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Apple Watch: Powerbook Line Updated
Monday, 2005 January 31 - 9:39 pm
Apple has given their entire Powerbook line a speed bump and a price cut today.

The rumor sites had been predicting a small revision to the Powerbook line, and today that revision has arrived. There's no G5 processor as some had hoped; apparently the thermal and power challenges are still too great. But the upgrade is welcome, as is the $100 price cut.

The standard amount of RAM is finally 512MB; that's been a long awaited change. There are 5400 RPM hard drives across the board, improved graphics chips (an 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 is available, with dual-link DVI to drive the luscious 30" Apple Cinema Display), and a small processor speed increase (to 1.67 GHz at the top end). The "SuperDrive" DVD burner is now at 8x. So everything is a little bit faster.

There are a few new technical doodads available. One is a technology that will park the hard drive heads if a sensor detects the laptop is being dropped; this will help avoid data loss. Another is a technology to use the trackpad as a scrolling mechanism, by dragging with two fingers at a time. I'm not sure if we can really call these features "new" because similar capabilities are already available on non-Mac laptops (and scrolling is something even old Powerbooks can get, with the very good program SideTrack), but Apple claims to have patents pending. Hmm.

Other minor changes: the backlit keyboard has been improved, and Bluetooth 2.0 is now standard. Beyond that, things are pretty much the same: the form factor is the same, the battery is the same, and 802.11g Airport Extreme is still built-in.

All in all, this is kind of a yawner. Don't get me wrong: I'd still say these are probably the finest laptops you can buy right now. But there's no compelling reason for me to upgrade from my trusty 400MHz "Pismo", which still runs great and is plenty fast enough for living-room web surfing. Although I'm tempted to get a new machine to use for GarageBand in my music room, I could use a Mac Mini for that. (I had this idea to use my Pismo as a display for a Mac Mini by networking the two machines over Firewire, and using VNC. I think that might work all right.)

If you're listening out there, Apple: one thing that might get me to upgrade would be a higher-density LCD display. Other laptop manufacturers can get 1400x1050 out of their 15" displays, where as you only manage 1280x854. OS X gobbles up screen real estate, so a roomier viewing area would be really nice. Just a thought. We could also always use more battery life.

And don't forget that G5!
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch


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