January 31, 2005 9:51 AM PST

PowerBooks speed up, do new tricks

It's not the G5 laptop some were hoping for, but Apple Computer's latest PowerBooks do come with faster G4 processors, lower prices and a couple of new tricks.


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The Mac maker on Monday offered updates to its models with 12-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch screens, including a new scrolling TrackPad designed to make it easier to get through long documents. Another new feature is the Sudden Motion Sensor, which helps protect the computer's hard drive if a machine is accidentally dropped. IBM has offered a similar feature on its ThinkPads for some time, while Apple applied for a patent in June 2003 for its method of detecting falls.

"It is patent-pending technology," said David Russell, a senior director in Apple's portable and wireless unit. Russell said Apple incorporated the technology into the motherboard of all the PowerBooks, meaning Apple can use hard drives from a variety of makers. Russell declined to say whether Apple might look to add similar technology to its iPods, which also use hard drives for storage.

All of the new models come standard with 512MB of memory and faster graphics cards, as well as built-in 802.11g and Bluetooth wireless capabilities. Models with a DVD burner now have a faster, 8X drive. The machines start at $1,499, a $100 drop from the prior lineup.

"Apple continues to lead the industry with the most innovative notebooks" and features like the scrolling TrackPad and Sudden Motion Sensor, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in a statement.

Although the processors in the new models are slightly faster than those in past PowerBooks, they're not the G5 processor many Mac fans have been waiting for. The anticipation began when the first G5 towers were introduced in June 2003, and it has increased since Apple managed to get a G5 into the tighter space of the iMac. However, Apple has consistently warned that the heat-related challenges of getting a G5 into a notebook are significant.

"It is fair to say that incorporating a G5 into a notebook as thin and light as the PowerBook is extremely difficult," said David Moody, Apple's vice president of worldwide Mac product marketing, in an interview.

The new models will begin to be available later this week online, in Apple's retail stores and through other retailers.

At the top of the line, Apple's 17-inch PowerBook sells for $2,699 and includes a faster, 1.67GHz processor, a 100GB hard drive, the 8X DVD burner, an ATI Technologies Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics card with 128MB of video memory, and support for Apple's 30-inch external Cinema Display monitor. A twist is that Apple's DVD burner, which it dubs the SuperDrive, now touts the ability to work with both DVD+R and DVD-R media. For a long time, Apple supported only DVD-R drives.

The 15-inch model comes in two standard models. The $2,299 version offers the 1.67GHz processor, an 80GB hard drive, the 8X DVD burner and the Radeon 9700 with 64MB of video memory. A $1,999 version features a similar setup, but with a 1.5GHz processor and an optical drive that can burn CDs and read, but not burn, DVDs.

The smallest of the PowerBooks, the 12-inch model, also comes in two varieties, both with 1.5GHz processors and Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 graphics cards with 64MB of video memory. The higher-end model comes with the DVD burner and an 80GB hard drive and sells for $1,699. The entry-level version at $1,499 has a 60GB hard drive and a combination drive that burns CDs and reads DVDs.

16 comments

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People have the POWER
17 inch PB with 8xSuperDrive, OSX with iLife 2005 including
iMovieHD that will drive a THIRTY inch HD flat panel Apple
Monitor! Upgarde to FinalCut HD & you can produce HD video on
the raod & edit on HUGE monitor when you're back in the studio.
THAT'S POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

G5 PowerBook? Hold on, it's coming very very soon...

If, not you can always get a WintelDell Laptop with an Intel Xeon
Chip & 64 bit MS Longhorn OS... Oh, wait, that's right, that's not
possible today.
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great new specs, but let's not go overboard
The new PowerBook specs are great, but when people rave about using a laptop for heavy video editing, it's time for a reality check. Video editing is a disk-intensive task. It's no fun on a single 5,400 RPM (P)ATA hard drive. It's silly to call a PowerBook -- or any other present-day laptop -- a video editing powerhouse.

Better disk technology exists for laptops, but it isn't yet common. For example, Apple doesn't offer the fastest 2.5-inch hard drive, Hitachi's Travelstar (E)K70, as a build-to-order option for the PowerBook. There's also no mention of PATA.

Someone who wants to do professional video editing is better off with a desktop system and several 3.5-inch hard drives. Ultra320 SCSI would be the first choice of interface and PATA, the second choice.

To return to the new PowerBook specs, one of the drawbacks to Apple's proprietary hardware is lack of choice. At 1.18 x 10.9 x 8.6 inches, the smallest PowerBook is as big as my local phonebook (Santa Cruz, California). It's also pretty heavy at 4.6 pounds.

As someone who often finds himself on buses, trains, and planes, I would never give up the range of choices available in the PC laptop marketplace. My 2.2-pound Sony PictureBook is just right for me. I'm not saying it's right for everyone -- just that I'm glad to have the choice.

Miniaturization is an area where Apple could once again be a leader. In the early 1990's, for example, the PowerBook Duo was ahead of the game.
Posted by rpms (96 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry, I keep clicking "Reply to story" instead of "Reply to comment"
My post was meant as a response to the "People have the POWER" comment, not so much as a response to the original CNet news.com story.
Posted by rpms (96 comments )
Link Flag
Thanks for the reminder...
You are absolutely correct, thank you.

The PowerBook line is a Pro-Mobile line of computers & the
current lineup would been great for he "in the field Pro
photographer / videographer on the go".

On the go / under a deadline, this creative Pro could edit on the
fly &/or view on a larger monitor as I suggested.

Yes, it would absolutely be faster & more productive to use the
PowerMac G5 Tower for large file editing & rendering for final
production quality end product. I would highly recommend that
solution for that task.

This is a great "on-the-go" portable Pro solution, but is by no
means a SUBSTITUTION for the dual chip G5 PowerMac Tower,
just a portable COMPLEMENT to that...
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Link Flag
nothing wrong here
i don't have any trouble working with DV material on my 15in.
PB, even running lots of effects and junk in FCP. HD is a little
harder, but still possible.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Link Flag
Good heavens, another typo: PATA vs SATA
I think SATA but for some reason keep typing PATA.

The last two references in my post should be to SATA.

The PowerBooks support PATA.
Posted by rpms (96 comments )
Link Flag
Sad....or more accurate pathetic.
I'm sorry but the state the Power/iBooks are in is pathetic. Reminiscent of where the PowerMac was pre G5. I'm sorry but Intel has been kicking the living snot out of the PowerBook over the last two years with its first, then second generation Pentium M. With the newly release chipset that supports a faster FSB, DDR2 RAM, and PCI Express graphics its making the PowerBook line look even more pathetic. At least the iBook line can be said that its core purpose is price and accessibility to the masses with a solid spec $999 computer. But the PowerBook line is listed as the Pro consumer. Designed to get the job done. Well. Yah. It'll get the job done&slowly. Once again Apple has backed themselves into a corner because of their chip choice. I have to ask why weren't they working with IBM on a mobile solution while they were working on the G5 for the PwerMac? Its been suggested before and will be suggested again here: Apple seems to be incapable of working on multiple projects at the same time. What is there a brain drain while they are working on the Mac Mini? Or iPod Mini? Or iPod Photo?
Something has to happen. I want a PowerBook badly but I'm sure has heck not stupid enough to spend that kind of money on last years, at best, tech. Wake me when Apple has something to get excited over.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
::sigh:: you have a point there
it really is sad that apple doesn't do more to juice up their
notebooks, but to be honest, they still work very quickly. intel
just makes it look more interesting. that said, i think apple could
do better if they'd work on a better chip design. the G5 is
freaking fast (beats out intel chips running double the clock
speed), but sucks power. i expect more from people who pride
themselves on intelligent, efficient design.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Link Flag
what a sad, sad little man
Apple will never build your "ideal" machine. They will
continue to build affordable tools for those who choose to
use them.

You don't want to buy a Mac, you want to complain about
why your perfect machine doesn't exist.
Posted by CitizenX (522 comments )
Link Flag
New features, but same ol' defective case?
Apple makes no mention of whether they have fixed the
infamous corrosion/pitting problem in the G4 PowerBook's inner
case. Many users report that the painted plastic reacts to the oils
and sweat in human skin, especially near the palm rest area
around the trackpad. In my case, 18 months of normal use has
left the case eaten away, nearly exposing the SuperDrive bay
below. I was really hoping Apple would addressed this defect by
now.
Posted by toddouzts--2008 (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That was Titanium, now it's Aluminium.
I think what you are referring to is the Titanium serires. The
latest ones are anodized alumnium that doesn't have any paint
coating on them.
Posted by S R (85 comments )
Link Flag
 

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