Smallest PowerBook is portable but heavy

An interesting ultraportable alternative to notebook PCs is Apple Computer Inc.'s smallest PowerBook G4, with native 1,024- by 768-pixel resolution on a 12.1-inch screen.

The display is sharper and has greater color depth than any other in this ultraportable review.

Although the GCN Lab's benchmarks from Alterion Corp. of Conshohocken, Pa., don't translate to Mac OS, the Apple ran multimedia as well as or better than the Microsoft Windows ultraportables we tested. And its 1.33-GHz processor is perfectly capable of word processing and number crunching.

Our main complaint is that, at 4 pounds, 6 ounces, the 12-inch PowerBook feels more like a midsize notebook than an ultraportable.

Also, incompatibility between Mac OS and Microsoft Windows devices is still something government users must bear in mind, particularly on travel. To give just one example, even though we could easily transfer our battery test suite's AVI file from a USB key drive onto the PowerBook, the file refused to run.

Apple QuickTime demanded an update. After installing the update, we could run the audio portion of the AVI file but not the video. We finally had to download the file all over again, this time from the lab network instead of the key drive.

The PowerBook measures only 10.9 by 8.6 by 1.1 inches. A capacious 60G hard drive and built-in, modular DVD-rewritable drive account for some of its weight.

Nonetheless, those features, plus the robust nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 video card and a low federal price of $1,225, make the PowerBook a great buy.

We especially liked the embedded AirPort Extreme IEEE 802.11g card. Its administration software is more intuitive than the Intel Centrino counterpart, and we could easily locate wireless access points and join WiFi networks.

The PowerBook has good battery life. It could play a graphics-intensive video continuously for 3 hours, 12 minutes. The Apple lasted longer than the Dell and Sharp ultraportables, and it gave the Fujitsu and the Sony a run for their money.

It earned a B for this review only because of its extra weight

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