DECEMBER 18, 2002
Apple PowerBook 1 GHz G4
Notebook computer with DVD burner
by David Nagel

When Apple announced the new 1 GHz G4 PowerBook last month, I instantly posted an editorial proclaiming it the greatest boon to mobile creative professionals since the advent of color LCD displays. We'll get into the reasons below. But now that I've had the machine all to myself for a while, do I stand by my initial assessment? Yes I do.

The 1 GHz Titanium PowerBook is in some ways a marvel of engineering. But, more important, it's the fulfillment of a goal for the creative market that manufacturers have been striving toward for years: workstation performance and a total hardware and software creative solution, all bundled neatly into a complete portable package--from digital video in to DVD out, from high-performance editing to high-quality graphics display, from the power of the near-flawless Mac OS X to the convenience and ease of use of Apple's bundled applications.[an error occurred while processing this directive]On the inside
The major changes in this latest generation of PowerBooks happen on the inside. With the last generation, Apple refined its Titanium design and brought us everything we find in this latest generation. But on the inside ... Oh, on the inside!

First of all, there's the SuperDrive--the first notebook system to contain one. And this is the truly big news about this high-end notebook. Aside from all of its other tremendous features, it also includes the ability to burn CDs and DVDs and utilize Apple's own iDVD software, something totally lacking from previous-generation PowerBooks. Now, this is a mobile version of the SuperDrive--a Matshita DVD-R UJ-815--not even the same manufacturer as the DVR-103/4/5 drive we commonly associate with the word SuperDrive. But it is, nevertheless, a combo CD-RW/DVD-R drive capable of burning DVDs just like the SuperDrives in the desktop G4s. And, with iDVD 2, you're good to go right out of the box, no additional costs--well, except for the media.

This SuperDrive burns DVDs at 1x, making it slower than all of the current Pioneer drives. But you have to give up something for mobility, right? And, in this case, functionality far surpasses performance, given the rarity of internal DVD-R drives for notebook computers. The key is that you can burn DVDs on the road--for client work, presentations or whatever your needs might be. In other tech specs, the DVD-R UJ815 writes CD-Rs at 8x, rewrites CD-RWs at 4x, reads DVDs at 6x and reads CDs at 24x.

This new generation also boosts graphics performance over the old models with the substitution of the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 (AGP 4x) graphics card in place of the old ATI Radeon 7500. On the top-end PowerBook, the card includes 64 MB onchip 128-bit DDR memory, double the memory and roughly 1.4 times the average performance of the 7500.

And then there's the processor itself--a G4 chip running at 1 GHz. Now, it's safe to say that in my lifetime I've had less than kind words to offer Motorola. But there is one thing they do right: manufacture mobile chips. And this makes sense, given that they all wind up in cell phones and other low-power configurations eventually. It might not make sense for a chip that powers a desktop computer, but for a notebook, yes it does. And it does it nicely.

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