Apple has kicked the Titanium PowerBook G4 line up a notch by raising the speed of the top model’s processor to 1GHz, giving it a DVD-R and CD-RW drive, and dropping its price by $200. The enhancements aren’t as significant as those in the last major PowerBook update, in May 2002 (see Reviews, July 2002), but they do make an already solid laptop line even more attractive for people looking to upgrade from an old notebook or desktop system, as well as video professionals looking for a mobile DVD studio.
The new Titanium PowerBook G4s come in two speeds, 1GHz and 867MHz. The 1GHz model costs $2,999, and it comes with 512MB of RAM (upgradable to 1GB), a 60GB hard drive, the SuperDrive, an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 video card with 64MB of video RAM, and an AirPort card. The 867MHz system costs $2,299 and includes 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, the DVD-reading and CD-burning Combo drive, and the same Mobility Radeon 9000 card as the 1GHz model, but with 32MB of video RAM.
The updated PowerBooks also retain many of the enhancements in the line’s last major update. These include 1MB of fast DDR Level 3 cache, a 133MHz system bus, a native resolution of 1,280 by 854 pixels on the systems’ high-quality 15.2-inch LCDs, and a DVI port for connecting external digital flat-panel displays. They also have the same long battery life and slightly improved AirPort range.
The resultant mix is a fast, portable Mac that nimbly performs nearly all tasks. How-ever, in our tests, the 1GHz model’s system and graphics scores were only slightly better than the previous high-end (800MHz) laptop’s (see “Just a Little Bit Faster”).
Although the benchmark tests show only minor improvements, the new PowerBooks aren’t a disappointment. Both the 867MHz and 1GHz models were extremely responsive in day-to-day operations, and generally felt faster than the PowerBooks they replaced. Response times when scrolling and performing other on-screen activities were excellent, and we rarely had to wait for processor-intensive operations to complete. Overall, the new models outperform their predecessors — and cost less.
The 1GHz PowerBook is the first Apple portable to have a version of the CD- and DVD-burning SuperDrive. But this version’s maximum burning speed for DVD-R discs is one-half the speed of the desktop models’ SuperDrives. (The drive burns CD-R discs at 8X and CD-RW discs at 4X.) We burned quite a few DVDs and CDs –from iDVD, DVD Studio Pro, and Toast Titanium –without problems.
The 1GHz model’s performance and DVD-recording capabilities are strong, but the hard drive is as quiet as a whisper. This model also dissipates heat better than previous PowerBooks. The lower noise levels and reduced heat make for a much more enjoyable computing experience.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The new Titanium PowerBook G4s represent a relatively small upgrade to the PowerBook line. But for Mac owners looking to upgrade from an older Mac, PC owners looking over the fence, or multimedia professionals looking for a mobile video studio, the new PowerBooks are excellent — and reasonably priced — laptops. If you don’t need AirPort or DVD-burning capabilities, the 867MHz model is an especially good buy. But the 1GHz model is the most complete portable experience you can buy in one box.