Posted Monday, October 31, 2005

Initial Thoughts on My New PowerBook G4

Trick or treat! For me, the last few days have been a treat: my new 15-inch PowerBook G4 arrived on Friday. And I'm in love.

Herewith, a few initial thoughts about my newest technology fling.

Screen test. One of the things that excited me about the new 15-inch PowerBook is its higher-resolution screen: at 1440 by 960, its pixel count matches that of the old 17-inch PowerBook.

But shoehorning more pixels into the same amount of space means that everything on the screen is smaller. My 40-something eyes were a little concerned about readability, but their fears were unfounded. The new display is crisp, bright, and eminently legible.

Sound check. I was also attracted by the digital audio input and output of the new 15-inch PowerBook -- another capability that was previously available only in the 17-inch model. I haven't connected the computer to any DAT recorders or other digital I/O devices yet, but I plan to.

On Macintouch, one reader queried: "Just wonder if you or any reader might know how the digital audio in and out on the new DL Powerbooks might work. Is it just the mini-toslink cable like the airport express uses?" Here's the scoop, straight from the PowerBook's manual: "The headphone port is also a S/PDIF stereo 3.5 mini-phono jack....The audio line in port is also a S/PDIF stereo 3.5 mini-phono jack...Using a Toslink jack-to-miniplug adapter, you can use a Toslink cable to connect Digital Audio Tape (DAT) decks or digital instruments to input and mix your own music."

Drive times. As I mentioned last week, when I ordered my PowerBook from Apple's online store, I upgraded to the 100GB, 7200-rpm hard drive. This computer will be doing a lot of GarageBand, video, and audio duties, and I wanted a faster drive than the stock 5400-rpm drive. (The extra 20GB won't hurt, either.)

According to the Xbench utility, the extra $200 pays off. My PowerBook's drive, a Seagate Momentus, is showing read and write times that are up to twice as fast as the stock 80GB Hitachi drive.

You can compare my PowerBook's performance with others'.

Cool thighs. One friend was curious about whether the faster drive would cause the PowerBook to run hot. I'd say noŚmy PowerBook is running comfortably cool.

And there you have it: the happy glow of a new relationship. I have a 2GB memory upgrade on order from Crucial, and have ordered an STM Rebound case. I also have some dual layer DVD+R blanks on the way.

Do I wish the PowerBook ran at 2Ghz? No. I wish it ran at 20Ghz. But I needed a new portable now (or so I convinced myself), and the improvements that Apple added to the 15-inch modelŚthe high-resolution screen, faster DDR2 memory, dual-layer SuperDrive, longer battery life, digital audio I/O, and lower priceŚwere enough to make me get out my credit card.

This is going to be fun.