last week, Steve Jobs at long last unveiled the long-awaited update to the Titanium PowerBook G4. The new aluminum-clad 15-inch PowerBook G4 offers two configurations with a choice of a 1 GHz or 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 processor (both with 512K of on-chip level 2 cache, which, according to Apple, makes up for the lack of a level 3 cache that was present in some earlier PowerBook G4s), Combo drive (CD-RW/DVD-ROM) or SuperDrive (CD-RW/DVD-R), 60 GB or 80 GB hard drive, and an AirPort Extreme card (hopefully with better range than the abysmal Titanium PowerBook G4). Also optional for $70 is the neat backlit keyboard technology from the 17-inch PowerBook; the backlighting is standard on the higher-end configuration.

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Standard features include a 15.2 inch LCD display running at 1280 by 854, 56K V.92 modem, built-in Bluetooth networking, the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 with 64 MB of DDR SDRAM, built-in stereo speakers with a midrange-enhancing third speaker, keyboard, trackpad, and a 46 watt battery that provides up to 4.5 hours of battery life (the 15-inch PowerBooks use the same 65 watt power adapter as the 17-inch PowerBook, not the 45 watt adapter used by the first-generation 12-inch PowerBook). Ports include one PC Card/CardBus slot, built-in 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet, one FireWire 400 port, one FireWire 800 port, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, DVI video output port (with an included DVI-to-VGA adapter), S-video output port (with an included S-video-to-composite adapter), audio line in, and a headphone jack.

All this comes in a 5.6 pound (2.5 kg) package 1.1 inches (2.8 cm) high, 13.7 inches (34.8 cm) wide, 9.5 inches (24.1 cm) deep, putting it smack between the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks in size and weight. For you number crunchers, those measurements make the new model slightly thicker (by 0.1 inches, 0.3 cm), wider (0.4 inches, 1.0 cm), and heavier (0.3 pound, 0.1 kg) than the Titanium model. Although those numbers aren’t drastically different, some Titanium PowerBook G4 owners may need to look into buying laptop sleeves and cases redesigned for the new dimensions.

A stripped-down model costs $2,000; the loaded model comes in at $2,700. Both models are listed as "Available Now" at the online Apple Store, and many Apple retail stores had the configurations in stock at the time of last week’s announcement.

We can only speculate why Apple chose to keep the Titanium PowerBook G4 in its lame duck position in the PowerBook lineup for nine long months after introducing the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks (we suspect Apple was trying to sell off as many existing units as possible before introducing new ones), but the release of the 15-inch PowerBook G4 should spur laptop sales. For many people, the 12-inch PowerBook was just too small and underpowered, whereas the 17-inch PowerBook was just too large and expensive. Much as Mama Bear’s oatmeal, chair, and bed were just right for Goldilocks, the 15-inch PowerBook should meet the needs of many Mac users, thanks to its large display, excellent performance, and complete set of features at prices starting $1,000 below the 17-inch PowerBook.

12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks — Along with the new 15-inch PowerBook G4, Apple made some small but welcome changes to the existing 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBook G4s. The 12-inch PowerBook G4 replaces its 867 MHz CPU with a 1 GHz PowerPC G4 CPU plus 512K of level 2 cache, double the previous amount. Another welcome change is the addition of a mini-DVI port and a pair of adapters for connecting DVI- and VGA-based monitors. Lastly, the Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 graphics processor with 32 MB of DDR SDRAM replaces the GeForce4 420 Go. Pricing remains the same.


The 17-inch PowerBook G4 upgrades its 1 GHz CPU to a 1.33 GHz PowerPC G4 with 512K of level 2 cache (twice as much as before), trades in its 60 GB hard drive for an 80 GB model, and swaps its Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor with 64 MB of DDR SDRAM for the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 with 64 MB of DDR SDRAM. Along with these improvements, the 17-inch PowerBook’s price drops $300, so models start at $3,000.


Bank Notes for Keynote — Finally, if you need still more incentive to consider purchasing a PowerBook (or any new Mac), Apple is offering an instant $50 rebate if you include the Keynote presentation software in the same purchase. The rebate is good through 27-Dec-03.

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