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Apple PowerBook G4 800

Notebook computer and optional Cinema HD Display with ADC to DVI connector By Dave Nagel
One of the great joys of covering this market is the opportunity to play with all the latest and greatest tools for creative professionals. An even greater joy is when one of these tools manages to surprise me by far exceeding my expectations. Such was the case with the PowerBook G4 800 MHz from Apple.

Typically with notebook computers, it's a given that there's not too much going for them under the hood. They're the lesser siblings of the desktop line, sacrificing a whole lot in the way of performance to accommodate battery life, heat and, of course, the constraints of a relatively dinky mobile form factor. I've never had a terribly positive experience with any notebook computer. The only thing they ever really had going for them was the fact that they were mobile. But all of the models I've experienced just didn't have it going on in terms of performance, and they certainly didn't live up to my expectations in terms of the otherwise truly remarkable reliability of Macintosh computers.

But, then again, they weren't supposed to. They were mobile alternatives to desktop computers, not workstations in and of themselves. Anybody who buys a notebook knows this going into the deal.

Hence my surprise with the PowerBook G4 800.

Performance: the mobile workstation
My first impression when I received my PowerBook 800 was that it was quick. In fact, it seemed a little too quick, and this is coming from a guy whose primary computer is a dual 1 GHz G4. Applications were responsive. The overall feel was fast. And even the OS X interface, which put a perceptible strain on earlier PowerBook models, including G4 models, simply was not an issue with the 800.

But these were just first impressions. The meaningful test would come when I put the PowerBook up against the fastest Macs on the market running software crucial for create production.

What I expected to find was a typical notebook benchmark result that showed why mobile chips are vastly inferior to their desktop counterparts. However, while the PowerBook didn't beat either the G4 933 or the dual 1 GHz in any of the tests, it did hold up much better than expected, and this with only a third the RAM of the desktop models it went up against. And it even beat the slightly older dual 800 workstation in OpenGL and raytracing. I reiterate: It beat the dual 800 in OpenGL and raytracing!

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