One of the most important features for the new PowerBook is performance. The PowerBook’s processor has been bumped up from 400MHz and 500MHz to 550MHz and 667MHz respectively. The 667MHz PowerBook G4 also gets 133MHz system bus, while the 550MHz system retains the 100MHz bus of the previous generation. Both systems come equipped with 256K of on-chip Level 2 cache, which now runs at full processor speed. The older PowerBooks sported 1MB of backside L2 cache, but it ran at only half the processor’s clock speed.
“For us on the PowerBook side, it’s about performance and we wanted to make sure we brought extra performance to the line,” Sandy Green, Product Line Manager for the PowerBook, told MacCentral. “This is going to be tremendous for our customers, especially the ones working with Photoshop. They can take advantage of the Velocity Engine and go where they thought they couldn’t go before with a portable system.”
Similar to a Macworld keynote desktop presentation given by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the folks in the PowerBook division pitted the new high-end PowerBook against a Dell 1.13GHz Pentium III notebook. Both computers were tested using Photoshop and the PowerBook came out on top, according to Apple.
“Our Photoshop test came out 48 percent faster [than on the Dell laptop] — that’s something we were really pleased to see,” Green said. “We think are customers are going to be very excited about the performance they are getting.”
PowerBook owners also get a new video system with increased video memory. ATI’s Mobility Radeon AGP 4x graphics system replaces the aging ATI RAGE Mobility 128 system that’s been standard issue in both the previous PowerBook G4 and the FireWire-equipped PowerBook G3 that preceded it. The systems come equipped with 16MB of Double Data Rate (DDR) video memory.
“We went to 16MB across the board on video memory. That has been something our customers have been looking for and we wanted to make sure we delivered to them,” Green said. “It will be great when they are working in the graphics program, but also when they are taking a break and playing games. We’ve doubled the frame-rates we saw previously — up to 45 frames per second playing Quake.”
Apple has also made changes to the optical storage options for the PowerBook. A DVD-ROM drive is standard, but a CD-RW drive is now offered as an option. Hard disk storage has been boosted as well — 20GB and 30GB Ultra ATA/66 drives are standard on the 550MHz and 667MHz model respectively, up from 10GB or 20GB on previous models. 48GB is also available as an option, replacing an optional 30GB drive on previous PowerBook G4s. “A lot of folks working in the digital video field are probably going to very attracted to the drive (48GB) because of the speed and size,” said Green.
Not only do the drives have larger capacity, they come equipped with what Apple described as Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB). This feature helps reduce the noise a drive makes during normal operation.
“[Fluid Dynamic Bearing] means the drives are going to run very, very quietly,” said Green. “This is something we had the opportunity to take advantage of and we wanted to bring it to our PowerBook customers.”
Wireless networking is now standard issue on the high-end PowerBooks — the system comes equipped with an AirPort card. More importantly, Apple has fixed the AirPort range with all new PowerBook models. With the previous Titanium PowerBook, many people complained about not being able to connect to an AirPort network consistently at a relatively short distance from the Bas Station.
“We worked very hard to make sure we improved our AirPort range, making it even better than before. One of the things we did a little bit differently in the new PowerBook line versus previous generations of PowerBook and iBook is work with antenna — we have significantly increased the AirPort range,” Green said.
The iBook also saw many improvements. It, too, scored faster processing and a new, faster system bus, more storage capacity and more RAM standard across the line. The Top-of-the-line DVD-ROM/CD-RW “Combo” drive-equipped iBook also got a price break.
“We saw about a 10 percent performance boost across the board just going to the 100Mhz bus — we’re really excited about the performance enhancements to the iBook,” Dave Russell, Director of Product Marketing for the iBook, told MacCentral. “We think this will continue the iBook’s incredible momentum since we introduced it on May 1. It’s doing really well in US retail and retail distribution around the world and US K-12 sales have been just phenomenal.”
The default startup OS in the new PowerBook and iBook is still Mac OS 9.2.1. Mac OS X 10.1 is installed on the portables, but Apple has no plans to make it the default operating system yet.