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Apple 15in PowerBook G4

Cool'n'Quiet

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The software bundle includes Apple's iLife 05 package, and four third-party apps: Art Director's Toolkit, which does what it says, Graphic Converter (an excellent, scriptable photo and graphics edit/import/export program), OmniGraffle (a diagram-drawing application) and OmniOutliner (an outliner). It's when you're using the software that the PowerBook really shows its stripes.

First, it's fast. Yes, anything will seem fast compared to a three-year-old machine - direct comparisons between the two generations can be found here and here - but I've used plenty of others. This whizzed along.

And it does it amazingly quietly. The 4200rpm drive in the iBook makes noises from time to time like it's sharpening something - a sort of 'crick-crick'. The 5400 drive in the PowerBook? Breathe gently through your mouth. OK, a second time, slightly harder. That second time, that's how loud it is. All the time. Rather as at 60mph in a Rolls Royce the loudest sound is the ticking of the clock, at 5400rpm on a PowerBook the loudest sound is the clicking of the keys.

Incidentally, the Fujitsu disk uses IBM's SMART disk monitoring system to tell you if things are about to go bad. Get the excellent SMART Reporter for a menu item that does the monitoring for you.

Heat, always a laptop's Achilles Heel, is also handled well. The fans never came on, despite working it hard - it's not that cold in my house. The heat is focused underneath, and never gets unbearable. Pretty much everything is used to ventilate the internals, including the speaker grilles, and the palmrests remain cool.

One thing that bothers me is the power lead. Apple's design uses a plug that sticks straight out of the side of the machine. Over time, such a design is apt to get yanked accidentally by passing people and the natural shocks that computer flesh is heir to. My iBook plug has suffered so much it's wrapped in insulating tape to absorb the force exerted by such tweaks. Why doesn't Apple use a plug at right angles to the body? Wouldn't that be less prone to damage? Perhaps someone could enlighten me as to whether there's a pragmatic design decision there - or whether again, aesthetics have triumphed over practicality. The PowerBook plug has the same sticking-out design. It seems a hostage to misfortune.

Verdict

So wrap it all up, and what have you got? An inadequately speed-bumped, super-quiet, long-lived, large-disked, bright-screened, fast machine that works best when it gets its communications from wires rather than wireless, and should be kept away from clumsy passers-by. The ideal user? People who use wires, stay put and need something quiet are the obvious candidates. Musicians and sysadmins, people like that. And, of course, wannabes. Well, I have a website, you know. Does that make me a sysadmin? Anyway, I've decided to keep mine. When it arrives. ®

Apple 15in PowerBook G4 (2005)
 
Rating 75%
 
Pros Cool. Quiet. Fast.
 
Cons Weak wireless reception. The damage-prone power lead.
 
Price from £1379/$1999
 
More info The Apple PowerBook site

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