Apple creates a titan

Computer maker adds some sex appeal to its new PowerBook

In addition to kudos for creating a laptop with some style in addition to its technical substance, give Apple some extra credit for creating a new status symbol among Hollywood’s digerati.

Just like the Compaq’s similarly silver iPaq handheld and the Blackberry pager, Apple’s new Titanium PowerBook G4 breaks new ground as the new must-have tech toy for the work-obsessed. It hits a home run with its all-metal-encased replacement for the previously clunky black PowerBook G3.

Titanium’s eye-catching design; clear, bright, colorful 15.2-inch-wide screen display; fast performance; and clever slot-loading drive are definite pluses for anyone who wants to shell out $4,000 for the high-end model.

Yet, the device’s short battery life and lack of expansion bay for an extra disk drive are drawbacks. So is the finicky arrow and questionable hesitation to run programs, music CDs and movies on DVD. And that’s even with the PowerBook’s G4 processor, meaning it can perform better than any previous PowerBook (or PC laptop).

Device is an anorexic 1 inch thick, and Apple shaved 14 ounces off the weight of the previous model. However, at 5.3 pounds, it is still about 1.5 pounds heavier than most Windows-based subnotebooks. Yet the computer gets too hot after long periods of use, meaning holding it on your lap won’t be an option on the go.

Our test unit represented the midrange PowerBook G4. For $3,500 you get a 500MHz G4 processor, 256MB of RAM and a spacious 20GB hard drive. Mac OS 9.1 comes preinstalled, in addition to Apple’s new jukebox program iTunes and Apple’s iMovie video-editing software.

Entertainment dot-coms iFilm and AtomFilms beware: The sites will be getting a lot more video submissions because of this device and the use of the easy-to-use editing software. About $500 more gets you a 30GB hard drive, an extra AC adapter and battery. A 400MHz version with a 10GB hard drive is available for $2,600.

The G4 processor doesn’t disappoint when running multiple graphic-intensive programs such as PhotoShop or QuarkExpress, or watching DVDs, putting it in the same league as Power Mac G4 desktops, used by production houses and graphic design shops. Only this time, the machine and the work are portable.

Yet the PowerBook’s battery life didn’t live up to the five hours as promised by Apple. In fact, the fully charged unit lasted only 2 hours 5 minutes — not long enough to play “Gladiator.” The stereo speakers, situated on each side of the top end of the keyboard, provide decent sound. And even after playing with display options, the widescreen still has trouble showing darkly lit scenes on video; brighter scenes are crystal clear.

Other technical credits include a single FireWire port (down from two in the PowerBook G3), an Ethernet port, two USB ports, a vent for the cooling fan, a VGA monitor port, an S-Video port, a reset button, a 56kbps internal modem port and an IrDA infrared port. External peripherals via the FireWire or USB ports can be added, but the resulting appendage may be inconvenient to carry when traveling.

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