APRIL 21, 2003
Apple 17-Inch PowerBook G4
1 GHz notebook computer
by David Nagel
Page 3 of 5

The 17-inch PowerBook also receives a dramatic port redesign--not just in the number and types of ports on the new model, but also the configuration. The ports are no longer located on the back of the machine, this being impossible with the new hinge. Instead, they're located on the left and right of the unit. On one side are the DVI, S-video, FireWire 800, FireWire 400, USB and gigabit Ethernet ports, and on the other are the modem, power, PC Card, headphone, microphone, second USB and security lock ports.

And, of course, adorning the slender front side of the 17-inch PowerBook is that ever-so-delectable slot-load SuperDrive, a combination CD-R/RW and DVD-R drive that nearly completes this machine as a total mobile solution.

Wireless
Nearly? Well, yes, There are two other little, hidden amenities to the PowerBook 17-inch. The first is Bluetooth, which is built into the PowerBook, so you have nothing more to add. Bluetooth allows you to connect to a variety of wireless devices at short range. Thus you can use it (with Apple's included iSync software) to synchronize data with a Palm hand-held device, other notebook computers or even your wireless phone.

The other hidden technology is a built-in AirPort Extreme card. AirPort Extreme is Apple's name for the 802.11g specification for connecting over longer distances and at much greater speeds than Bluetooth. AirPort extreme offers speeds of about 54 megabits per second, almost five times faster than the old 802.11b standard, otherwise known as plain, ol' AirPort.

Now, in the past, this particular wireless functionality was somewhat limited. If you didn't have an AirPort base station, it wasn't particularly useful. Lately though the folks who cater to the Road Warrior types--convention centers, major attractions, hotels and the like--have their own wireless networks up and running, just waiting for you to pop open your PowerBook and start working away on the Internet.

I mentioned earlier that I took this PowerBook with me to the NAB convention. Guess what the Las Vegas COnvention Center had waiting for me. That's right, a perfectly compatible wireless network accessible throughout the exhibit halls. I open up the PowerBook, launch Netscape, and there, right on my screen, is the convention center's warm invitation for me to pay $5 per day to use their system. On the road, this is a sheer bargain, at least when you compare it with the massive phone charges my hotels levied against me for using their 1,200 baud land lines. (all right, maybe it was faster than 1,200 baud, but not much.)

So what if a particular venue is still back on the older 802.11b spec? No problem. AirPort Extreme is fully backward-compatible. It's truly a dream that's rapidly becoming a reality.

Performance
Surely it's indisputable that the 17-inch PowerBook has all of the amenities. I mean, really, what more could you ask for? A built-in printer? I've seen a notebook with one of those, and it isn't pretty--neither the notebook nor the printed output. No, this really has every viable system that could conceivably be packed into a notebook computer.

Fine. But what about the core of the system? What about its processing power?

Yes, it even has excellent performance, with a 1 GHz G4 central processor with 1 MB level-3 cache and an Nvidia GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor with 64 MB DDR video memory. It also uses 333 MHz PC2700 DDR memory and offers a 167 MHz system bus. And it supports up to 1 GB RAM.


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