APRIL 21, 2003
Apple 17-Inch PowerBook G4
1 GHz notebook computer
by David Nagel

What can I write about Apple's 17-inch PowerBook G4 that isn't already immediately obvious to anybody who looks at it? There's a reason notebook computers account for 42 percent of Apple's sales and a reason this model, in particular, has fueled these sales. It's beautiful, to be sure. But it also stands out for its big, bright display; its functionality; its wide range of interconnects; and, in the portable market, its performance, where Motorola G4 chips easily hold their own against similarly equipped Intel-based notebooks.

It is, like its titanium-clad brethren in the PowerBook line, a marvel of industrial design. But I've used and reviewed PowerBook Titanium models in the past--including the comparable 1 GHz 15-inch PowerBook G4--and this 17-inch aluminum model is, in every respect, equal to or better than the best the Titanium line has to offer.[an error occurred while processing this directive]Aesthetics, form
First off, while I normally downplay cosmetics, there is an awe factor to this machine that can't be denied or circumscribed. Apple equipped me with this computer so that I could take it on the road with me to the NAB convention earlier this month, and I never could have anticipated the reaction it received there. I swear, it was like showing up to my high school reunion in a train of Rolls Royces with my harem of trophy girlfriends and unrivaled collection of Star Trek memorabilia. (Of which I have none, by the way.) It was, to put it snottily, an impressive sight for the underequipped peasants to behold.

Despite the fact that Apple had plenty of the 17-inch models on display at its booth, I was constantly being stopped by people who wanted to get a glimpse of this device and hold it and play with it themselves while questioning me about how wonderful it is to own such a thing. (I rarely mentioned that it was just a loaner.) Even manufacturers I met with at the show were overcome, including some Apple employees, who hadn't been able to get a hold of one of their own by the time of the show. (Tee hee.)

So what makes this thing so marvelous to behold? Aside from the obviously appealing stylishness of this system--the super-thin form, the simple aluminum casing--the sheer scale of this PowerBook is dramatic. It's simply enormous. While still less than an inch thick, in width it spans even the girth of my abundant lapline. When you open it up, you're presented with a gigantic screen and enough surface area to hold not only your hands comfortably, but a cup of coffee and a snack as well. If it had fold-out legs, I could use it to serve breakfast in bed!

Just to give you a sense of scale, the areas on either side of the trackpad are large enough to contain a jewel case (5.75" W x 5.25" H). The image above should give you a sense of the scale of this thing.

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