Apple iBook

Verdict: Apple's spiffy iBook may look like a toy, but it's a powerful portable. StaffSeptember 1, 2002
Apple iBook

Bang for Buck: 7

Street Price: $1,499
Inside: 700 MHz PowerPC G3, 128MB RAM, 20GB HD, 16MB ATI Mobility Radeon graphics card; DVD/CD-RW combo drive
Outside: 12.1 inch XGA display, trackpad pointing device, fullsize keyboard
Ports: 2 USB, FireWire (IEEE 1394), VGA, S-video
Communications: Integrated V.90 56K modem, integrated 10/100 Ethernet
Dimensions: 11.2 inches (W) x 9.06 inches (D) x 1.35 inches (H), 4.9 lbs.

Skinny: A bit of a glitch when Apple sent us iBook rather than PowerBook. Down-scale iBooks designed for consumers and students, rather than business users. In fact, outside of publishing and design work, Mac computers rarely used in corporate setting.

And that may be a bigger mistake. We were amazed at how much computer Apple managed to pack into the $1,500 iBook. What’s more, nifty machine performed without a hitch — and was actually kind of fun to use…

Apple’s based its Jobs II recovery on thoughtful design. IBook no exception. Prime example: portable’s F12 key is actually eject button for DVC/CD player. May not sound like a big deal, but lots of other portables require user to launch software to open the optical drive. Annoying as all get-out…

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White-and-silver polycarbonate portable from Apple a pantheon to plastic. Kitschy keyboard, which has surprisingly good feel, almost looks like a toy. In fact, iBook looks like brand extension for Fisher-Price…

Don’t know how folks in Cupertino do it, but sound on Apple notebooks almost always superior to Windows-based portables. IBook passed MD test with flying colors. Sketches of Spain sounded great. Not surprisingly, DVD’s played flawlessly. 16MBs of video RAM sure moves images right along… iBook also passed Metro North test. Able to use Apple portable comfortably on our morning train ride, although machine did get a bit hot on its underside.

From our Myth-Is-Good-As-A-Mile Dept: while Mac OS X is quite impressive, it didn’t seem any easier to use than Windows XP (we received our test unit before the release of Jaguar, the latest version of OS X). That old saw about how learning curve for Mac is shorter than learning curve for PC seems like tall-tale to us. We’ve worked in both environments over the past two years — and didn’t find Mac machines any more intuitive or easy to use than PCs. As for boot times: iBook took the longest time to load of any portables in the roundup…

On other hand, iBook had best battery life of any machine in buyer’s guide. We got well over three hours of use on one battery — quantum leap over some machines in our buyer’s guide… Apple portable was not the most portable machine of the group, but svelte enough( just under 5 lbs). Good form factor, too — easily passed our Metro North commuter test. Display snugged nicely behind seat in front of us. 12.1-inch screen one of the best we’ve come across. Text looked particuarly crisp.

Typical of Mac products, iBook comes with swell software bundle, including highly-regarded AppleWorks… Not many ports on this machine — no PC card slot, for example. That limits expansion. Ports that are there all live on the left side of machine… No docking station or port replicator for iBook. If you plan on using external monitor and keyboard with your notebook, you might want to look elsewhere… Not wild about fold-out prongs on power adapter. Awkward, and not necessary.

Hey Apple, what gives with the skimpy one-year warranty? Time to flesh out that policy.

All in all, a very simple, very practical portable. Long battery life, good screen, swell software bundle. If you’re the type who needs more of everything, bulked-up version of same machine boasts 14.1 inch display and even longer battery life. It weighs nearly six pounds, however. We’ll stick with this one.

(Editor’s Note: Thin is in for notebook computers, but how about the computer makers themselves — how much cash do they keep on hand? See for yourself with the CFO PeerMetrix interactive scorecards.)

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