The Power of Mac

Tempting New iBooks?

Eric Schwarz - 2002.05.21

I was very excited about the newest TiBooks that came out recently (not that I had a chance of getting one), but, as the owner of a Fall 2001 iBook, I'd like to give you my take on the new iBooks that came out yesterday.

Changes Summarized

The new iBooks will do a wonderful job of carrying on where the other iBooks left off. Besides replacing the 500/600 MHz processors with 600/700 MHz processors, Apple also doubled the size of the level 2 cache, bringing the total to 512 KB. Also new is an improved graphics system - 16 MB ATI Radeon, which is just barely enough to run Quartz Extreme.

Other than that, the hard drive sizes were upped, as well as a faster combo drive on the 700 MHz models. Two other changes are the lack of an external reset button (it seems) and the AV port is now just sound-out (the V part of AV is now rolled into the former RGB-out port).

Faster Processors

Speed bumps processor-wise are always nice, even if 600 and 700 MHz are not much by today's standards. [Editor's note: The new CPUs have a 17-20% higher MHz rating and double the cache for maybe 20-25% total boost. Not too shabby.] IBM does have a 1 GHz G3 ready to be used in iBooks, but it seems Apple is afraid of having an iBook that looks faster than their "pro" TiBook. What about the Megahertz Myth, Apple? I thought MHz didn't matter? Well, how 'bout sticking that fast G3 into the iBook so that it is up to par with most of the consumer G4s?

The increased cache is very nice (or so I'm told) for various processor-intensive tasks. I remember back in the 540c days when upgrading the 33 MHz '040 to a 100 MHz 603e was a big deal....

More Cumbersome Video Output

On the first iBooks, video-out wasn't possible out of the box. On the last of the wonderful toilet-seaty models, AV out (composite audio/video) was possible through the headphone jack. This was a $20 option that was achieved through the use of a cable. The first of the P29 iBooks (iceBooks) featured not only this AV out port, but also a funny, miniature RGB port that, when used with the included cable, could mirror the iBook's display on a VGA monitor. The newest iBooks carry on this tradition - sort of.

Gone is the AV port, replaced with your ordinary, average headphone jack. The composite video out has been moved to yet another dongle that plugs into the RGB-out port. This new dongle now includes S-video out as well. This changed(?) RGB port, which looks the same on the newest iBooks as it has on every other model, is what you would use to connect to not only VGA displays, but also S-video and composite displays. Personally, I think this is rather dumb, as the AV cable was not quite as bulky as the new AV dongle. Also, in theory, with the old iBooks you could run a VGA display and a composite display at the same time. The new ones you have to choose either VGA or composite/S-video.

And that leads me to S-video: Who exactly uses it other than professionals? Our TV has a connection for it, as does our VCR, but we still use the ol' composite RCA plug to run things to each other. I'd love to see Apple market an RF modulator to allow iBooks to work with any TV.

Minor Things

Apple did speed bump the Combo drive, changing the write speed from 4x to 8x. This doesn't seem like quite a big deal until you realize that burning a full CD takes less than 10 minutes now. However, the old 4x drive in my iBook isn't bad at 20 minutes per disc.

Apple also ditched the left-side reset button in this model. I'm not sure if they put it somewhere else, but for security purposes, it would make sense. In the three months I've had my iBook, I've never used this, as control-command-power fixes things most of the time.

Good, but I'm Not Going to Upgrade

In Dan Knight's article discussing the newest PowerBook G4s (TiBook Value: New vs. Old), he mentions that some of the revisions to the TiBook after his weren't compelling enough to make him replace his TiBook. I feel the same way about the new iBooks. For the school tasks and Internet stuff I do, I'm perfectly happy with my iBook. I think that the three months I've had my iBook are worth the extra 100 MHz/8 MB VRAM/S-video that I missed out on. I'm still standing firm that the AV cable is a much nicer solution than that dongle Apple has for the new iBooks.

An Apple Opportunity

Finally, this week, I'd just like to mention that at the end of 60 Minutes last night, Andy Rooney was complaining about how much crap he has to carry with his 3-pound Sony Vaio laptop when he travels (the external floppy drive, external CD drive, huge power brick, cables, printer, printer AC adapter, etc. etc.). This just seems like an Apple ad waiting to happen. LEM

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