The new PowerBook

Introduction

The biggest rumour concerning January’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco featured the anticipated arrival of an all-new PowerBook, code-named ‘Pismo’. Depending on which Web rumour site you read at the time, Pismo was to feature a G4 processor, glowing keyboard and semi-translucent plastic case. Expectations ran high – the pro Mac portable was to be transformed. As it turned out Pismo was a no-no – even at the Tokyo expo. The new PowerBook doesn’t look any different to its previous incarnation – same case, same screen, same G3 processor. Disappointed? Apple believes you won’t be – as the new professional portables are faster (up to 500MHz) and offer super-speedy FireWire connectivity ports for digital video and smart, hot-swapable hard drives. Apple claims the 500MHz PowerBook outperforms Pentium III-based notebooks by up to 30 per cent, based on 16 actions in Adobe Photoshop 5.5 when running on battery and AC power. According to our tests against the previously fastest PowerBook, the 500MHz portable is 15 per cent faster than the 400MHz. The graphics score was a mere 3 per cent faster despite its new ATI RAGE Mobility 128 video controller. The processor score was 26 per cent nippier, but the big surge was in the disk score – a full 36 per cent faster. System bus speed is up to 100MHz. The 500MHz PowerBook is faster than many recent desktop Macs, such as the 400MHz Power Mac G3. Apart from the extra punch, the big difference with the new PowerBook is the addition of two 400Mbps FireWire ports that provide data transfer and power to a growing number of high-speed peripherals, such as digital camcorders and hard disks. Unless you’re totally studio-based, the linking of camcorder and portable computer is perfect. Large-screen playback and on-the-ground editing are now super easy with the PowerBook’s new FireWire compatibility. Another me-too Mac tech-advance is the PowerBook’s adoption of Apple’s 11Mbps AirPort wireless technology for cable-free Internet use and networking – now available for every new Mac. The case for design At first glance, it’s rather disappointing that Apple didn’t iMac-ize the professional portable. It might be more attractive than most run-of-the-mill laptops (which look like a kid’s toy briefcase), but it stands rather alone in Apple’s otherwise translucent colourful line-up. Does (Apple’s chief designer) Jonathan Ive really not care about the PowerBook? The Blueberry and Tangerine iBooks are remarkable-looking portables – but even Apple can’t have hoped that they’d appeal to the pinstripe brigade. But the arrival of the Graphite iBook Special Edition (see opposite page) makes the current PowerBook look quite the ugly duckling among the other Apple peacocks. And, as I point out in my iBook review, the consumer portable has design features that make the PowerBook look like a pretty old duckling at that. One iBook design darling that does make the leap to the PowerBook is Ive’s wonderful yoyo cable coil (pictured below). It might not fit in with the PowerBook’s black case, but it’s a definite improvement on the previous messy power-cable set-up.
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