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Apple updates PowerBook range

Apple Computer has added three new models to its PowerBook notebook range and unveiled a cordless mouse to accompany them.

Chief executive officer Steve Jobs summed up the company's innovations in the year to date in a keynote speech at Apple Expo Paris, and concluded with the announcement of performance increases for the 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks launched in January, and the introduction of a new 15-inch model, replacing the one introduced in January 2001.

Already, 42% of the computers Apple sells are notebooks, compared with around 25% for computer makers across the industry, Jobs said. He repeated his January claim that, for Apple, 2003 is "the year of the notebook", adding, "We still aren't even done with the year yet; we have more innovating to do."

Some of that innovation includes Apple's Mac OS X operating system, known as Panther, which is still not ready. It will sell for €149 (£94) including sales tax in Europe. Jobs promised it "will come out before the end of this year".

The three new models of its thin, aluminium-cased PowerBook range will begin shipping with the existing 10.2 Jaguar version of Mac OS X.

The new 17-inch PowerBook boasts a 1.33GHz G4 processor and 512K bytes of Level 2 cache memory, double that of its predecessor. It uses PC2700 DDR (double data rate) RAM and ships with 512Mbytes, but up to 2Gbytes can be installed.

The slot-loading Superdrive (Apple's name for a CD-RW/DVD-R drive) has also received a speed boost, to 2x speed when writing to DVDs. Its 17-inch, 1440 by 900 pixel screen is driven by a Radeon Mobility 9600 graphics card, and can be connected to an external monitor via a DVI (Digital Video Interface) connector.

Other ports include FireWire (IEEE 1394) serial ports running at 400Mbps (bits per second) and 800bps, and two USB 2.0 (Universal Serial Bus) ports running at up to 480Mbps. Available now, it is priced at $2,999 or €2,999 (£1,887) including European sales taxes.

The updated 12-inch model contains a 1GHz processor, with 512Kbytes of Level 2 cache and up to 1.25Gbytes of main memory, two USB 2.0 ports and a choice of either a Superdrive or a Combo (CD-RW/DVD) drive.

The Nvidia GeForce FX Go 5200 graphics card can be used, via the DVI connector, to drive a second display or provide an external mirror of the internal 12.1-inch, 1024 by 768 pixel display. The PowerBook can also operate with the lid closed.

The 12-inch model equipped with 256Mbytes of RAM and a 40Gbyte hard disc drive, retails for $1,599 or €1,599 with the Combo drive, and $1,799 or €1,799 with the Superdrive.

Jobs also presented a long-awaited update to the 15-inch PowerBook, which made its debut in January 2001. The latest model has a 15.2-inch wide-screen (1280 by 854 pixel) display, weighs 2.5kg and measures 28mm thick.

The top-of-the-range model features a 1.25GHz G4 processor with 512Kbytes of Level 2 cache, up to 2Gbytes of main memory and a Radeon Mobility 9600 graphics card with 64Mbytes of onboard Ram. It too has a DVI port, FireWire 400 and FireWire 800 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a 56K modem and a built-in antenna for Apple's AirPort Extreme IEEE 802.11g wireless network card.

Two configurations are available now. The first, with a 1GHz processor, 256M bytes of RAM, a Combo drive and a 60Gbyte hard disc, is priced at $1,999 or €1,999. The second, with a 1.25GHz processor, 512Mbytes of RAM, a Superdrive, an 80Gbyte hard disc, an illuminated keyboard and built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking, costs $2,599 or €2,499, the only break from the euro-for-dollar pricing strategy among the new notebooks.

Apple's long-awaited cordless keyboard and mouse will be available in two weeks' time. The keyboard will run for nine months on four AA cell batteries, the mouse one month on two AA cells.

Both use Bluetooth short-range radio technology, have a range of 10m and work with all three new PowerBooks, which are all Bluetooth enabled. They require a computer running Version 10.2.6 or newer of Mac OS X.

Jobs said the Apple devices use 128-bit encryption and are resistant to radio interference, even from other Bluetooth devices, making them suitable for use in crowded classrooms or offices.

Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service


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