tech talk confusing, but it's a good time to buy
by (c) 2003 First published in
Business in Vancouver
, Issue #704 April 22-28, 2003 High
Tech Office column
past January's MacWorld conference, Apple's Steve Jobs
called 2003 "the year of the notebooks."
computer sales overall have remained stagnant, notebook sales have
increased for each of the past four years, last year accounting for
23.5 per cent of the worldwide market (some 30 million notebooks).
MacWorld, Apple released a pair of new Powerbook notebooks. Costing
$5,299, the 17-inch screen model is both bigger and more expensive
than most of us can justify, but the $2,899 12-inch model is an
looking like a silver-plated version of the $1,599 white iBook, the
aluminum-bodied 12-inch Powerbook manages to be a little smaller and
lighter than the already svelte iBook.
iBook, the 12-inch Powerbook is built around a small but crisp and
usable 12-inch screen and sports a full complement of connectors,
making its lack of a PC Card expansion slot less noticeable. To
justify its higher price, the new Powerbook replaces the iBook's G3
processor with a more powerful G4 model. The Powerbook has a more
solid keyboard and includes support for multiple monitors and
Bluetooth wireless connections (to some cell phones, printers, and
other devices), along with what Apple calls "Airport Extreme," the
new faster 802.11g wireless networking standard. (It requires a $150
iBook, it gets warm right where your left-palm would rest, though it
never got uncomfortably hot in my tests. The more powerful G4 CPU
cuts battery life. Expect to be able to use the Powerbook unplugged
for about two hours before having to find an AC outlet. And using
one of these models means making a full-time commitment to Apple's OS X
operating system. Unlike last year's Macs, the new Powerbooks
don't offer the choice of booting to Apple's classic OS.
good time to be shopping for a PC notebook. In March, Intel released
its first CPU designed from the ground up for mobile computing. The
Pentium M was designed for maximum efficiency to improve battery
life. Models from a variety of manufacturers boost battery life in
the four- to five-hour range between charges. Replacing the CD drive
with an optional second battery some can run as long as nine hours on
prepared for some work making sense of the ads.
to confuse the Pentium M with the less efficient (but still on the
market) Pentium 3M and 4M CPUs.
look at ads for the new models, you may notice they often neglect to
mention the processor speed. New Pentium M notebooks run at speeds
of 1.4 to 1.6 GHz, while last-generation Pentium 4M models appear
faster, running at speeds over two GHz. Independent tests suggest that
a new-style Pentium M running at 1.6 GHz outperforms a 2.4-GHz
Pentium 4M. As Intel's competitors have been pointing out for some
time, a computer chip's speed isn't as important as how much it can
see ads for notebooks mentioning Centrino. Not a new atomic
particle, these models combine a Pentium M processor with
Intel-built circuitry for WiFi wireless networking. Intel is working
with wireless providers, including Vancouver-based Fatport, to increase the
number of public wireless "hot spots."
news is that Centrino owners won't need to buy a $100 to $150
wireless networking adapter; it's all built-in. The bad news is that
Centrino currently only supports the slower 802.11b standard, not
the faster 802.11a or 11g standards.
to decipher the ads, it's a good time to buy a notebook.