iBook Diary, Part One

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I'm a Titanium PowerBook G4 user. I love my Titanium PowerBook G4. I take it with me everywhere. And when I pull my silver surfboard from its sleeve, I am the envy of all those around me.

Yes. The Titanium PowerBook G4 is power that not everyone can afford. And having one means I belong to an exclusive club of users who feel that owning the pinnacle of design innovation is worth the price of admission. Let's face it -- if Titanium PowerBook G4s were cheap, everyone would have one, right?

That's why when I finally brought one of the newly redesigned iBooks home, I viewed the icy Chiclet with as much suspicion as excitement. It was already smaller and lighter than my treasured G4. After completing this lab test, would I feel this new laptop was better? Had I made a mistake? Is the only thing that makes the new iBook a consumer laptop its price tag, which is half what my brilliant Titanium PowerBook G4 cost?

I brought the box immediately into the back yard and viewed it like a curled Cobra, ready to strike down my inherent sense of laptop superiority. It only seemed appropriate to examine this snake in the garden.

And thus began one man's journey into the destruction of his preconceptions about consumer laptops.

I placed the new iBook box on our old kitchen table, which had recently been displaced by a sleeker cherry table of impressive design. The old table sat forlorn on the patio, where weather and art projects had begun to take their toll.

Even before I opened the box, I noticed something different: Apple had redesigned the box to be more colorful and inviting, almost a visual contradiction to the ice-white computer inside. The company has been careful to point out all the key features on the box and, yes, all the goodies bundled inside. My PowerBook didn't come with AppleWorks, Cro-Mag Rally, Bugdom or Nanosaur!

Oh yes, the usual goodies pack was waiting for me, just under a cardboard shield. Power supply, phone cord, VGA adapter, and the usual assortment of discs and documentation.

Notice, though, that the iBook doesn't come with a FireWire cable, as my Titanium PowerBook G4 did. And it requires a special adapter to connect to a VGA display. Here's a close-up of that adapter:

The fact that the iBook can, through a clever modification of the headphone port, output composite video is dimmed only by the fact that you must buy the special adapter for that port separately.

The iBook comes with the same power brick and plug as the Titanium PowerBook G4, differing only in two ways:

The cord now sports a white design with translucent head and plug, and...

...the plug head does not have a little tab to lock it in place on the cord storage wrap on the power brick. This means when your cord is wrapped up, the plug dangles lose, unlike the Titanium PowerBook G4 cord, which snaps securely into place.

And, don't forget, the new Titanium PowerBook G4 and iBook power supplies do not work on older Mac portable designs, and vice versa.

Now that I've moved past the preliminaries, it's time to grapple with the beast itself. With some trepidation, I lift the iBook from its Styrofoam nest, open the antistatic sleeve, and pull out the computer.

Man, is this iBook ever small and light! It is, quite frankly, amazing. It feels so solid when being held that I can begin to believe Apple's claims that this model is twice as durable as the old iBook. The surface seems slightly rubbery, and probably a lot more scratch-resistant that the Titanium PowerBook G4. Note to self: Test to see if this is true. A little massage from a handful of nuts and bolts should do the trick!

I put the iBook down and open the clamshell. The whole top half of the portable swings back behind the bottom, making it smaller top to bottom when open. This should help relieve cramping when traveling in coach class.

And the screen, while small, is sharp. Not sure if the screen won't become an issue for these tired, almost-forty eyes of mine. We'll have to see.

I close the iBook back up, and dash into the house to retrieve the household iBook, which is encased in the old chassis. If you place the old and new iBooks side-by-side, it doesn't take a ruler to see how much smaller the new model is in terms of width and length...

...in terms of thickness...

...or in terms of overall area. Wow!

A final test seems in order. iBooks are first and foremost a computer for students. How much easier will this tiny iBook be to slip into a backpack than the old design?

Once again, I run into the house and grab a drawing pad, which I place on top of the new iBook. The consumer portable all but disappears under the black book!

And even from a side view, the new iBook is only a bit thicker than this notebook. Which, based on the notebooks I've seen my kids lug to school, is a bit thinner than standard issue. So there should be no problem getting this iBook into any school backpack in use anywhere in the world.

I sit back, amazed. How did they do it? How did Apple build a portable that is smaller, lighter, faster, and cheaper than the iBooks they introduced just last fall? Normally, making things smaller costs more. And yet, somehow, Apple has delivered a portable that seems to fulfill all the requirements of a rugged, cheap portable for kids and adults alike, without any obvious compromises.

I'll admit it, I'm impressed.

But I'm not ready to trade in my Titanium PowerBook G4 -- yet.

Stay tuned for iBook Diary Two, when we'll take an up-close tour of the new chassis.

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