By The NumbersBenchmarking the PowerBook G4/667 revealed just how much of a performance increase is gained with the faster processor and improved video. Powered by the ATI Mobility Radeon processor on a 4x AGP bus with 16 megabytes of video RAM, this PowerBook features the most advanced video system ever in an Apple laptop. I used two popular 3D games, Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament, to benchmark the system’s capabilities under both OS 9 and Mac OS X.
Quake 3 version 1.30 B1 running on OS 9 using the High Quality setting achieved a score of 35 frames per second at 1024 x 768 resolution. In the Unreal Tournament test, the Preview Release 3 of the OS X-native version of shooter broke 37 frames per second at 1024x768. While these frame rates fall far short of the kind of performance that a G4 desktop machine is capable of, they provide a good gameplay experience. Frame rates can pick up a noticeable speed increase if the PowerBook’s screen resolution is lowered. Most gamers will find that playing at 800x600 resolution provides a good balance of visual quality and raw performance.
It is important to note that since the Titanium features a widescreen display, games will have vertical black bars on the left and right of the screen during play. Some games can be set to take advantage of the machine’s unique aspect ration, but most lack this capability. I found the these bars did not take away from the gameplay experience in any way.
I’m Your FanFew users will disagree that Apple’s current top-of-the-line PowerBook is a powerful, well-built portable computer. However, out of all the features this PowerBook offers, silent operation is not one of them. The system includes a powerful cooling fan. It has three settings: off, low and high. For most of my own day-to-day work, the fan was either off or turned on to the low setting. This daily work includes reading and writing email, browsing the web, logging into my instant message client and some quick network file sharing. When the fan did activate in these situations, it was not for a protracted period of time.
Whenever a game is loaded, particularly one that utilizes the 3D capabilities of the Mobility Radeon, the fan kicks into high gear. Its difficult to describe how loud this cooling fan is. In fact, the first time I heard the fan running at its maximum setting I thought that there was a small hair dryer running somewhere close by. The presence of the fan almost requires the use of headphones when gaming for any period of time. After living with the Titanium for only a few weeks I quickly became adept at predicting when the fan would turn on, basing my predictions on the temperature of the bottom of the case, whether or not the battery was charging and if I was gaming or not. The fast G4 and Mobility Radeon processors necessitate the inclusion of a cooling fan in this system, so gamers will have to decide for themselves if the system’s capabilities are worth the trade off of near-silent operation.
The Bottom LineThere is no question that the PowerBook G4/667 is a true desktop replacement machine. Powered by a G4 processor, with a full complement of input/output interfaces and a screen that is bigger than the many desktop monitors, this portable can meet or exceed the needs of most Mac users.
What makes this PowerBook so compelling for gamers on the go is that, for the first time, a portable Mac is on the cusp of equaling the performance of a comparable desktop Mac. The Titanium 667 does not give a dual 1 GHz Power Macintosh equipped with a GeForce 4 Ti video card any competition, but it significantly closes the gap in performance between desktop and portable Macs.