Apple Archive

Little Room for Improvement in New PowerBook, iBook

- 2002.11.08

On Wednesday, Apple updated their PowerBook and iBook lines. The new PowerBook now features either an 867 MHz or 1 GHz (about time) processor, 32 or 64 MB of VRAM, and a SuperDrive DVD-R and CD-RW drive on the 1 GHz model. The new iBooks feature a 700 or 800 MHz G3 processor with 16 or 32 MB of VRAM.

I think the new PowerBook is great. With an internal SuperDrive, it can easily be a desktop replacement. Two years ago PowerBook (SuperDrive)you couldn't even buy a PowerBook with a built in CD burner; now we have G4s with DVD-R drives. The G4 PowerBook's always supported up to 1 GB of RAM, which is still quite a bit - and plenty for most users. Everything else on the PowerBook is still excellent. Apple really got it right feature-wise and style-wise.

However, it would be nice to see slightly bigger hard drives - not that 40 or 60 GB is small, but I think Apple should have an option for something around 100 GB to please those users who need more storage space.

The new iBook sports a much better graphics processor, the same one used in the DVI PowerBook. It should help performance in OS X, which iBookseems to be the biggest complaint in the first and second versions of this machine.

The new lower price is very nice, too. It's the first time in seven years that a Mac laptop has been this reasonably priced (the last time was when the PB 150 was blown out at about $1,000). This makes it very attractive for students who need a basic laptop but don't have a lot of cash to spend.

However, I do think Apple should offer a 600 MHz version for maybe $100 less. Not that this would sell very well, but the price would get people's attention, and they might end up walking out with a more expensive iBook model - or maybe even a PowerBook.

That's one thing that Apple doesn't seem to realize. Maybe Macs do last longer and the higher price is worth it, but most people don't see it that way, and they never will. They see Macs and PCs as computers that they will use for a few years and then discard. While lowering the iBook's price down to $999 is great, it isn't quite good enough to convert the number of people Apple is probably hoping for. I understand that Apple wants to preserve it's image as a manufacturer of well designed, durable boxes that look great, but at this point Apple should be even more concerned with getting a larger user base. So what if it's low-end laptop isn't expensive?

The price cut is a step in the right direction though.

What Apple really needs to concentrate on is getting its act together when it comes to processors. The G3 is only being used in the iBook and the 600 MHz CRT iMac. Perhaps it's time that Apple introduces a low-end eMac, drops the CRT iMacs, and use G4 processors in the iBooks, removing the G3 from Apple's lineup. Face it, OS X doesn't run nearly as well on a G3 as it does on a G4, and the basic G3 design has been around for five years.

But for now, speed bumps and a SuperDrive will do.

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