Apple has expanded its professional-laptop range, with two new G4 PowerBooks: the world's first notebook computer with a 17-inch display, the largest ever in a notebook; and the most compact full-featured 12-inch notebook ever available. Both support Apple's 54Mbps AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking. The 17-inch model boasts the world's first Firewire 800 port, and an all-new fibre-optic backlit keyboard, as well as ambient light sensors that control the brightness of the display and automatically regulate the keyboard backlighting.

Declaring 2003 to be 'the year of the laptop', Apple CEO showed off the two new PowerBooks during his keynote address at Macworld Expo San Francisco 2003.

Both PowerBooks are encased in a lightweight and durable aluminium alloy enclosure (hard metal, not painted), and include built-in Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to mobile phones and other Bluetooth equipped peripherals. Apple's new iSync software is included, so users can automatically synchronize address books and calendars between Macs and Bluetooth-capable phones.

"Many users are going to wonder why they even need a desktop computer anymore," said Jobs.

"Apple's taking another giant leap beyond PC notebooks," he added. "And the new 12-inch PowerBook G4 is a jewel."

Large it: 17-inch PowerBook G4 The new 17-inch PowerBook is Apple?s thinnest yet, measuring one-inch thick - slightly less than the 15,2-inch model, which is still available. Including battery and DVD-R SuperDrive, it weighs 6.8lbs. Apple claims that it is lighter than most competitors? 15-inch and 16-inch notebooks.

The new PowerBook?s 17-inch screen displays 1,440-x-900 pixels in a widescreen 16:10 aspect ratio. It boasts a 1GHz PowerPC G4 processor, new high-speed architecture, fast NVidia graphics, and a slot-loading SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs.

The 17-inch PowerBook includes a fibre-optic backlit keyboard, and ambient light sensors that control the brightness of the display and automatically regulate the keyboard backlighting. In low light, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 automatically illuminates the backlit keyboard and lowers the display brightness, reducing eye strain and extending battery life. As light levels increase, the display brightness is re-adjusted automatically and the keyboard backlighting is turned off.

Apple says that "this truly integrated display and lighting solution is an industry first, and will be warmly greeted by professionals who spend long hours in front of computer screens in low light conditions".

Apple claims that it runs professional applications including Adobe Photoshop up to 51 per cent faster than a 2.2 GHz Pentium 4-based notebook. Like the 15.2-inch model, the widescreen PowerBook features built-in Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000BASE-T). It offers 1MB of level 3 cache and 512MB of fast Double Data Rate (DDR) memory running at 333MHz.

The 17-inch PowerBook includes two powered FireWire ports: one FireWire 400 port and one FireWire 800 port. While there are few 800Mbps-equipped peripherals, an adaptor allows users to temporarily change the 800 port to standard 400Mbps use.

It comes with the NVidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor and 64MB of dedicated video memory capable of delivering 880 million textured pixels per second and advanced transform and lighting.

Pricing and availability With DVD-R SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme built-in, 512MB of RAM, and 60GB hard drive, the new 17-inch PowerBook G4 costs £2,599 (including VAT), and is expected to be available in seven to ten weeks.

Little'un: 12-inch PowerBook G4 Apple?s new 12-inch PowerBook G4 weighs just 4.6lbs (including battery). It runs an 867MHz PowerPC G4 processor, comes with 256MB of fast Double Data Rate (DDR) memory (expandable to 640MB), NVidia GeForce4 420 Go graphics processor with 32MB of dedicated DDR video RAM, either a standard slot-loading combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW optical drive or DVD-R SuperDrive, and built-in Bluetooth. Apple claims battery life is up to five hours on a single charge.

The smallest-ever PowerBook ? with 12-inch, active-matrix display, and 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution ? measures just over one-inch thick, and includes built-in antennas and a card slot to support AirPort Extreme, Apple?s next-generation wireless networking based on 802.11g. 802.11g can transmit data at up to 54Mbps, almost five times the data rate of previous wireless technologies, and is fully compatible with 802.11b Wi-Fi devices. To take advantage of the new faster wireless speeds, a £79 AirPort Extreme Card and Base Station (from £149) is required

Unlike the other PowerBooks, the 12-inch model does not feature Gigabit Ethernet ? instead offering standard 10/100 BaseT Ethernet. There is also no DVI video connector ? it offers composite video out.

Pricing and availability With combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, 256MB of RAM, and 40GB hard drive, the new 12-inch PowerBook G4 costs £1,399 (including VAT). With DVD-R SuperDrive, 256MB of RAM, and 40GB hard drive, it costs £1,557. Both are expected to be available in two to four weeks.

For all the news and pictures from Macworld Expo San Francisco 2003, click here.