- Light and sturdy
- high-quality screen
- DVD/CD-RW combo drive available
- excellent battery life.
- Modest performance.
Like so many of Apple's products, the original iBook generated its share of controversy. Many thought it was too heavy, and unnecessarily large given its 12.1in. display. But Apple's recent update to this consumer notebook may finally silence the critics. It's smaller, lighter, and faster. It has more ports than the original, comes with a larger hard drive, and provides better screen resolution. It even has features that are missing from the much more expensive PowerBook G4 Titanium, such as an optional CD-RW drive, yet matches the Titanium's exceptional battery life. Clearly the iBook is a notebook to be reckoned with, and not just in the consumer market.
All iBook configurations have the same basic specifications: a 500MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 10GB hard drive, and 12.1in. TFT screen. They all include two USB ports, one FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, and 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet and 56Kbit/s V.90 modem connectivity (they're also AirPort-ready). The iBook also includes a new auto-sensing VGA port that allows you to plug in an external video device such as a monitor or projector without having to put the iBook to sleep first -- a convenient feature for presentations. The iBook is also designed for life on the road, with a tough polycarbonate plastic case, magnesium frame and rubber-mounted hard drive. Despite all these features, it still weighs just 2.2kg.
The base model (£935.32 ex. VAT) comes with 64MB of RAM and a CD-ROM drive. All other configurations come with 128MB. The £1,105.53 (ex. VAT) model we tested has a DVD-ROM drive; the £1,190 (ex. VAT) model has an 8X/4X/24X CD-RW drive; and the £1,360.85 (ex. VAT) model -- the most interesting configuration -- includes a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. If the iBook is going to be your only system, the top-of-the-range model may offer the best combination of price, performance and features. All the optical drives use a tray-loading mechanism, in contrast to the somewhat more problem-prone slot-loading drive in the Titanium.
Although it has the same size display as the previous iBook, the similarities end there. The new video system includes an 8MB ATi Rage Mobility 128 graphics chip and a high-resolution 1,024 by 768 (XGA) screen.
Although the iBook can't keep up with the G4-based Titanium, it's still no slouch. For example, on an Adobe Photoshop test, the iBook took 22 minutes and 43 seconds to complete a set of tasks that the Titanium polished off in less than half that time. That's no surprise since the Titanium had twice the system memory, three times the memory dedicated to Photoshop, and the G4's Velocity Engine, which is fully utilised by Photoshop. The iBook is not designed to replace a graphics workstation, but if you intend to run Photoshop on it we recommend that you invest in more memory (the iBook can be expanded to up to 640MB). For day-to-day tasks, you'll find the iBook a responsive system.
We have no complaints about the battery life. At its minimum, running DVDs flat out with the screen blazing, the battery lasted just over two hours. With power saving features implemented and a light workload, it ran for 5 hours and 16 minutes.
Because of its 8MB graphics card and high resolution, the iBook should please all but the most demanding game players. And while the two small speakers above the keyboard can't deliver much bass response, even at full volume they didn't make audio sound tinny or distorted. One nice touch is the new trackpad, which unlike the previous iBook now has a slight ledge so you can tell when your finger has reached the edge without looking.
Our iBook came with Mac OS 9.1 only. However, Apple recently announced that it will ship OS X alongside OS 9.1 on all new systems. But given the weaknesses in the current version of OS X, and the fact that it still doesn't support DVD, we suggest that most users stick with OS 9.1 as their primary OS. When Apple updates OS X, the iBook should run it very well. The iBook also comes with all of the applications you need to get going from AppleWorks to Internet Explorer to iMovie and iTunes.
Ultimately, it's hard to find anything to complain about in the new iBook. It has a compact, sturdy design, delivers more than enough power for ordinary tasks, offers all the ports and drive options you're likely to need, and even -- dare we say it -- looks sexy. Unless you have intense graphics requirements, you really can't go wrong with the iBook.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||28.5x3.4x23 cm|
|OS & software|
|Operating system||Mac OS 9.1|
|Software included||QuickTime, iMovie 2, iTunes, AppleWorks, MS Internet Explorer, MS Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator, Palm Desktop, FAXstf, Cro-Mag Rally, Bugdom, Nanosaur, Acrobat Reader|
|Chipset & memory|
|RAM installed||128 MB|
|Number of memory slots||1|
|RAM capacity||0.625 GB|
|VGA (analogue)||RGB video out|
|Video out||via AV port + composite video cable|
|GPU||ATi Rage Mobility 128|
|Graphics RAM||8 MB|
|Display technology||colour TFT|
|Display size||12.1 in|
|Native resolution||1024x768 pixels|
|FireWire (IEEE 1394)||1|
|Docking station port||no|
|Wi-Fi||slot optional AirPort 11Mbit/s 802.11 module|
|Pointing devices||two-button touchpad|
|Audio connectors||audio out via AV port|
|Audio processor||16-bit stereo|
|Accessories||£67.23, AirPort card; £203.40, AirPort Base Station; £90, second battery|
|Other||built-in antenna for optional AirPort 11Mbit/s 802.11 wireless networking|
|Service & support|
|Standard warranty||1 year|
|Battery capacity||4200 mAh|
|Rotation speed||5400 rpm|
|Hard drive interface||Ultra ATA/66|
|Hard drive capacity||10 GB|
|Processor & memory|
|Clock speed||0.5 GHz|
|Processor model||PowerPC G3|
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