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Review Apple's iBook has undergone a significant redesign of late and the result is a laptop that's sure to appeal to a wide range of users. Gone are the bright colours of previous models. In their place is a lighter, smaller machine that won't embarrass you when you're seen with it in public.
At 2.2kg and just 3.4cm thick, the iBook is small enough to be considered by anyone looking for a sub-notebook, but its features and power have more in common with a fully specified laptop. At its heart is a 500MHz G3 processor which, while lagging behind some of the high-end Pentium III portables, is more than a match for any other laptop in its price range. The 10GB hard drive is not particularly generous, but is comparable with other machines at the same price. An 8MB ATI Rage 128 Mobility graphics chip serves the 1024x768 pixel 12.1in display incredibly well. The result is text and images which, given the number of pixels crammed into such a small space, is remarkably pleasing on the eye.
Performance is let down, however, by the system bus speed which is limited to 66MHz. Desktop Macs and the PowerBook G4 have a bus speed of 100MHz, and the performance difference is evident in tests. Although fast, the iBook is slower than a similarly rated iMac, and the PowerBook G4 easily outperforms it – but then as it costs £1000 more you would expect it to. Nevertheless, the iBook is fast enough for most tasks and applications you care to throw at it. Our only other complaint with regard to system specification is the amount of supplied RAM. Of the four iBook models available one ships with only 64MB, while the other three are stocked with 128MB. Given that Mac OS X - Apple's next-generation operating system - which is to be preinstalled on all new Macs, needs a minimum of 128MB to run, this is very poor.
The only other difference in the four iBook models is in the choice of optical drive. Unlike most laptops of its size, the iBook comes with a built-in drive. You can choose from CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-RW or a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive. Although there is a £200 premium for the latter model, as is often the case with Apple, the middle two machines (DVD-ROM and CD-RW) offer the best value. The two CD-RW machines come with built-in disc burning capability via Apple's Disc Burner. All of the models also ship with iTunes for MP3s and CD creation, and iMovie 2.0 for digital video-editing.
The impressive feature set continues with the selection of interface ports. The iBook features two USB ports, a FireWire port, 10/100-BaseT ethernet, 56Kbps (kilobits per second) V.90 modem and two proprietary ports. One of these, described by Apple as an RGB port, enables the iBook’s display to be mirrored on an external monitor. The other port, which is called the AV port, allows composite video and audio output. The AV port also doubles as a headphone jack. Disappointingly, the cable needed for the AV port must be bought separately (at a cost of £15), although the RGB cable is in the box. The iBook also features support, with the addition of an extra card, for Apple's wireless AirPort technology. A reasonable pair of internal stereo speakers completes the hardware features.
The iBook is neither the smallest nor the most powerful notebook around, but it combines power, features and form factor to make it the ideal all-round portable. Add to that its good looks and wireless networking ability, and we'd go so far as to say it's one of the most desirable and affordable notebooks on the market. ®
Contact: 0800 783 4846
Processor: 500MHz PowerPC G3
Screen Size: 12.1in
Ram: 64MB (CD-ROM model) 128MB (other models)
Hard Drive: 10GB
Maximum resolution: 1024x768
Graphics card: ATI Rage Mobility 128 8MB
This review is taken from the August 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication
Copyright © 2001 IDG. All rights reserved