Me & Portables
I've always had one enduring philosophy about notebooks, and it's this: Either it has to be as powerful and able as my desktop or it has to be so perfectly portable and convenient that it's not a drag to lug it around. Well, to this day there still isn't a portable that can deliver what my desktop can, so that "demand" stands on principle alone. As for portability... I don't consider seven, eight, nine or ten pounds to be really all that portable. Blasphemous as it may seem, the Titanium Powerbook is too big for my use. It's got this great big screen (lovely as it is... don't get me wrong) that makes the whole unit just a tad larger than my needs, which is something that is about the size of a sheet of paper or smaller.

When I was at MacWorld San Francisco this year I took a 2400 Powerbook with me which is pretty much the smallest portable I've ever seen. It truly was easy to haul around and I was so proud of having something that was so tidy that I pretended not to mind the diminuitive keyboard. My house of cards came crashing down when I was stuck in my hotel room trying to edit the MacGamer website on a 180 Mhz CPU, 80 MB of RAM, 1 gig of hard drive space, a 9 or 10 inch screen at 800X600, a little bitty track pad and a 28.8 modem. It seems that the little jobbies are good for word processing, but when it comes time to do other real-world jobs it just couldn't keep up. In fact, my job performance suffered for it. I got rid of the 2400 because, frankly, I'd rather have no portable than the wrong portable.

I decided that I wouldn't get another iBook, Powerbook or whatever until the day when every single one of my needs could be met in a single machine. I didn't actually see myself a mere six months later slapping the money down on the table for a new machine, but there I was the day before the MacWorld New York Expo pulling a brand new iBook out of its box and loading it up for active duty. It seems that the portable that could meet all of my needs had finally been invented.

What the iBook has to offer
Straight up, the Apple iBook is not only loaded with features that are incredibly useful, but it seems to lack any of the crap that really isn't. You'll find a 500 Mhz G3 processor under the hood, and the machine comes with 128 MB of RAM already installed (which is the bare minimum for OS X). The screen is crisp and, despite its 12.5" size, can accomodate a full 1024X768 resolution. The hard disk comes in 10 gigabyte and 20 gigabye flavours which, for most portable applications, is quite ample. The unit itself weighs a mere 5 pounds and, despite being a bit thicker than its titanium brother, still has a slim profile. If it's a tiny bit beefier than the TiBook in terms of thickness, it makes up for that in size... the iBook is about the size of a legal notepad.

Certainly this notebook already exceeds other units available from Apple in a number of ways (even the higher-end Titanium powerbook in some aspects), but the features don't end there. There are media drives available to the buyer: A mere CD player, a CD burner, a DVD player and a combo drive which is both a CD burner and a DVD player. It's hard to comment in an unbiased way about this product without still sounding like a paid endorsee; the iBook is the closest anyone has ever come to making a perfect portable. It's no one thing that makes it so incredible, but rather how every feature is bang-on. The price, the size, the power, the screen... there's really nothing about this machine that doesn't at least meet the user's needs in a reasonable way, and most features surpass expectations considerably.

Design, weight, portability
The 2001 iBook would take the prize as the most beautiful notebook ever made, period, if Apple hadn't already set the bar so high with the Titanium iBook, which is, from top to bottom, a work of art. Be that as it may, the iBook is easily the close second to Apple's professional portable in the design category. The look is something like the Macintosh G4 cube (may it rest in peace); white, glossy shell in a translucent case that is reminiscent if a layer of ice. It's worth noting, however, that unlike the cube there are no cosmetic flaws in the case whatsoever. The iBook feels smooth in the hand and looks even and flawless. It's perhaps here where Apple displays a trademark excellence, but also defines the difference between what they do and what their competitors like Compaq and Dell do: Apple is utterly untouchable in understanding the marriage of beauty and function. They always have been and, if the iBook is any indication, they always will be. From the soft, glowing Apple logo on the front of the iBook to the ghostly throb of the sleep light on the front edge to the elegant metallic surface that makes up the keyboard housing and palm rests, the whole thing has the look of something that was designed, not manufactured. Each piece is part of a whole and, yet again,

At first glance it's easy to think that the iBook might be a bit fragile. Certainly the titanium of the professional powerbook provides a safe housing for the breakable components within, but the plastic look of the iBook may appear rather breakable. The truth is that the plastic is wrapped around metal which forms the skeleton of the iBook housing so, despite its appearance, the thing is incredibly sturdy. We considered setting up some durability tests involving hurling softballs at the lid, splitting firewood on it and measuring distance that it can be bounced off a gymnasium floor... but in the end we figured that it was probably more than durable enough to withstand boisterous everyday use and that would probably be good enough for most people. The iBook is a mere five pounds... three pounds lighter than the previous iteration (you remember... the toilet seat iBook of days gone by). It's also smaller; closer to the size of a sheet of paper. This should allay any compaints about it being a little thicker than the incredibly thin Titanium powerbook. It's still pretty darn slim. One might suspect that the diminished size of the iBook would yield a smaller screen size, but it turns out that the 12.5" screen is not only ample for most applications (including games), it also supports resolutions up to 1024X768, and at that resoution is remarkably crisp (though lower resolutions such as 800X600 are a bit fuzzier). If you've been holding off on picking up an iBook because of fears that the screen wouldn't be adequate you can put those fears aside and go grab one: The screen is, to put it simply, fantastic.

The ports
Included with this iBook are a variety of useful ports and jacks. Naturally you'll find a modem and ethernet jack (these being the mainstay of most internet connectivity), and right next to it is a Firewire port. Firewire is best known for video editing (for which it's well suited due to its amazing speed) but is also great for external hard disks. After the Firewire jack are two USB ports. For those who aren't yet up to speed on the glorious functionality of USB, they allow plug-and-play (real plug-and-play... not that Windows version where you plug something in and then spend fifteen minutes restarting) for mice, game controllers galore, printers, scanners... even speakers. Next to the USB ports is a video out jack that will allow you to run your iBook to a larger monitor or to a television. Lastly is the humble headphone jack which is useful for getting the most out of iTunes (though this iBook, unlike the previous one, has two speakers instead of one... so sound right out of the machine is adequate, especially for a portable).



The iBook is "airport ready", which means that you can purchase an airport card and insert it by easily lifting off the keyboard and sticking it in there. The process takes less than five minutes, if that. The beauty of Airport, in case you haven't already had the pleasure, is that it connects easily and very stably to whatever network may be available in the area. This is to say that if there's an airport base station nearby you can instantaneously connect to it on powerup... you don't even have to find the server (so long as you're configured correctly, which isn't hard). My first experience with using Airport was at the 2001 MacWorld New York where former Mac Gamer's Ledge boss Mike Dixon showed me how to install the card and then when I started the iBook back up, boom... I was online (thanks to one of several airport networks available on the show floor). Airport is oneof those guilty pleasures which, once you've used it, you will find hard to live without. Our advice: Don't hedge on it. Airport is worth the money.



Battery
Battery life is definitely great, but (like most things in life) falls short of what it's advertised to be. Apple purports that the iBook gets a good five hours of battery life, but the reality is just shy of that. Under normal usage (i.e. low brightness, modest CD usage and nothing too CPU intensive) you can expect about four hours of battery life in OS 9.1 and about three in OS X (OS X isn't quite as power efficient as the Classic OS is, though this could be tuned up a bit in future revs of X). The two biggest drains on the battery are the brightness of the screen and heavy use of the CD drive, and as a gamer this might be more of an issue. While the performance of the battery is still quite good it's not so good that it feels infinite.



Speaking of power and conserving it, the Mac sleep mode is still one of the miracles of modern computing. OS 9 manages energy in sleep mode so effectively that you can stash a sleeping iBook away for the better part of a day and still have lots of juice left when you fire it up again (I've heard reports that you can keep an iBook in sleep mode for up to three days, though I haven't had an opportunity to
test that out for myself... I can't bring myself to keep my hands off the machine for long enough). As with the iBook's waking state, OS 9 manages power better than OS X does, so don't expect to get the same kind of longevity out of X unless there's some kind of improvement in future revs of the OS.



OS X
As with all new Macs, OS X comes pre-installed on the iBook (I personally recommend re-formatting into two partitions and installing X on one and 9 on the other. I've heard reports that OS X and OS 9 don't play well together on the same partition on these iBooks, though I have no idea why that would be the case). Naturally those who want to embrace the future of Macintosh will be curious to know how OSX works on the little white portable, and those folks will be happy to hear that it runs quite well. Compared to my G4 400 desktop (with 192 MB of RAM) there is little difference in performance, and that difference is mostly felt in a slightly slower launch of heavier applications. As with most UNIX-based operating systems, the amount of RAM that is available makes a very big difference. If you're going to order an iBook and intend to run OS X on it even semi-regularly it's imperative that you take the plunge and get 256 MB of RAM or more or it'll be something of an uphill struggle. At the time of this writing there is little scalability in OS X as far as how much demand it puts on the system (i.e. turning eye candy on or off) and, to be honest, there's not much speed gain to be seen in turning off bouncing icons or killing dock magnification, so don't kid yourself by pretending that you can make up for not having that RAM by trimming the doo-dads down in the system preferences panels. Despite the RAM caution you'll find that OS X runs quite acceptibly on the new iBook; much better than it does on the older iBooks, which stands to reason due to the increased processor speed. At this point (for both desktops and portables) it's not really a question of hardware for OS X, but rather the arrival of OS X 10.1 that will give the performance punch that makes X ready for day to day use.


Can it play games?
For MacGamer readers this will definitely be a priority question. The answer, thankfully, is yes.

With an 8 MB 3D chip (the ATI Rage Mobility) you can get an awful lot done. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, for instance, runs smooth as silk at 1024X768 with all the options maxed out. You can play a very respectible Quake III or Unreal Tournament game on this thing, Tomb Raider (1 through 5) flies and lighter 3d games like Centipede play without a hitch. 2D games such as Starcraft or Scrabble are going to look and feel like they were made for this hardware. The only game that gave the iBook any problem was Diablo II. At the time of this writing I could not ascertain if the problem was with the hardware or with the software... but given how well the unit performs with other modern games I tend to believe that the iBook is not the culprit.

The two USB jacks lend themselves beautifully to the use of great gaming devices like the MacAlly iShock II (my personal pick for Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2). The wireless networking ads a brilliant and unique dimension to multiplayer gaming and, let's face it, the 1024X768 screen makes a lot of difference in the current generation of games.

The current trend for games to be focused primarily on graphics and 3d technology is adequately handled by this computer, but there's definitely headroom for 3d performance. The existence of the Geforce line of hardware for the Mac underlines the "Not bad" performance of the ATI chip in this portable. Bottom line: If you're looking for a line in the sand that indicates just how much gaming goodness this thing can hand you, be aware that pretty much every game out for the Mac right now will run A-Okay on the iBook... but next year? This might not be the case anymore.

With the Geforce Go being based on the Geforce 2 MX technology (a very respectible piece of 3d hardware) it seems like a good time for Apple to stop goofing around and shove some real 3d chips into their portables. I would be amazed if we didn't see the Geforce Go as a BTO option for the iBook within six months. As it is right now, however, the ATI chip holds its own and if you're a fan of 3d action you don't have anything to worry about... for now.


Bad news?

There are always a few flaws in any product that are worth mentioning, even if for no other reason than to make people aware of what they're getting into. The iBook is no exception, and while the flaws of this outstanding product are few, picky folks may think of them as deal breakers.

Even if you opt for the largest hard drive that you can muster, it'll still be a mere 20 gigabytes. This is nowhere near as much of a joke as the original iBook, which boasted a fat 3 gigs of hard disk space, but those who do video, for instance, will find that the drive fills up fast. Most people who do day to day tasks, especially those with a desktop machine at home, will not have a problem with the hard drive size.

Speaking of size, however, the track pad does introduce some interesting problems. Overall most people are going to like a bigger trackpad, but the sensitivity of the thing can create headaches when your hand lightly brushes the surface or comes near to it while typing a document, and suddenly your cursor has lept to a completely different paragraph and you are inserting your text in a place it doesn't belong. Many of Apple's portables have had this problem, but the iBook, which has no bevels or raised surface around the track pad to alert the hand that it might be coming close to the sensitive area, makes it easy to play "cursor leapfrog". A minor concern? Definitely. One can adjust their typing style a little and this problem can be avoided, but it's worth noting that this is most definitely a design flaw capable of creating some truly grouchy reactions.



The iBook has obviously been engineered and designed within an inch of its life. You can tell from the combination of aesthetic beauty and high performance that every ounce of quality that could be stuffed into the design has been. The iBook suffers very mildly from an "over-optimization" of space where the keys will make very light contact with the screen when the unit is closed (you know that in the Apple labs engineers were shoving razor blades between the two in order to measure just how close they could get it). After typing all day on the keyboard there is a small accumulation of oil that will leave a tell-tale mark on the screen after it's been closed. While easily wiped away, this minor flaw detracts a little from the pristinely balanced design and function of the unit. Nothing to get all excited about, but it's definitely something you'll notice.

The biggest flaw about the iBook is probably that it is such a great machine. This comment may have you scratching your head about why someone would say such a thing... until you try to get one. Availability for the iBook is crummy right now. With Apple having moved over 182,000 of these units since they were released, you know that everyone is clamouring for one. At present there is a long wait if you order one and, even then, it's hard to get the exact configuration you want. If you're going to take the plunge (and I suggest you do) be prepared to either settle for less or wait a while.

Rating: 95 out of 100

Pros:
- Nice, fast processor
- Size is perfect
- Looks amazing
- Lots of I/O options
- High resolution screen
- Full size keyboard
- Stereo speakers
- Long battery life
- Runs OS X pretty well
- Affordable enough for common folks
- Weighs only 5 pounds
- Incredible DVD/CD-R options
- Durable
- Airport-ready
- It just plain rocks

Cons:
- Keys mess up the screen a bit when closed
- Track pad is a little too sensitive and causes "cursor leapfrog"
- Hard drive may be a bit paltry for some
- Availability is the pits right now
- Could really use a better 3d chip with more memory. Will someone please stop teasing us and start putting the Geforce Go into Apple's portables?

Conclusion:
A portable from Apple that simply has no competition. If you were holding off on a portable whether it be a professional or consumer model, now is the time to go for it. This year's iBook is the best example of everything that's good about Apple and detractors would have to be out of their minds to pretend the Apple Dual USB iBook is anything but the best of the best.

The bare-bones Apple iBook's price is now $999, a sweet spot for most buyers. Though not a multimedia powerhouse, the 12-inch iBook is perfect as the second computer "for the kids" in a Mac-based household.

The inclusion of one FireWire port and two USB 1.1 ports will come in handy when adding peripherals such as a USB or FireWire DVD-RW drive, since the iBook unfortunately has only a CD-ROM drive. For broadband connectivity, there's a 10/100 Ethernet port, but to go wireless you'll have to shell out about $80 for an AirPort Card. There are no PC Card slots for third-party cards.

Though you shouldn't use the iBook for heavy Photoshop work, the included Apple iPhoto is a solid photo library program. The relatively small amount of system RAM—128MB—shouldn't be a problem for the educational software and Web-surfing duties the iBook is best suited for. If you want a more powerful yet small Mac OS notebook, you might consider the 12-inch Apple PowerBook G4.

While the iBook includes a FireWire port and iPhoto, iTunes, and iMovie—all wonderful multimedia programs—its major drawback is the lack of a DVD-ROM drive for movies and a writable optical drive for burning CDs. As a base unit for your iPod MP3 player and digital camera, the iBook is fine, but for anything more you'll need a more powerful notebook with more features (read more money).

USER REVIEWS:::::::

I've now had 2 iBooks and love both of them. As a Windows user, I was more than a little anxious to give up my PC, but after just a couple of days using Mac OS X, I was truley converted. The ease of no more driver installations or peripheral setups, takes a little adjusting at first, as everything just works smoothly upon first being pluged in. My iBook has not caused me any trouble whatsoever, but is a constant reminder of why Mac users are sdo addicted to their computers.


PCBadger
Member rating:
April 6, 2004

I've owned my iBook for 3 years now. I work in medical research and use the iBook for data and image analysis, powerpoint presentations, digital video editing, music editing, photo archiving, on-line literature access etc. In 3 years the only problem I've had was caused by a PC emulation program (no longer required because of Mac OS X) which became infected by a PC virus, only the program was affected, deleting it solved the problem. The screen has tremendous clarity, the 12-inch size is superbly portable and the design is both bomb-proof and gorgeous. This is a superb laptop, this kind of quality and value for money is stunning, after 3 years I'm still delighted with it.



AngryAppleUser
Member rating:
February 9, 2004

I bought my iBook when my 4 year old IBM died. I was promised the best machine that existed. That was back in September. Since then, my computer has spent over 2 months in repair. I am on my third logic board, and second hard drive. This computer is 5 months old. It has been broken since I bought it and rather than replace it, they continue to attempt to fix it- they have sent it to Apple repair 3 times and it has been at the "Genius Bar" in the Apple store at least 5 times. The "Geniuses" are rude and un-accommodating- I am a college student and a teacher and spent the $2200 on a new computer because I can't affod to be without one. I have since spent $300 to repair my IBM- it's 4 years old and MUCH more reliable than my new iBook. I will NEVER purchase another Apple product.

In a most conservative fashion, away from the big lights of Macworld Expo keynotes, Steve Jobs introduced the new iBook on May 1. The latest Apple has been put under much scrutiny, especially with Apple's moves to successfully recapture the education market. The dual USB iBook sells like hot cakes in the consumer and education markets.

That said, how does it perform in real life situations? We have been using the basic entry-level model for several weeks, and now is the time to report on it. This is the first piece of a three-part iBook evaluation.
Specifications

* Suggested price: US$1,299 ($1,249 educational)
* System: Mac OS 9.1 and X
* Processor: 500 MHz G3
* Bus: 66 MHz
* RAM: 64 MB on base model, 128 MB on others
* Level 2 cache: 256 KB on-chip cache
* Video: ATI Rage Mobility 128 with 2x AGP
* VRAM: 8 MB
* Display: 12.1" 24-bit SVGA (maximum of 1024x768)
* Video out: VGA and composite video
* Hard disk drive: 10 GB IDE
* Media drive: CD-ROM
* Ports: two USB, one FireWire, one 10/100Base-T ethernet and 56k modem
* Microphone: built in
* Size: 11.2 x 9.1 x 1.35"
* Weight: 4.9 pounds

Design and iBookCasing

The first hands-on feeling made us think that the casing is tiny, at least if we compare the new iBook to most models of its class. We find this to be a good compromise between portability and screen space. The form factor pleases us. We appreciate the gender-neutral and yet modern-looking white exterior. The slight touch of gray inside made us think that this iBook shares DNA with the Titanium PowerBook. We definitely liked the inside because its appearance connects with the born-again trend of silver-looking electronics.

We found the simple "no curves" concept nice. The first iBook's curves added useless size and weight to a computer closed iBookthat could have been made smaller. The new slim case addressed this complaint. The current iBook is small enough for us to carry in a backpack. This has to be a plus for all students.
Setup

To our surprise, no system software was installed on the hard drive when we took the iBook out of the box. We had to boot the computer from a restore CD and start installing the system software. We had to insert and take out four different discs, and the installation process took a painful 30 minutes. It did not give us options regarding what to install, and it installed Mac OS X along with Mac OS 9.1 by default. After a restart, the iBook was ready to go, but we found this optionless process inconvenient.

After restarting, a special "first run" assistant took us through a basic customization setup that handled general settings.

The iBook comes with a few bundled software titles, from a couple of games to fax software, without forgetting QuickTime, iTunes, and free Internet software. In our opinion, the most interesting title of all is AppleWorks. It is a nice little productivity suite if you cannot afford Microsoft Office, and we enjoyed rediscovering it, having used ClarisWorks a few years ago.
Expansion

After installing our system software, we wanted to add resources to our new portable. We bought a 128 MB RAM chip and installed it. We removed the keyboard from its normal position and had to remove a couple of screws sow e could locate the RAM slots. We seated the chip, closed everything properly, and started the computer. The iBook recognized the RAM without problems. The 192 MB of RAM would prove to be useful. The preinstalled 64 MB is a ridiculous amount for users who want to do more than run one or two applications at a time.
AirPort

How could one use an iBook without AirPort wireless connectivity? We wanted to experience digital lifestyle without wires, so we bought two AirPort cards. We inserted the first one in the iBook by following the instructions present in the documentation. The second one found its home in our Power Mac G4, which, in the circumstances, serves as a software base station. To create the wireless network, we simply launched the AirPort assistant on both machines and followed the steps. Once done, the wireless connection established itself and we could surf the Internet wirelessly from the iBook.

We experienced connection problems. We thought that the iBook software's language (Canadian French) might have been an obstacle. When we saw that the iBook's version of AirPort was not the latest, we ran a software update from Apple's servers. After a quick update and a restart, the connectivity problems disappeared.
Documentation

The usual mandatory material (warranty, AppleCare, license, stickers, etc.) makes up for most of the documentation. Apart from that, there are three key documents:

* A "before you start" document with information about switching from Mac OS 9.1 to Mac OS X, configuration, and notes about some of the software titles that ship with the computer.
* An iBook manual gives a quick physical description of the iBook, discusses the basics of the Mac OS, the Internet, multimedia, and how to install an AirPort card. Along with the above information, it provides troubleshooting tips.
* A Mac OS X manual that gives a quick (but too short) overview of Apple's new generation of operating system.

At a glance, the new iBook G4 notebooks look almost identical to their predecessors, but beneath their unchanged ice-white covers, they've undergone a major upgrade. If you're in the market for a mobile Mac at a bargain price, you no longer have to settle for last year's standards. In terms of core processing and connectivity technologies, this overhaul brings the low-end laptops in line with the rest of the Mac family.

Specifically, the new iBooks move up not only from the G3 processor to the G4, but also to a next-generation memory system. On the wireless front, they are the first iBooks to support AirPort Extreme (802.11g) networking (a $99 option), as well as Bluetooth connections to compatible phones, wireless keyboards and mice, and other devices. (Plan ahead if you want Bluetooth: it's available only in built-to-order configurations, for $50.)

While the single FireWire port is still the old FireWire 400 flavor (1394a), the two USB ports now support version 2.0 of that standard, enabling much faster data exchange with USB 2.0 external drives, cameras, card readers, and scanners. And the built-in optical drives are now slot loading; the easily damaged trays of previous iBooks are gone. And of course, the new models come with Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther).
Same Look, Same Weight

The last major makeover of the iBook line, back in May 2001, included a dramatic redesign: the flamboyant colors and bulky curves of the original clamshell iBook gave way to cool white and rectangular lines -- the same styling later adopted for the iPod. This time, Apple's industrial designers opted to stick with that distinctive look. The new models feature the same compact design, sturdy feel, and white polycarbonate plastic case as their predecessors. Aside from the new optical-media slot, the only noticeable change is that the keys are no longer translucent.



The 2001 overhaul also resulted in iBooks that were almost two pounds lighter than the clamshell models. Unfortunately, that's another dimension that has scarcely changed: the entry-level version, with a 12-inch display, still weighs 4.9 pounds, while the two models with 14-inch screens weigh 5.9 pounds. And the new iBooks continue to deliver excellent battery life. We couldn't match Apple's promise of as much as six hours per charge, but in moderate use, we got more than four and a half hours with the default Energy Saver settings.
Good, Better, Best?

Apple is offering three iBook G4 models in retail outlets and as standard configurations at the online Apple Store. In the past, the company generally offered two models with a 12.1-inch screen and only one with a 14.1-inch display. This time it has reversed that ratio: only the entry-level, $1,099 model, with an 800GHz G4 and a 30GB hard drive, has a 12.1-inch screen. The other two versions, a $1,299 model with a 933MHz processor and a 40GB drive, and a $1,499 version with a 1GHz G4 and a 60GB drive, have the larger screen -- and the extra space and weight it requires.

Before you choose, remember that the larger-screen models don't actually display any more data than their smaller-screen siblings: all three models are limited to a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels. The difference is in the size of the pixels. When you squeeze that many into a 12.1-inch display, they have to be pretty small, and as a result, some people -- especially those with vision problems -- may find small type and other fine details hard to decipher.

If you're in that category, the 14.1-inch models may well be worth the extra cost and weight. If you can easily read small type -- and you don't mind a slightly slower processor and smaller hard drive -- you might want to opt for the 12.1-inch screen. You'll save money and come away with a notebook that's noticeably easier to haul around.

There's another change in the iBook line: a CD-RW/DVD-ROM (Combo) drive is now standard in all three models, even the lowest-priced configuration, which in the G3 generation came with a CD-ROM drive. (If you order through Apple's Web store, you can downgrade the 14-inch models to CD-ROM and save $100; this option isn't currently available for the 12-inch model.)

All three configurations also come with 256MB of memory. In one sense, that's a welcome, if belated, step forward. Given today's low RAM prices and the demands of OS X, there was no good excuse for continuing to offer just 128MB as standard equipment in most configurations.

The problem is that the new models have only half their memory soldered to the logic board; the other 128MB come in the form of a DIMM occupying the single RAM-expansion slot. If you want to add memory -- as many users surely will -- to get the most out of OS X, you have to throw away the 128MB DIMM to make way for a larger one. (If you order from Apple's Web store, you can avoid the issue by upgrading up front to 384MB of total memory, for $50, or 640MB, for $150.) Officially, 640MB is the maximum amount of RAM the new iBooks support, but some suppliers are already offering 1GB modules, boosting total memory to 1,152MB. If you buy third-party RAM, make sure it has been tested and certified for the iBook G4. We discovered that generic RAM, even if it appears to be compatible, can cause a variety of problems. Installing third-party RAM and/or exceeding the stated maximum iBook memory don't automatically affect your warranty, but Apple says that if your computer is damaged by or operates poorly with unsupported brands or RAM levels, your warranty will not cover the cost of repairs.
Architectural Enhancements

Compared to the G3, the chip that powered all previous iBooks, the G4 processor not only runs at higher clock speeds but also adds AltiVec (also known as Velocity Engine), a special feature that speeds up some routines commonly used by graphics, multimedia, and cryptographic applications.

The net effect is a welcome performance boost over the old G3 iBooks -- even though the version of the G4 chip Apple uses in the new models has only 256KB of on-chip Level 2 cache, half the amount built into the version of the G3 used in the previous iBooks.

This speed increase ranges from modest in some operations to dramatic in others, particularly with software that takes advantage of AltiVec. In our Speedmark benchmark tests, the 1GHz iBook G4 outscored the fastest previous iBook, which featured a 900MHz G3, by about 21 percent overall. But if you look at the individual tests that score is based on, the improvement is much more substantial in some cases: rendering an iMovie and encoding a song in AAC format are 30 percent to almost 40 percent faster on the 1GHz G4.

The iBooks are still the slowest Macs on the shelf -- even the fastest model lags behind the eMac and the base iMac and PowerBook configurations, although all of those systems also have 1GHz G4s. At least the gap has narrowed, and while the speed of the new models won't knock anyone's socks off, they don't feel as if they're constantly laboring under OS X's demands, as older and low-end G3 iBooks did.
Macworld's Buying Advice

Unless you have problems with its small screen, the standout in the new iBook G4 line is the $1,099 model. By today's standards, it's a bit of a laggard in performance, but in other respects -- price, weight, and features -- it's an impressive value. In fact, aside from the speed penalty and a few features most users will never miss (such as a DVI-out port, an audio line-in jack, and support for extended-desktop mode with external monitors), it's a remarkably close match for the entry-level 12-inch PowerBook, which costs almost half again as much at $1,599.

Between the two 14-inch iBooks, our choice is the $1,299 model with a 933MHz processor. The slightly better performance and larger hard drive (60GB versus 40GB) of its 1GHz sibling hardly justify the $200 price difference -- especially because, if you have your iBook built to order, you can upgrade the 933MHz model's hard drive to 60GB for just $50 more.

I am writing this on a cafe in Copenhagen, as one should when reviewing a portable computer. All right, admittedly it does not have to be in Copenhagen, but ideally it should be

I have only had the "IceBook" for a few days, so this will not be an extensive review. But already I can say this: I like it a lot. It is small, light, and handy, and it is dang good looking. I will say the same as I did when I got my Cube, that it just feels good. I think that Apple Computer has done a great amount in recent years for the quality of computer hardware. (Software too for that matter.) I got my first Mac in 1995, a Powermac 7200, and the feel and quality of that machine is simply not in any way comparable to the machines in recent years. It was basically just a utilarian metal box, like most computers.

They say that god is in the details. Well, that is surely true, but I think that god (or whatever name you care to give to quality or other positive characteristics) is even more so in The Whole.

The thing is that if you put a lot of attention and effort into the details, but have never considered the Whole, then the thing is just never going to work. And this of course is true no matter if you are talking about a computer, a painting, a book, a house, a project, or whatever. Making thousands of parts all work well together takes a lot of considering. And it takes the ability to consider the details and the Whole all at the same time, which is the greatest trick of all, and possibly the big difference between the dillitante and the master.

Both the details (like the excellent screen and the most silent hard disk I have (not) heard) and the whole of the iBook work well together. It is telling that Jobs felt compelled to mention at the release press conference that Apple had been "working on it for a while" (I would guess a year and a half at least). It takes time and effort to make such a beautiful integrated object.

One detail worth mentioning, partly because it is one of the less obvious ones, is the trackpad. I have been the happy owner of a Lombard G3 Apple PowerBook from 1999 (the fastest model, 400Hhz) for two years, and it is a great machine. One thing I liked to do, though, was to bring a mouse along whenever I wanted to do some work on which required me to use a pointing device more than occasionally. To my big surprise, this is not the case with the iBook, with this machine the trackpad operation is much more effortless, and I use it almost as easily as a mouse (with which I have had much more practice). In other words, Apple has somehow managed to design a new trackpad which is so much easier and smoother to use that it makes all the difference to me. And the thing is that I had no idea that the old one was not as good as it could get. Probably nobody else did either, until Apple dicided to spend money and time doing research on the subject, and came up with a big and nice trackpad (with a big and very soft click button), which is just very effortless to use.

Similarly the screen's hinge. It is a very pretty, solid industrial-like block-hinge, which nevertheless looks good. And it puts the screen a bit lower and further away, which is great. And the keyboard really nice for me, the best laptop keyboard I have tried. Which is saying something considering the small size of the machine and the large size of my hands.

My point is that Apple, like other great inventors, don't just improve things that people are complaining about. They put new things in the world, they don't just work on what is already there. Before Apple put a computer on the market in 1984 with a picture screen with windows and a mouse-like thingy to move things around with, nobody was asking for something like that! Practically nobody on the planet had any idea that something like could even exist, much less be desirable. In a similar vein, there is an interesting story about the invention of the minivan (source: Guy Kawasaki's book Rules for Revelutionaries): It was tough getting anybody interested in building a thing like that, because there was absolutely no demand for one. Never had any single letter arrived to the car manufacturors which asked for something in between a normal family car and a van. And still when the minivan arrived on the market it filled a big need, and it has been a stable on the market and the streets ever since.

Scientists predict. Artists create.

The iBook, Apple's curvy and colorful new notebook computer, has been compared to everything from a Creamsicle to a toilet seat and lid. It's also been called a ``people magnet'' and ``almost a sensuous object of desire.'' Most of the buzz has been about the $1,599 machine's design, which is every bit as distinctive among laptops as the iMac was on the desktop -- and even more controversial because some complain that it looks like a ``girly computer.''

But on the theory that you can't judge an iBook by its cover, I'll steer clear of such debates. Instead, I'll focus on what the iBook is and isn't good for, based on my experience using it daily for the past few weeks.

In general, with one important qualification and a few additional cautions, I think it's a terrific computer for the purposes for which it mainly was designed. Just make sure your needs match its talents and pay attention to the caveats, or you'll be sorry.

In terms of the components that differentiate great laptops from also-rans -- the screen, the keyboard and the battery -- the iBook is a clear winner: -- The screen. It measures 12.1 inches diagonally, which is relatively modest compared with many competitors. But it displays an ample 800 by 600 pixels, and it's as bright and crisp as they come; to my eye, it's better than most desktop monitors. -- The keyboard. It's made of white plastic and is pleasant to work at. The main keys are full-size, and the wrist rests are generous and comfortable. -- The battery. According to Apple, it can keep the device working for ``up to six hours.'' That's more than twice the industry norm. In real life, your mileage will vary depending on how you use the machine, but in my testing, I frequently got more than five hours per charge.

Part of the reason the battery lasts so long is that the machine goes into power-saving mode whenever it's been idling for ``a substantial period of time (a half second or so),'' as the technical documentation for the machine puts it.

It also automatically goes into a deep and silent sleep whenever you close its clamshell case. In that state, it draws fewer than 7 watts of power, compared with 5 watts when it's completely shut down but still plugged in.

Unless you're worried about that 2-watt differential, that means you never have to shut down at all. The big advantage: When you lift the lid again, you're right back where you left off in about 15 seconds, without having to wait for the minute or two it takes to boot up from scratch.

As exceptional as the iBook is with these sensitive components, it's anything but outstanding with respect to some more mundane ones.

For one thing, the hard disk has a capacity of only 3.2 gigabytes. Today's software eats gigabytes for breakfast, and 3.2 of them won't last long -- especially if you get into collecting MP3 digital-audio cuts or QuickTime movies.

A worse problem is that the iBook comes with only 32 megabytes of RAM. That may sound like a lot, but Apple's operating system grabs most of it -- about 28 megabytes -- before you even have a chance to launch a program.

With so little memory free, the iBook has to depend on ``virtual memory'' -- a technique that fools the system into using some hard disk space as if it were RAM. Apple configures it to give the machine an effective memory of 64 megabytes, but you pay a severe performance penalty because drives, even fast ones, are always much slower than real RAM. When I first hooked the iBook up to the Internet, I was struck immediately by how sluggish it felt downloading even routine pages.

To check my impression, I fired up my Windows 95 laptop, a 2-year- old Fujitsu model with a lowly 150- megahertz Pentium chip but 48 megabytes of memory. Stopwatch in hand, I timed how long it took Internet Explorer on each machine to connect to 15 representative Web sites, including Apple's own home page, online store and QuickTime site.

Results: The Fujitsu took a total of 81.1 seconds, or an average of 5.4 seconds per site, while the iBook needed 190.6 seconds in all, or 12.7 on average.

In other words, even though Apple calls the iBook ``the second-fastest notebook in the world'' (after the PowerBook G3, naturally) and says it was designed specifically for Internet access, my ancient PC laptop ran rings around it on the Web.

After totaling up those results, I appealed to Apple to lend me some extra memory for testing. They sent up another 32 megabytes, which I installed myself with only a minimum of grief. Then I redid my tests, without in any other way reconfiguring the system. This time, the iBook needed only 75.1 seconds in all to download the same 15 pages, or an average of just 5 seconds.

The moral of the story is clear: With only 32 megabytes of RAM -- the only configuration Apple offers -- the iBook is a crippled computer.

Clearly, the company should make 64 megabytes standard, as it did in its revamped iMac models. Because the company chose not to do so -- ``We had a price point to hit,'' a senior executive explained -- you'll have to do it yourself, or get your dealer to do it or keep living with the World Wide Wait.

Unfortunately, the ever-volatile price of RAM has risen sharply of late. An extra 32 megabytes today likely will cost you between $130 and $200 extra; an extra 64 megabytes, which I'd recommend, will set you back $200 to $300.

Before you plunk down the cash, though, consider some of the iBook's other limitations: -- Size and weight. The iBook is pretty big and pretty heavy to carry around. Not that it's much different from most comparably priced Windows notebooks marketed to consumers -- IBM's latest consumer ThinkPads are a shade smaller but weigh even more (7.7 to 7.8 pounds).

Still, as I can attest from carrying the iBook back and forth between home and The Chronicle for the past few weeks -- by foot and by BART -- 6.6 pounds, on top of my usual load, is a lot to haul around.

As for air travel, even if I were willing to cart it through the airport, I don't think one could even open it on an airline tray, at least not in coach class. Apple's marketing materials say the machine ``was born to travel,'' but they must mean by car.

Another note about the size issue: Apple made the machine's footprint on the desktop even larger than necessary by putting all of its ports and the power connector on the sides rather than in back, apparently to leave the rear clear for the handle. Personally, I'd much rather have the cables out of sight behind the screen, rather than dangling from both sides like an unruly mane. -- Limited expandability. In the name of simplifying and modernizing the Mac architecture, Apple has eliminated the serial, keyboard-and- mouse and SCSI ports that were standard on its old models.

They even omitted a microphone jack, spoiling my plan to try out video-conferencing with my iMac- equipped daughter in college, and a video-out port for connecting to a larger display or projection system -- a significant deficiency, I should think, in one of its target markets, K- 12 classrooms. And unlike almost every other notebook today, the iBook lacks a slot for plugging in the credit-card-size add-ons known as PC Cards.

In fairness, it's true, as Apple argues, that most PC Card slots are used for modems or network adapters, and the iBook has both a 56K modem and a fast Ethernet connector built in. But those who might like to add something else are out of luck.

Unless, that is, you can find the features you'd like to add in the form of an external device you can connect to the iBook's Universal Serial Bus port. Recent months have brought a rising tide of USB products, including printers, scanners, video-capture devices, Zip drives, CD-ROM burners, pocket-size MP3 music players and lots more. Many of these products work on Macs as well as PCs.

USB was designed to handle up to 127 devices simultaneously, but you need ports to plug them into. Unfortunately, Apple cut another corner by giving the iBook only one port. If you use it for your printer (or for an adapter connected to an older printer) and then you decide to add, say, a Zip or floppy drive, which Apple doesn't offer even as an optional extra, you'll have to purchase a USB hub with extra ports.

The good news is that these hubs aren't expensive -- they start at $35 or so -- and they couldn't be easier to set up. But considering that Apple, by removing all other expansion connectors, put so much weight on USB, it could at least have provided a pair of these ports.

On the other side of the ledger, the iBook has one other important feature I haven't mentioned yet: support for wireless networking. Sometime during the next few weeks, Apple will begin selling its $99 AirPort card. Plug it into a special slot inside the machine and you should be able to communicate at 11 megabits per second -- faster, if only slightly, than the typical office network -- over a distance of up to 150 feet without a wire connection.

Of course, you'll need a similarly equipped device to communicate with. Apple will sell an AirPort ``base station'' -- a flying-saucer-shaped device equipped with its own modem and network connector so that it can serve as a link to the Internet for up to 10 client machines with AirPort cards -- for $299.

But the company also is building AirPort slots into all its latest models, and any Mac that has both an AirPort card and a modem or network connection, even another iBook, can function as a base station for just the cost of the $99 card.

The AirPort products aren't available yet, so I wasn't able to test them. But if they perform as advertised, they'll give the iBook a significant advantage over any other current laptop.

With or without AirPort, the iBook is a great choice for many settings -- for use in a dorm room or small apartment or in a classroom, or for anyone who just enjoys surfing the Web in an easy chair or catching up on work out on the deck.

Just be sure its weight and its limited expandability won't interfere with your plans for it.

And don't forget to budget for that extra memory.
IBOOK IN A NUTSHELL

Price: $1,599

Colors: ``Blueberry'' and white, ``tangerine'' and white.

Processor: 300-megahertz PowerPC G3 with 512 kilobytes of performance-enhancing ``Level 2 cache''

Memory: 32 megabytes built in, plus one slot for additional RAM (up to a total of 160 megabytes)

Screen: 12.1 inch (diagonal) TFT

Graphics chip: ATI Rage Mobility 2x AGP; 4 megabytes video RAM

Hard drive: 3.2-gigabyte IDE

CD-ROM drive speed: 24x

Modem: 56K built-in

Networking: Built-in Ethernet adapter runs at 10 or 100 megabits per second; AirPort wireless networking option.

Expansion: One USB port.

Weight: 6.6 pounds

Dimensions: 13.5 inches wide, 11.6 inches deep and an average of 1.8 inches deep (depending on where you measure it).

Included software: AppleWorks productivity suite (word processing, spreadsheet, database, graphics, etc.); Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook Express; Netscape Communicator; America Online; Palm Desktop (for sharing data with Palm handheld); FAXstf (for sending and receiving faxes via modem); Bugdom.

.

PROS

Great screen, excellent keyboard, exceptional battery life, stylish design, good performance when extra memory added, promising wireless networking option

CONS

Standard memory configuration hobbles performance, too large and heavy for comfortable carrying, no PC Card slot, only one USB port

Most of you know the specifications for Apple's new lovable portable, but for those who don't, here they come.

G3 300MHz Processor
32 MB RAM
3.2 GB HD
12.1" Active Matrix Display
Full Size Standard Keyboard and Trackpad
Built-in Stereo 3D Speaker
1 Stereo Out port, One 12Mbps USB Port
10/100Base-T Ethernet Port
56k v.90 Compatible Modem

Upgrading your iBook

This is a great laptop if you purchase it stock, with no extras, although most of you would need some extras added to it. The first of these would be RAM. I purchased a 64MB RAM module to add to my iBook. The total is now up to 96MB with the help of the two SO-DIMM RAM slots. 32MB of RAM will work for many users as long as Virtual Memory is also turned on, but to have several apps running at one time, or to use more RAM intensive apps, you will want to upgrade the RAM.

Ethernet

The second upgrade I added to my iBook that many people might need is an Ethernet network, only this will involve upgrading your other Macs. Like most people, the iBook isn't their only machine. Sure the iBook comes with built-in Ethernet, but some older Macintosh models, Like a 6100 series or PowerMacintosh of slightly older Performa model, do not come with built-in Ethernet. The ethernet network will make it easy to transfer data to and from the iBook to another computer. What you will need is simple:

A 5-Port hub
2 Category 5 Ethernet Cables
An Ethernet Card in your other computer(s)

If you don't have an ethernet card in your other Machine, you will want to add a 10/100base-T Ethernet card to it. One I recommend is one from Asante. Having the network makes it easy to get data. For instance, I am able to get files from my SCSI Orb Drive and SCSI Zip Drive that is attached to the other computer even though the iBook does not have SCSI capabilities. I simply go to the Network Browser or the Chooser, click on my desktop machine, enter my password and click on the volume. Voilá, the volume instantly appears on the iBook's desktop.

AirPort

If you simply don't want to have wires, since the iBook is a wireless capable machine you can always purchase the iBook Airport Bundle. This will make it even easier to get files to and from the iBook and your desktop machine. You simply change the Appletalk Control Panel to Airport and there you are sitting on a 11Mbps Network, and best of all, no wires! This works great with multiple iBooks, or a network with the new PowerMac G4s and/or the new iMac models. These models all have AirPort capabilities. PowerBooks have PC card options that make them AirPort capable. Apple has tips for adding other PowerMacs to an AirPort network on their AirPort FAQ page.

Onto the important stuff!

By now you are saying, you aren't telling me anything I don't know. If you have any other questions, you can simply go to the iBook's Home Page or surf Apple's TIL Library for any technical questions you may have about it. The big question for the iBook around this season is, is it really a student computer? One that I can use at home and at school? The answer is YES!

Taking it to school

I took the iBook to school with me for a day just to test this out and I enjoyed it a lot. I could simply turn on my iBook and not disturb anyone. The machine is so quiet you can barely hear the hard drive spin and read. If you mute the sound, the startup chime won't be heard either. Using the free Palm Desktop, you can easily enter your homework into the Tasks list and now you have your homework wherever you take your homework. No more losing papers no more space being taken up in your backpack for some Agenda Book. It simply sits on your hard drive and comes up on the screen when it needs to be taken care of.

Some real practical uses of the iBook in school is using it to take notes. Though I got more compliments on how cute and pretty it is from both guys and girls, it's powerful features and flexibility in the environment is the best I have ever seen in a laptop computer. The computer is built from the same plastic used in bullet proof vests and has .8mm of rubber welded around the edges of the computer, both display and base, so that if it gets bumped, no scratches or other marks to mar the beauty of the machine. This makes it a physically sturdy computer but what about the non physical side? Well, the iBook comes equipped with tons of different kinds of software, but the most valuable that comes with it would have to be AppleWorks 5. In any class I can simply have AppleWorks open and take notes at the push of some keyboard keys.

Most people can type faster than they can write, due to the skills learned from too many IM's from friends and family while online. You can take detailed notes on any subject that you have. I took Finals notes in English, Biology, Geometry, and French and had them at my finger tips when I went to study for them. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the wireless portion of the iBook will be taken advantage of in school systems for a while now. Most schools are spending their money on getting machines or setting up cabled networks. If you are lucky enough to get a wireless capable network in your school. Take advantage of it.

Battery Life

The battery lasts on average 6.6 hours. That was enough for me and I had plenty of power to do a presentation on how to use the internet in my English class.

Conclusion

The iBook is definitely a winner for any student this holiday season, and any season really. If you have any questions about the iBook be sure to E-Mail Me, or post on our Forum Board, and I or anyone else will help you.

Speed Fast
Look & Feel Excellent
Comfort & Portability Excellent
Robustness & Durability Good
Value For Money Excellent

Advantages: Lightweight, Durable .
Disadvantages: Lack of software and connectivity .

Recommend to potential buyers: yes

Full review
The iBook G3 is a very small laptop (12.1" screen) designed simply to be lightweight and durable. This it accomplishes with flying colours!

The iBook i am reviewing is a 500MHZ PowerPC G3 iBook with 192MB of RAM and a 10GB Hard disk with Mac OS X 10.3

The OS comes with a bundle of software such as TextEdit, iTunes and iPhoto. These all prove to be useful bits of software. Unfortunatley this is the full extent of the software. Because of the lack of processing power, hardly any Mac applications will run on the iBook. I personally tried playing a few game demos, non of which would run because of the 4MB graphics card that is in the laptop.

For the processor speed (500MHZ) the laptop performed very well indeed with menus loading almost instantly and never any lag between switching programs, even with all of OSX's effects on.
Another problem is that the laptop is not really futureproof, as the maximum RAM that it can support is 640MB.

I found the hard disk space sufficient only for a few mp3s and a few documents as OS X takes up most of the 10GB...

I found the laptop to be very durable however. It had been dropped numerous times and barely had a scratch on it. Brilliant feature for the clumsy among us ;)

The lack of connectivity on the laptop also proved to be a problem. All i had was a firewire port, 2 usb and a network port. Not really sufficient for regular use where you may need an external display.

The battery life of the iBook was one of the best i have ever seen. It lasted me an 8 hour flight somehow playing music all the way! The charging time is a bit long but it is well worth the wait.

I paid around £250 for the laptop, just over 18 months ago from eBay. I believe the laptop was well worth the money, but really could do with extra features.

Another feature i found quite amusing (sad i know) is the white apple that glows on the back of the screen just to let everyone know that you are using a Mac.

I decided to purchase this iBook simply because of the operating system and battery life. I have always been a fan of Macs but after using this laptop it seems to have put me off a little.

Overall i believe this laptop is great value for money and would be fine for anybody only wishing to do word processing or for people that require a long battery life. Other than that i wouldn't really reccomend the laptop to anybody that wishes to play games of any kind....



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Found everything I could and posted it for you greatd... hope this helps :thumbup: