iBook - More Power, Same Pretty Face

SAN FRANCISCO (04/19/2000) - Those of you who held off purchasing an iBook until Apple Computer Inc. resolved the original model's problems should get your wallets ready: beefed-up RAM and increased hard-disk space make Apple's latest portables more than just pretty faces. Both the iBook and the iBook Special Edition (SE) offer a more reasonable 64MB of RAM (expandable to 320MB)-double the skimpy 32MB that subjected the 1999 iBook to crashes and other problems. And if you thought the original iBook's 3GB hard disk seemed cramped, you'll be pleased to know that the 2000 models offer twice the space.

The iBook still comes in a rugged, eye-popping tangerine or blueberry curved clamshell case, while the iBook SE sports a classy graphite and ice exterior and a boost in processor speed-from 300MHz to 366MHz. Apple is probably hoping the iBook SE will be as successful as the hot-selling iMac DV Special Edition.

But unlike the iMac DV SE, which offers twice as much RAM and a larger hard drive than the iMac DV, the iBook SE offers only one technological advantage when compared with the iBook: a faster processor. This, and the graphite case, will cost you a cool $200 extra-the same as the difference between the iMac DV and the iMac DV SE. Still, the color alone may appeal to users who shied away from the Day-Glo tangerine and blueberry models.

New Books, Same Story

Macworld Lab tests confirm that the iBook SE's faster processor brings improved performance. Users will find the speed increase negligible, however; whether surfing the Web or working in a word-processing application, you're not likely to notice a difference between the iBook and iBook SE. Fortunately, the changes to the iBook hardly compromise its battery life: the iBook SE's battery lasted about 4 hours, only 15 minutes less than that of the new iBook or the 1999 model.

Everything else about the new iBooks is the same-the 12.1-inch TFT display; 24´ CD-ROM drive; 56-Kbps modem; 10/100BaseT Ethernet; and AirPort card slot, which lets you take advantage of wireless networking. And because AirPort 1.1 includes a working preview of AirPort Software Base Station (see the feature story "Cut Loose," elsewhere in this issue), you can now use any AirPort-equipped Mac as a base station.

As before, the iBook weighs in at 6.6 pounds-a bit heavy considering the PowerBook 2000 is only 6.1 pounds. And the Mac's Location Manager is still plagued by byzantine complexity, making it difficult for novice users to manage settings as they change locations.

We still wouldn't recommend the iBook as a gaming machine. Its ATI Rage Mobility graphics controller, 4MB of SDRAM, 66MHz bus speed, and relatively slow processor just can't keep up with demanding games.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Budget-conscious buyers who need a portable computer-but don't need a lightning-fast processor, FireWire, an extra USB port, a PC Card slot, or VGA- and S-Video out ports-will appreciate the iBook's value. And if the graphite case is worth $200 to you, by all means get the iBook SE. Road warriors who need more options and more power should consider the new PowerBook (see the PowerBook review elsewhere in this section) or an older-model PowerBook. But remember that for $100 less than the price of an iBook SE, you can get an iMac DV Special Edition with a 400MHz processor, 128MB of RAM, a 13GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, FireWire, and iMovie video-editing software.iBookRATING: 3.5 mice PROS: Striking design; more RAM and hard-disk space.

CONS: Limited configuration and expansion options.

COMPANY: Apple Computer (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com).

LIST PRICE: $1,599.

iBook SERATING: 3.0 mice

PROS: Elegant design; more RAM and hard-disk space.

CONS: Extra money buys only marginal performance improvements.

COMPANY: Apple Computer (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com).

LIST PRICE: $1,799.

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