iBook G4 1.33GHz 12in & iBook G4 1.42GHz 14in

Introduction

The iBook G4 line has been streamlined to two models: a £699 computer with 12-inch display, 1.33GHz processor, 40GB hard drive, and CD-burning combo drive; and an £899 model with 14-inch display, 1.42GHz processor, 60GB hard drive, and DVD-burning SuperDrive. Apple basically upped the speed on the previous top-end model, added twice the memory, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR and two standard PowerBook features, and then lowered the price by £100. The result is an attractively priced 14-inch iBook with the same solid build as the previous models. The 12-inch iBook also comes with Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme.

Newest technologies Two features Apple introduced on the most recent PowerBooks are now included with the new iBooks: the scrolling trackpad and the Sudden Motion Sensor. The scrolling trackpad allows you to swipe two fingers over the trackpad vertically or horizontally to scroll through a document or move around an image. This is a fantastic new feature that makes the trackpad easier to use. However, I found horizontal scrolling awkward in Word 2004.

The Sudden Motion Sensor aims to change your iBook's relationship to gravity - that is, to save your data if you drop the laptop. If the motion sensor detects a sudden change in axis (X, Y, or Z) position or accelerated movement, it parks and locks the hard-drive heads to prevent damage to data. Under Apple's advice, I tested this feature by playing a QuickTime movie and dropping the iBooks onto a bed (the movie would stop before impact if the drive heads were parked) - the Sudden Motion Sensor worked as advertised.

Drives and displays The optical drive on the 12-inch iBook test model was loud and made an odd sound. The usual whirs and clicks were accompanied by brief grinding sounds, somewhat like those the old floppy drives made. The drives' performance didn't seem to be affected, but the noises could cause concern if you're not expecting them. (Macworld also bought a 14-inch iBook from a non-Apple retailer and its SuperDrive was very loud and would not eject discs. It's not clear if this is one bad unit or a symptom of a widespread problem.)

The iBooks' speed tests came out predictably, with the 1.42GHz model winning easily. The Speedmark test shows that the new 1.33GHz iBook G4 is five per cent faster than the previous 1.33GHz iBook G4. This is partly due to the new ATI Mobility Radeon 9550 graphics card, an upgrade from the ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 (though both had 32MB of video RAM). The Unreal Tournament test showed that the new graphics card squeezed out a couple more frames per second than the old one.

As you can see, the modest increase in processor speed helped the new 1.42GHz model beat the others in all but the iMovie render test, with the latest 1.33GHz iBook winning by only two seconds.

The graphics card may be faster, but the 14-inch display doesn't look as sharp as the other model's 12-inch display, not even at maximum resolution (1,024-x-768 pixels).

Even though the 14-inch display is larger, it shows no more information than the 12-inch display because the resolution is the same on both; the pixels are simply farther apart in the 14-inch display, making text and icons appear larger. The upshot: the larger display is beneficial only if you have difficulty seeing up close, or if you prefer some distance between you and the screen while you work. (PowerBooks are different: resolution increases with the size of the display.)

If you want an iBook, know that you can't have it all. The 12-inch model is four per cent slower than the 1.42GHz 14-inch model, and it doesn't have a SuperDrive (a build-to-order option is not available). And the 14-inch model doesn't display information as crisply as the 12-inch model does.

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