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Tuesday, January 7, 2003

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MWSF: Apple Introduces New PowerBooks
9:57 PM | Jason Sims | Comment on this story

The rumor sites predicted a humdrum keynote for MWSF 2003, but Apple had everyone fooled. At the end of an exciting keynote, Steve took the wraps off the new 17" PowerBook G4, and -- needless to say -- this thing is a monster. It was open to debate whether the original PowerBook G4's 15" display could really be called "mega wide" (for it really isn't that much wider than other leading notebooks), but the new 17" display (which runs at a native resolution of 1440x900 pixels -- a 16:10 aspect ratio) is truly deserving of this claim. There is no other laptop in the world that comes close!

But the larger display is just the beginning. Apple somehow managed to squeeze the guts of the new PowerBook into an even-thinner enclosure than the original -- the case is now just an inch thick when closed. It's quite a bit wider and deeper though, and weighs in a little heavier at 6.8 lbs. It's also made of a new material (an aluminum alloy) that is more durable than the original -- a welcome change, as the Titanium finish on the previous PowerBook G4s tended to scratch and blemish rather easily. Adding to the lust factor is a new backlit keyboard, which is equipped with an ambient light detector that automatically turns on the backlight when it's needed.

The new 17" PowerBook also marks the debut of some new Apple technologies. First is AirPort Extreme, which supports the new 802.11g wireless networking scheme. AirPort Extreme runs at up to 54 Mbps (the original AirPort had a maximum bandwidth of 11 Mbps), and is backwards-compatible with the older 802.11b protocol (the other, 54 Mbps wireless protocol, 802.11a, is not). Next up is FireWire 800, a new version of FireWire that runs at 800 Mbps. The new FireWire 800 has a different jack, but an adapter is included that lets you use older FireWire (400) devices with it, and there is also a second, original FireWire jack.

Rounding out the wireless capabilities of the new 17" PowerBook is built-in Bluetooth, which can be used to transfer data wirelessly between the computer and a Bluetooth-capable cell phone, PDA, or other device. It's powered by a 1 GHz G4 processor with a 1 MB L3 cache, and ships with 512 MB of DDR RAM. Also new is an NVIDIA GeForce4 440 Go graphics processor, with 64 MB of memory.

After the debut of the new 17" PowerBook, Steve unveiled a second, unexpected surprise -- an ultraportable PowerBook with a 12" display (running at 1024x768). The case is the same size and shape as the 12" iBook, except with the new aluminum alloy finish. It sports an 867 MHz G4 processor and a slot-loading "combo" drive (which reads DVDs and CDs, and writes CD-R and CD-RW media). It's powered by an NVIDIA GeForce4 420 Go processor, which is identical to the 440 except it has 32 MB of memory instead of 64.

The 12" PowerBook also features built-in Bluetooth, and is "AirPort Extreme ready" -- a card can be added for $99 to support the new wireless networking standard. You can also opt for a SuperDrive instead of the combo drive, as a build-to-order option.

PowerBook G4 1 GHz (17 inch)
PowerBook G4 867 MHz (12 inch)

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