Review: Apple PowerBook G4 12-inch
February 10th, 2003
On January 7, 2003, Apple introduced a smaller, 12-inch, PowerBook G4. While only 4.6 pounds (almost a full pound lighter than the current 15-inch form factor) the new PowerBook boasts features such as integrated Bluetooth capability, support for 802.11g wireless networking via an optional AirPort Extreme card, optional SuperDrive (ability to burn DVD-Rs), versatile built-in video support (VGA, S-Video, composite), all in a strong, compact aluminum alloy enclosure.
What it has
What it doesn't have (compared to current PowerBook G4 15-inch)
The PowerBook G4 12-inch is offered in one standard configuration at the Computer Connection:
The SuperDrive and additional Airport Extreme Card are build-to-order options.
Technical issues & analysis
Information Systems & Computing (ISC) does not expect there to be significant hardware-related compatibility problems with the PowerBook G4 12-inch. However, the PowerBook will have the same software-related conflicts that any Mac OS10.2.x-based workstation would have.
ISC has tested the PowerBook G4 12-inch for compatibility with University-supported hardware and software. The PowerBook G4 12-inch is compatible with the Network Applications Installer for Mac OS X version 10.2.x and Penn's supported network applications. Like other Power Macintoshes released in 2003, the PowerBook G4 12-inch does not have the ability to boot into Mac OS 9.x. However, support exists for running Mac OS 9.x-based ("Classic") applications from within Mac OS X. Support providers should be aware of this limitation if they have any Mac OS 9.x-based applications that must run natively.
One drawback to the PowerBook G4 12-inch is that the existing, 802.11b-based Airport Card is not compatible with the PowerBook. The newer, 802.11g-based Airport Extreme Card must be used. This newer card is backward-compatible with 802.11b wireless networks (Wi-Fi), and does support the greater throughput capability of the 802.11g protocol of up to 54 Mbps. ISC has not yet completed testing of Airport Extreme, or 802.11g-based wireless networks, though the technology looks promising and initial testing has been successful.
The PowerBook's right- and left-channel speakers are located in the back right and left corners of the base, respectively, while the midrange-enhancing third speaker occupies the back-middle area of the base under the display hinge. The sound output from the PowerBook's built-in speakers is above average, but not exceptional. However, a headphone-out minijack exists which can connect to headphones or external speakers for better sound output.
At well under $2,000 ($1,850 in a University-approved configuration), the PowerBook G4 12-inch is an excellent choice for departments or individuals who must be budget-conscious, yet need a portable with enough processing power and capability to suit their needs. With its built-in video support, the 12-inch PowerBook is a highly capable presentation laptop. The included iLife suite (iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto) makes the PowerBook an attractive portable for on-the-go individuals who need to take their computing with them to accomplish moderately complex tasks.
Properly configured, the PowerBook G4 12-inch meets ISC's Recommended Configurations for Lightweight Laptop Workstations. As always, support providers should be aware of the technical issues associated with any new workstation design.
--Kristen Zborowski & Vern Yoneyama, ISC Technology Support Services (February 10, 2003)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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