If your next new Mac must be an inexpensive portable, the recently updated 12.1-inch iBook is a great little machine to consider. Weighing just less than 5 pounds and priced at $1,299, the midlevel model, which we tested, now runs at 900MHz (up from 800MHz), comes with 40GB of hard-drive space (up from 30GB), and has a slightly faster Combo drive (24x CD burning, up from 16x).
This iBook design is simple, cute, and small — almost identical to that of the previous generation. But we aren’t convinced that it’s pleasurable to use. First, the plastic keys made a brittle clicking sound when we typed, so the iBook felt more like a toy than a Mac. And second, the narrow keyboard may force you into an awkward posture, making the portable uncomfortable to use for long periods of time.
If you want to run OS 9 or OS X and use the Web, an e-mail program, a word processor, and even some of Apple’s iLife apps, this iBook will really shine. But if you want a Mac you can really grow into, for advanced graphics or other CPU-intensive work, this may not be the Mac for you: its older G3 processor may pose a compatibility problem later on. So if you simply must have portability and can squeeze $300 more out of your budget, the 12-inch PowerBook G4 (mmmm; April 2003) may serve you better for a longer period of time. If a low price is most important, you might consider an eMac instead (see our review of the 1GHz model, on this page).
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The iBook is excellent for the basics, but remember that it’s the only Mac still using a G3 processor. We were also underwhelmed by the iBook’s keyboard, but it may not bother everyone.