Apple's iBook is more than just an "iMac to go"!
Apple's iBook sports a full-size keyboard with translucent (almost white) keys which you can actually read! Now, that's exciting! Finally, Apple enthusiasts have a choice from the iMac's hard-to-read black keys and cramped keyboard. Move over, iMac, the iBook is an ergonomic charmer!
Sure, it's a beauty, but don't let those good looks fool you. Behind the tangerine or blueberry exterior (with a rugged, two-tone Lexan case which has a rubber overmolding up to four times thicker in some ares than the usual plastics used in most notebook computers) lies a 300 MHz PowerPC G3 (512K backside level 2 cache) notebook with a built-in 56K modem (and Ethernet capabilities consisting of a 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port) and 24x-speed CD-ROM drive that can handle any job.
Whether you're looking for a compact computer for your apartment or you're a college student with $1,600 in your pocket, the iBook is simply stunning. Parting with my iBook evaluation unit was tough to do. Really!
Besides the too-cool keyboard, I loved the 12.1 inch high-resolution TFT SVGA active-matrix display, which appeared crystal clear and images seemed sharper than that on an iMac. Keep in mind the iBook has a graphics controller plus 4 MB of SDRAM video memory for 2D and 3D graphics acceleration. Equipped with an integrated ATI RAGE Mobility graphics controller with AGP 2X, the iBook supports millions of colors at 800 by 600 pixel resolution, while it can also support resolution scaling to 640 by 480 pixel resolution with millions of colors.
Although the iBook wouldn't fit into my PowerBook's Kensington case, it has a built-in carrying handle and no doors or latches to break (it's "latchless") so you can really carry it without a case. In fact, Apple designed the iBook "specifically with students in mind" with no hot-swappable devices that can get lost or stolen. According to Apple, " the iBook was designed with the thought that it might spend much of its life in a backpack". Hey, college kids, that's your cue!
OK, it's a wireless wonder! Power it up with a lithium-ion, 24-watt hour battery, which runs up to 6 hours (depending on your usage) or plug in for more power. If you do what I did, you'll have a screaming Internet machine. Plug in a couple of speakers, grab a USB mouse and plug it in, and voila! It rocks.
You're right. It's not one of those teeny, tiny notebook computers. It weighs in at 6.6 pounds!
It has an ample size trackpad that you'll either love or hate. I didn't have a problem with the trackpad--in fact, you can set it up to tap, double-tap, and drag, if you're so inclined (just go to the Trackpad control panel). Still a fan of Apple's trackball, I preferred hooking the iBook up to a Contour Design USB-friendly mouse for the ultimate ergonomic fit.
The new iBooks have OS9 pre-installed. The review unit had an older operating system on it, which we quickly replaced with OS9 in minutes. We're impressed with the installation of Apple's operating systems. They get easier and easier to install! OS9 ran flawlessly on the iBook and seemed the perfect system to use. I didn't run into some of the bugs that OS9 supposedly has and my confidence in OS9 was boosted after witnessing, first hand, some of the wickedly cool stuff it can do.
The CD-ROM drive seems located in an unfortunate place (on the right side of the iBook) if you're using it on a crowded desk. The pop-up tray mechanism didn't seem sturdy enough to let younger kids operate it (although I put it through a rigorous test of a variety of CD-ROMs with no problem other than it hitting the USB SuperDisk Drive I had sitting next to it).
Although a standard 32 MB of RAM is included with the Apple iBook, my review unit came equipped with 64 MB of RAM, which is just adequate to run programs. Go for more RAM (the system will support 128 MB of RAM for a total of 160 MB of RAM). The hard drive is decent at 3.2 GB (IDE).
A software bundle is included with the iBook. Software such as Mac OS9, AppleWorks (formerly known as ClarisWorks), Palm Desktop, FAXstf, World Book Mac Edition, EdView Internet Safety Kit Family Edition, Bugdom, Nanosaur, and Adobe Acrobat Reader are either pre-installed or are on CD-ROM. A variety of Internet software is also included. You can take your pick from Netscape Communicator (I recommend this one highly), Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook Express, and America Online.
The iBook also comes with an AC power cord (with a high-tech, large round power transformer) and a standard RJ-11 telephone/modem cable.
The iBook offers optional wireless Internet and networking by using an AirPort Card. I haven't tested AirPort yet but from my understanding AirPort is a wireless LAN (local area network) which lets you network multiple computers without cables, additional phone lines or networking hardware. Best of all, AirPort allows users to surf the Web (with different web sites) simultaneously, and you can access e-mail through a single Internet service account. Exchanging files without floppies or other storage devices is also possible. Interesting possiblities!
Some other great features include hot function keys which allow you to set keyboard function keys to automatically open your own Web browser, e-mail app, or favorite applications. Keys F1 through F6 are preprogrammed with common control functions (screen brightness, speaker volume, etc.) while keys F7 through F12 can be programmed to fit your individual needs. Included with the iMac are some raised stickers which fit perfectly with all of the F keys.
Another feature is the battery charging indicator which glows amber when the power adapter is plugged in and the battery is charging. See a green light? It's fully charged and ready to roll!
If you're interested in installing memory or accessing the AirPort Card slot, it's a piece of cake. The keyboard actually lifts up and can be flipped over, all by sliding a couple of tabs towards you.
For all you iMac users who are looking for a notebook, you'll be happy to note that the iBook has a reset button (directly above the power button on the keyboard for EASY access). It's a small reset hole which requires the end of a paper clip (or similar device). You can also use the "three-finger salute" to reset your iBook, just press the Ctrl, Command and Power keys at the same time.
One feature that isn't included in the iBook is a built-in microphone, although you can connect an external USB microphone to provide you with sound input.
There currently is no DVD upgrade available for the iBook, although I can see future iBooks equipped with this popular option.
I'd love to see the iBook available for $1,000, but even at $1,599, it's a good price for an Apple notebook. In the meantime, I'll struggle with my iMac with the black keys and keep my fond memories of the iBook test unit that had to be sent back.
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