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(October 2005 Models)

Originally posted October 26th, 2005, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Our initial reaction to the new PowerBooks was "yawn."

Don't me wrong. I love the Aluminum model of PowerBook. I run this website from my 15" 1.5Ghz version. I record all my results on it. I do my article writing and page creation on it. I do all my emailing and web surfing with it. I have my calendar and to-do list on it. I test on it. I play games on it. It goes with me everywhere. I've been thinking it's time to upgrade -- more speed, bigger screen. When the announcement was made last week, I was hoping for more than just tweaks. I was hoping for more raw power -- faster CPU, faster memory, faster graphics, and fast Serial ATA hard drives.

The PowerBooks still top out at a paltry 1.67GHz which isn't that impressive given the competition*. The 15" and 17" now use PC2-4200 memory -- just like the new G5 iMac and Dual-Core G5 Power Macs -- but it's clocked down to 333Mhz -- just like before. The 15" now comes with 128MB of video memory just like the 17".

Where's the fabled G5 PowerBook? After all, Apple squeezed a G5 inside the iMac. How hard can it be? I don't care if it is 2" thick as long as it cranks!

Maybe Apple is putting of PowerBook speed increases until they release the Intel based PowerBook. In the meantime I could warm up to a 2GHz+ G4 PowerBook based on Freescale's MPC7448 PowerPC chip with 1MB L2 cache. And how about an X800 Mobility graphics processor with 256MB DDR video memory? I need. I need.

At least Apple is now offering a 7200prm hard drive CTO option. Finally! Apple will probably double sources the 100GB drive from Seagate and Hitachi. Both versions go like stink and do not drain your battery any more than a 5400rpm drive (according to manufacturers' power usage data).

You can now burn double layer DVDs with up to 8.5GB of capacity. The slot load Superdrive is very versatile. It can handle 7 DVD formats and 8 CD formats.

Upping the 15" PowerBook from 1280x854 to 1440x960 (or from 101.2 to 113.9 pixels per inch according to the Prismo laptop screen comparison page). It sounds impressive but it makes everything smaller than "true life." A document with 12 point typeface appears to be 9 point on screen. A photo that's 4x5 inches appears to be 3x4 inches to your eyes. With this "refinement," Apple has departed even further from WYSIWYG.

It would be a different story if Apple supported a PostScript display technology like the old NeXT computer. Then the items displayed are resolution independent. Fortunately, some applications -- like Explorer and Mozilla -- let you specify the dpi as 72, 96 or Other. We need that at the system level.

WORKAROUND: There is a way to make your PowerBook (or Power Mac) resolution independent. It was brought to my attention that if you install the developer tools and launch Quartz Debug, it allows you can set the resolution of your user interface. The debugger is a bit buggy because it did some strange things to the menus, but at least it shows the potential.

Apple does assure us that the screen is brighter. I know the Rev B was brighter and "whiter" than my Rev A. If Rev C is any brighter than Rev B, I'll need dark glasses.

Apple is saying you now get up to 5.5 hours. Longer battery life is always welcome along with the ability to switch batteries without shutting down. Now all I need is an external charger for the spare battery.

The PowerBook is an awesome laptop. It has everything you could want in a laptop. It has all we mentioned above plus Backlit Keyboard, AirPort, Bluetooth, FireWire 800, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, Optical Digital Audio, Dual-Link DVI, Sudden Movement Sensor, and one inch thick stain/scratch resistant industrial aluminium shell.

The only one big thing missing: competition-beating performance*. But we get it. This revision is about refinement.

* When I refer to the competition or "competition-beating performance," I'm thinking of the AlienWare Area-52 m5700 notebook that is available with up to 2.26GHz Pentium M processor (2MB L2 cache), DDR2 Memory running at 533MHz, GeForce 6800 Go GPU (256MB), and dual drive internal RAID 0 set (up to 240GB total).

Since we wrote this briefiing, we have used the newest version of the 17" PowerBook for several days. We're enjoying all the refinements listed above and we're getting used to the higher density of the screen (which makes things smaller). It really is the best PowerBook ever made.

The Apple Online Store lets you custom configure your PowerBook. Click HERE to order a PowerBook and Bare Feats get a small commission. (UK readers click HERE.)

You can do custom orders from Small Dog Electronics. For refurbished, reconditioned, open box (as well as new) PowerBooks, check with Small Dog and Power Max. Check also at the Apple SPECIAL DEALS section for factory refurbs and other specials.

Memory upgrades are available from Other World Computing and TransIntl.

If you are looking for a classy way to protect your PowerBook from abuse, we like the MaxProtect II PowerBook form-fit Briefcase from MaxUpgrades. Whether taking it to the board room or tossing it in the back seat of your Porsche, this case protects the PowerBook against abuse better than a padded sleeve.

But if you go with a sleeve, our favorite is the leather one from JRHill, which we slip into the middle slot of our Tumi Wheel-A-Way carry-on bag when traveling to MacWorld San Francisco. (You can read about all of our favorite PowerBook cases and sleeves on Bettay's special feature page on PowerBook stuff.)

For noise suppression, nothing beats ear covering headphones like the Bose Quiet Comfort 2. For ear "fobs," we use the Bose In-Ear Headphones when listening to our iPod -- Help support Bare Feats by ordering your Bose headphones from Sharper Image.

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2005 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
Email , the webmaster and mad scientist