Apple intros 1GHz SuperDrive PowerBooks, new iBooks

Apple on Wednesday updated its portable line of computers, introducing new PowerBooks and iBooks. The updated notebooks feature faster processors for both products -- up to 1GHz for the PowerBook and 800MHz G3 for the iBook-- and a slot-loading SuperDrive for the PowerBook. The company also cut prices on its entire notebook line by US$200, bringing the price of the entry-level iBook to under $1,000.

In addition to increasing the speed, the new PowerBook also features an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000, and integrated 802.11 wireless networking.

"We have been leading the portable revolution over the last couple of years," Greg Joswiak, vice president of Hardware Product Marketing, told MacCentral in an interview today. "This is all about turning up the heat, making these products more powerful and more affordable for both the PowerBook and the iBook."

The low-end PowerBook comes with an 867MHz PowerPC G4 with 1MB DDR level 3 cache; Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) optical drive; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 with 32MB DDR SDRAM graphics memory; 256MB SDRAM, expandable to 1GB; 40GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and AirPort ready with integrated antennas and card slot for $2299.

The high-end PowerBook model comes with a 1GHz PowerPC G4 with 1MB DDR level 3 cache; SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW) optical drive; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 with 64MB DDR SDRAM graphics memory; 512MB SDRAM, expandable to 1GB; a 60GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and AirPort enabled with integrated antennas and pre-installed AirPort Card for $2,999.

Additional build-to-order options for the new PowerBook G4 include: up to 1GB of SDRAM; Bluetooth Adapter; the AirPort Base Station and AirPort Card; up to 60GB hard drive; and the AppleCare Protection Plan.

Adding a SuperDrive to the PowerBook presented some challenges to the engineering team at Apple in terms of actually fitting the drive into the small Titanium enclosure that Mac users have become accustomed to using.

"There were two challenges to the SuperDrive -- the first, and biggest challenge was getting an ultra-thin SuperDrive," said Joswiak. "The SuperDrive first came out in the Power Mac as a big component and we had to get the size down so it would work in the PowerBook. True to our word, we said when we could make that happen we would get that into the PowerBook. The second challenge was the slot-load. We considered doing a tray-load, but our customers are very pleased with the slot-load, so we decided to take on the extra engineering challenge to make this happen."

Analysts have recently touted DVD burning drives in notebooks as a feature that would appeal to the buying public. While Apple agrees that having the drives is an important step, the company feels the entire package is what consumers will be looking for in a purchase.

"It isn't just a matter of getting the right hardware out; the whole point is getting the right solution out -- what we have with the SuperDrive and iDVD is unmatched by anybody," said Joswiak. "Our Pro customers that buy DVD Studio Pro, have the ability to make a Hollywood title without any concern about where they are at -- they can do it on the road or in a plane, all on their PowerBook."

The iBook, which has also dropped by $200, includes a 700 MHz PowerPC G3 processor with 512K on-chip level 2 cache; a 12.1-inch (diagonal) active-matrix TFT display; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics controller with 16MB RAM; 128MB SDRAM; a 20GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and a CD-ROM optical drive for $999.

"The iBook has just been huge in education -- 40 percent of our sales last quarter were notebooks," said Joswiak. "Now you can get an iBook in education for $899."

The mid-range iBook, which will sell for $1,299 includes an 800MHz PowerPC G3 processor with 512K on-chip level 2 cache; a 12.1-inch (diagonal) active-matrix TFT display; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics controller with 32MB RAM; 128MB SDRAM; a 30GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) optical drive.

The high-end iBook, which sells for $1,599 includes an 800MHz PowerPC G3 processor with 512K on-chip level 2 cache; a 14.1-inch (diagonal) active-matrix TFT display; ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics controller with 32MB RAM; 256MB SDRAM; a 30GB Ultra ATA hard drive; and a Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) optical drive.

Compared to previous models

In comparison, Apple's previous PowerBook line started at 667MHz and came with a 1MB L3 & 256K L2 cache; 133MHz system bus 256MB SDRAM memory; 30GB Ultra ATA drive; Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW); ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 w/32MB DDR video memory; Gigabit Ethernet; 56K internal modem; 1 FireWire & 2 USB Ports; and AirPort Ready for $2499.

The previous mid-range PowerBook had an 800MHz processor, 512MB RAM, a 40GB hard drive and an AirPort Card included for $3,199, while the high-end model, also with an 800MHz processor, came with 1GB RAM, a 60GB hard drive and an AirPort Card for $3,799.

Apple's previous iBook line started at $1,199 on the low-end for a 600MHz G3; 12.1-inch TFT XGA display; 600MHz PowerPC G3; 512K L2 cache @600MHz; System bus @100MHz; 128MB SDRAM memory; 20GB Ultra ATA drive; CD-ROM; and AirPort ready. For an additional $50 you could swap the CD-ROM drive for a DVD-ROM.

At a cost of $1,499, Apple offered the same features as the low-end models but with a 700MHz G3 processor and a Combo drive. The high-end iBook, which sold for $1799, also came with a 700MHz G3 processor, but had 256MB RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a Combo drive.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments