Apple Puts PowerBook on a Diet

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Addressing the concerns of many PowerBook users, Apple Computer (800/795-1000, ) has introduced a slimmer version of its laptop that offers faster performance and extended battery life.

Apple's new PowerBook weighs just 5.9 pounds with CD drive and battery–almost 2 pounds lighter than earlier models. You can reduce the weight even further by removing the drive and inserting a "weight-saving module"–a small plastic device that ships with the laptop. Just as important to mobile professionals, the portables are 20 percent thinner than previous models, with a depth of 1.7 inches. Because of the slimmer design, the new PowerBook's expansion bay won't accept batteries or storage devices that work with earlier G3 PowerBooks.

Brawny Chips

While cutting bulk, Apple added more brawn in the form of faster PowerPC G3 chips. The 400MHz PowerBook ($3,499) ships with a 6GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and a 1MB L2 cache. The 333MHz PowerBook ($2,499) includes a 4GB hard drive, a 24 x CD-ROM drive, and a 512K L2 cache. Both include a 14.1-inch screen, 64MB of RAM, dual USB ports, an internal 56-Kbps modem, and a 10/100BaseT Ethernet connection. You can opt for larger storage–up to 10GB–and a maximum of 384MB of RAM. You can also order the 333MHz PowerBook with a DVD-ROM drive, but if you buy one without the DVD-ROM installed, you cannot upgrade to DVD-ROM later. However, Apple says it is possible that other companies might eventually offer a DVD-ROM upgrade kit that works with the 333MHz model.

Apple says that a single battery in the new PowerBook can last up to 5 hours, compared with 3.5 hours in the previous models. Apple credits the extended battery life to the lower power consumption in the new G3 chips, as well as improved power-management features in Mac OS 8.6, which ships with the new laptop.

The new PowerBooks also feature built-in dual-display capability without the need for an extra adapter. You can connect to an external monitor or multimedia projector without losing the image on the laptop's LCD screen. When the PowerBook is using dual displays, the external monitor shows millions of colors, while the laptop itself is limited to thousands of colors. (In single-display mode, the laptop shows millions of colors.)

VST Technologies (978/263-9700, ) is offering Zip and SuperDisk drives that work with the slimmer media bay. If you want to use FireWire peripherals such as digital camcorders or hard drives, you can add the $249 FireWire 2 Go Cardbus card, from Newer Technology (316/943-0222, ). Available in June, the card transfers data at a speed of 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps, or 400 Mbps, depending on the maximum speed of the connected peripheral. The card works only with self-powered FireWire devices.

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