I’ve been catching up on what’s happened since I took off for the mountains ten days ago with the steering wheel for a 1990 VW Vanagon in one hand and a digital camera in the other. After reading about iTunes for Windows, new Belkin devices for the iPod, and (finally) G4 iBooks, I’m thinking I should take off for another week just to see what else Steve will announce while I’m gone.
All this new stuff sounds great, but I want to focus on the G4 iBooks for a minute, especially the 12″ model, which I think is still one of the most distinctive computers Apple produces. I’d be surprised if you haven’t read the tech specs yet, so I’m going to jump right in to fray.
First of all, I’m pleased about the G4 processor in the 12″, but I would have liked a 1 GHz option to complement the 800 MHz offering. I know Apple is trying to keep distinction between the PowerBooks and the iBooks, but I don’t think throttling down the speed is the answer. Some people like aluminum, and others like impact-resistant polycarbonate plastic. Let’s have all of the notebooks run as fast as possible and let the customers sort out which models best suit their needs.
I’m really happy to see the slot-loading optical drive added to the iBooks. And I’m not particularly distressed that there isn’t a SuperDrive option for the iBooks. This is an area where it makes sense to differentiate the iBooks from the PowerBooks.
Still only one slot to expand RAM? Ack! That needs to be changed. Limiting the iBook to 640 MBs of RAM is a shame that could easily be fixed. But two USB 2.0 ports… excellent. You only get FireWire 400 (instead of 800 also), but I don’t think that’s a problem at this stage of the game.
AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth options keep the iBook at the forefront or wireless connectivity. And the ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 with AGP 4X is a nice touch, although I was disappointed to see that the s-video connector is an optional item ($19). I think that should be in the box along with the VGA adapter that Apple still provides as standard equipment. After all, if you’re going to use your iBook as a DVD player, you’re more likely going to watch movies on a television monitor than a computer screen.
One other thing I want to mention. You can upgrade the standard 30 Gig hard drive to 60 Gig for an additional $75. Don’t even think twice about this one, just do it. As digital cameras continue to feature bigger sensors, and online music becomes easier to acquire, that hard drive space is valuable real estate.
So aside from the minor quibbles about the single RAM slot, optional s-video adapter, and only one processor offering, I think the iBook will continue to be an excellent option for those who need a light, rugged, network-savvy laptop. Not everyone likes metal. And I think those who prefer plastic should have powerful choices too. This latest offering is definitely a step in the right direction.
The starting price is $1,099 US. I recommend that you upgrade the RAM (to 640 MB), hard drive (to 60 GB), and add the AirPort Extreme card and s-video adapter, bringing the “real world” price to $1,442. That’s a lot of computer for the money, especially keeping in mind that it comes loaded with Panther.