February 23, 2001, 10:23 AM — Attention, video editing jocks: Apple's long-awaited PowerBook G4 might be just the fashionable ticket for churning out your next Spielberg-ian masterpiece. The futuristic-looking G4 features an extra-wide screen, high-speed ports, and video editing software, all in a tough, lightweight titanium case.
I looked at a shipping PowerBook G4 with a 500-MHz PowerPC G4 processor, 256MB of SDRAM, and a 20GB hard drive; it lists for $3499. A unit with a 400-MHz processor and half the memory and storage goes for $2599. Both configurations include a 15.2-inch screen, a fixed 6X DVD-ROM drive, a built-in 56-kbps modem, and a network interface.
With the G4, Apple hopes to lure those in the hip video editing crowd that might otherwise favor one of Sony's purple VAIO laptops as their portable studio. The G4 could succeed on looks alone. Its elongated screen, with a unique native resolution of 1152 by 768 pixels and a 3:2 aspect ratio, fits large application windows side by side.
The big screen requires the notebook case to measure an inch wider than standard. Nevertheless, the G4 is thin and relatively light, with an inch-tall case and 5.3-pound weight. Many laptops in the Windows world beat that weight, but they don't do it with such a large display. The PowerBook G4 offers more screen for pound than any other notebook we've seen.
The case is made mostly of titanium, which, according to Apple, is stronger than most metals, including the magnesium that several other notebook makers use. A thin, light bezel of carbon fiber (another exotic compound not typically found in notebooks) surrounds the base of the PowerBook, reportedly for extra structural rigidity. The materials work well enough; the notebook seems sturdy.
Minimalists will like the G4's empty stretches of flat metal. The keyboard sports translucent gray keys, a touchpad, and a power button--that's all. The self-retracting screen latch vanishes when you open the lid, and the left speaker port doubles as a microphone. A bluish-white light that indicates when the notebook is sleeping serves as the notebook's sole status light.
On the front of the G4, the self-loading DVD-ROM slot noiselessly accepts discs like a car's CD player does. Need a disc you forgot to eject before shutting down? Forget it: The drive does come with a disc ejection hole--but it works only when the notebook is turned on. It's fixed in place, so you can't swap in a CD-RW or floppy drive, and unlike most other laptops that can't accept those drives internally, you can't connect them externally. Apple means for you to rely on the notebook's IEEE-1394 port, two USB connections, an ethernet port, and built-in wireless networking circuitry to connect to the outside world. (The latter requires the $99 AirPort card.) Most of the connections sit hidden on the back, behind a sturdy titanium cover.
No Floppy Drive, but Gigaflop Speed