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In a clear effort to boost the appeal of its iBook family to holiday shoppers, Apple cranked up the clock speed on all three models, made AirPort Extreme standard across the line, cut the price of the entry-level model, and added a SuperDrive at the top of the line. Indeed, the inclusion of the SuperDrive in the top model is the only difference between the two high-end iBooks; therefore, we tested only the low-end and the high-end models for this review.
The October update to the consumer and education portables brought the base configuration, priced at $1,099 since last spring, back down below the psychologically significant $1,000 mark—more precisely, to $999. In addition, Apple increased the speed of the G4 processor from 1GHz to 1.2GHz and added an AirPort Extreme card; the 802.11g wireless network card, with a nominal speed of 54 Mbps, was previously a $79 option.
Other specs on the entry-level model remain unchanged: it still has a 12.1-inch screen, a 30GB hard drive, and a slot-loading Combo (DVD-ROM and CD-RW) drive. The standard configuration still includes only 256MB of RAM—not enough to use Mac OS X efficiently, in our judgment—but you can use the free DIMM slot to expand to as much as 1.25GB. As before, this iBook has connectors for Ethernet (10/100BaseT), a V.92 modem, and video out, plus two USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire 400 port.
In the case of the midlevel iBook, with its 14.1-inch screen (but the same 1,024-by-768-pixel resolution as the 12.1-inch model), the latest update brought no change in price—it’s still $1,299. However, its processor speed has gone from 1.06 GHz to 1.33 GHz, hard drive capacity has increased from 40GB to 60GB, and AirPort Extreme has again moved from the options page to the standard-equipment list. In other respects, the $1,299 configuration resembles the $999 one: 256MB of RAM, the same list of ports, and a Combo drive.
Until this latest update, customers buying the middle iBook model at Apple’s online store had the option of upgrading to a SuperDrive (CD-RW and DVD-R) for $200. No longer—now, iBook buyers who want to burn DVDs on the go have to choose the top-of-the-line model, in which the SuperDrive is now standard. That model, which also has a 14.1-inch, 1,024-by-768-pixel screen, is still priced at $1,499, but its G4 processor has gone from 1.2GHz to 1.33GHz, matching the midlevel model.
The speed bump and the addition of the SuperDrive are the only changes to the high-end model: as before, it comes with 256MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, an AirPort Extreme card, and the same array of ports its siblings have.
A Bluetooth module, providing wireless connectivity to selected mobile phones, printers, and other peripherals, remains a $50 option for customers buying from the Apple online store.
As our benchmark testing suggests, the extra performance resulting from the new iBooks’ faster G4 processors won’t exactly blow your socks off; in fact, the differences are barely noticeable without a stopwatch. But the other improvements to the lineup make the iBooks considerably better values than they were before.
iBook G4 Benchmarks
|Speedmark 3.3||Adobe Photoshop 8.0||Cinema 4D XL 8.5||Compressor||iMovie 4.0.1||iTunes 4.6||Unreal Tournament|
|OVERALL SCORE||SUITE||RENDER||MPEG-2 ENCODE||RENDER||MP3 ENCODE||AVERAGE FRAME RATE|
|14-inch iBook G4/1.33GHz||116||2:18||5:11||14:37||1:07||2:48||16.0|
|12-inch iBook G4/1.2GHz||106||2:34||5:45||14:34||1:13||3:07||15.6|
|14-inch iBook G4/1.2GHz||109||2:28||5:45||15:24||1:12||3:07||14.9|
|15-inch PowerBook G4/1.33GHz||126||2:15||5:05||12:49||1:02||2:44||25.3|
BEST RESULTS IN BOLD . REFERENCE SYSTEMS IN ITALICS .
Macworld’s Buying Advice
We’ve always appreciated the entry-level iBook’s compact size and relatively low price, and Apple’s $100 price cut and the addition of AirPort Extreme make it a better value than ever. Granted, its 30GB hard drive is a bit puny by today’s standards, but if you buy from Apple online, you can double your storage capacity for just $75, or go all the way to 80GB for $150. If your eyes demand a larger screen or you just have to have DVD-burning capabilities, obviously you’ll want to opt for one of the larger, pricier models; otherwise, we see no reason not to take advantage of a genuine bargain. For more information, see our Apple Hardware Guide listings for the 12-inch 1.2GHz iBook G4, 14-inch 1.33GHz iBook G4 with Combo drive, and the 14-inch 1.33GHz iBook G4 with SuperDrive models.