This Story Posted:
May 11th, 1999

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[2:52 PM]
A Detailed Overview Of The New PowerBook
At yesterday's WWDC keynote speech, Steve Jobs announced a new PowerBook line. The new product line has been known under the codename Lombard for many, many months, and the real thing lives up to all the hype. Weighing it at only 5.9 pounds, the PowerBooks feature 14.1" screens, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, 333 MHz or 400 MHz copper-based G3s processors, and the 400 MHz units come standard with DVD players. Both units come standard with 64 MB of RAM. In a move that surprises no one, the new PowerBooks offer two USB ports. Best of all, the price for the new units starts at US$2499.

The new PowerBook line features:

  • Thin and light design—5.9 pounds with CD and battery, 5.7 pounds with battery and weight saving module;
  • Fast 333MHz or 400MHz PowerPC G3 processor;
  • Brilliant 14.1-inch active-matrix display;
  • Up to ten hours of battery life through dual lithium-ion batteries;
  • Support for up to 384MB of SDRAM;
  • Built-in ATI Rage LT Pro video controller and 8MB of video memory;
  • VGA and S-Video ports for dual display and video mirroring;
  • Two USB ports for connection to the latest generation of computer peripherals;
  • Support for FireWire® via Newer Technology’s FireWire To Go CardBus Card;
  • Built-in 10/100BASE-T Ethernet;
  • Easy access to RAM expansion and removable hard drive through flip-up keyboard;
  • CD-ROM or DVD-ROM option with on-board DVD-Video support and hot swappable expansion bay.

Apple has also worked hard to dramatically lengthen the battery life of PowerBook batteries. The have succeeded marvelously and the new units can last as long as 5 hours on a single battery. This has been made possible in part by the design of the PowerBooks themselves (copper G3s use less power for one), and in part by MacOS 8.6. MacOS 8.6 includes a number of efficiency increases for PowerBook owners that help battery life. Good news for all to be sure.

With the release of the copper-based G3 processors in PowerBooks, Apple has significantly raised the stakes in the processing power war. The Pentium II (and Pentium units before them) chips found in PC notebooks are not your ordinary Pentium II processors. If they were, they would have made the hot PowerBook 292 MHz units that owners complained about look like a stroll through an icebox. Instead, the Pentium II chips found in PC laptops are partially emasculated units especially designed to run cool enough for a laptop enclosure. This means that they are not as fast as a standard Pentium II. Bottom line? The new PowerBook G3s will kick ass on the speed side.

Apple should also be commended for including 8 MB of VRAM, though it would have been nice to see a special ATI Rage 128 designed for the PowerBook instead of the older (and now outdated) ATI Rage Pro card. Still, 8 MBs is enough to offer millions of colors, even on a large external monitor. This will be good news for many PowerBook users.


Processor and memory

  • 333- or 400-MHz PowerPC G3 processor 512K or 1MB backside level 2 cache on processor module; 133- or 160-MHz dedicated 64-bit backside bus
  • 66-MHz system bus
  • Integrated floating-point unit and 64K on-chip level 1 cache (32K data and 32K instruction)
  • 64MB of RAM (3.3-volt, unbuffered, low-power, 64-bit wide, 144-pin, running at 100 MHz, 10-nanosecond cycle time); two SO-DIMM slots support up to 384MB


  • Internal 4GB, 6GB, or 10GB IDE hard disk drive (10GB drive available in build-to-order computers)
  • Hot-swappable expansion bay for CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive, or third-party storage solutions such as Zip, SuperDisk, and hard disk drives
  • 24x-speed (maximum) CD-ROM drive for use in expansion bay*
  • 2x-speed (maximum) DVD-ROM drive for use in expansion bay; supports CD-ROM discs at up to 20x speed*



  • Two 12-Mbps Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports
  • SCSI port for connecting as many as seven external devices
  • Power adapter port


  • Built-in 10/100BASE-T Ethernet connector (10/100 Mbps)
  • RJ-11 connector for built-in 56K V.90 modem
  • Infrared technology port (4-Mbps IrDA)
  • PC Card and CardBus expansion
  • Support for one Type I or Type II card
  • Support for a Zoom Video PC Card


  • S-video output port
  • 24-bit video output port (VGA-style connector) Sound
  • 16-bit CD-quality stereo input/output Sound Two built-in stereo speakers Internal omnidirectional microphone
Video and graphics support
  • 8MB of SDRAM video memory supports millions of colors on external displays
  • Built-in 2D/3D graphics acceleration through an integrated ATI RAGE LT Pro video controller
  • Supports DVD-Video playback with DVD-ROM drive*


  • 14.1-inch (diagonal) built-in TFT XGA active-matrix display; supports millions of colors at 1,024- by 768-pixel resolution; supports resolution scaling to 640- by 480-pixel or 800- by 600-pixel resolution


  • 50-watt-hour lithium-ion
  • Provides up to 5 hours with one battery, and up to 10 hours with two batteries, depending on configuration and usage


  • Kensington cable lock slot
  • Keyboard lock


Built-in full-size keyboard with 76 (U.S.) or 77 (ISO) keys, including 12 function keys, 4 arrow keys (inverted "T" arrangement), and embedded keypad

Apple trackpad

Solid-state Apple trackpad provides precise cursor control; supports tap, double-tap, and drag capabilities

Electrical requirements

  • Line voltage: 100 to 240 volts AC
  • Frequency: 50 to 60 Hz

Environmental requirements

  • Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C)
  • Storage temperature: -13° to 140° F (-25° to 60° C)
  • Relative humidity: 20% to 80% noncondensing
  • Operating altitude: 0 to 10,000 feet (0 to 3,048 m)
  • Maximum storage altitude: 15,000 feet (4,572 m)

Size and weight

  • Width: 10.4 inches (26.4 cm)
  • Height: 12.7 inches (32.3 cm)
  • Depth: 1.7 inches (4.3 cm)
  • Weight: 5.9 pounds (2.68 kg) with CD-ROM drive and battery installed (varies by configuration)

*Available in some configurations; see Available Configurations chart for product details.

Pricing and Availability
The following configurations of the new PowerBook line are available from Apple® Authorized Resellers and The Apple Store™ (
  • 14.1-inch TFT display/333MHz/512K L2 cache/64MB/4GB hard drive/24x-speed (max) CD ROM/Ethernet/ 56K modem U.S. ERP $2,499;
  • 14.1-inch TFT display/400MHz/1MB L2 cache/64MB/6GB hard drive/2x-speed DVD-ROM/Ethernet/56K modem U.S. ERP $3,499.

Apple has put out a great looking machine with power to match the sleek, sexy look. It answers many PowerBook owners's desires and offers a wealth of features. If Apple can deliver this product consistently, they will have a huge hit on their hands. Congratulations to Mr. Jobs and the entire PowerBook team!

The Mac Observer Spin: Apple is mainly pushing the thinness and light weight of the new units. In fact, Apple is not showing the top of the new units in any of the promotional pictures released (the tops have the same form factor of the previous PowerBook G3s), instead focusing on the profile of the units. That profile is mighty sexy and goes well with the slogan Apple is promoting, "More Brain, Less Braun."

Apple was often criticized for not having a lightweight notebook, a criticism that still stands. There are many PC manufacturers with lighter subnotebooks, and even lighter full laptops, though it can certainly be said that for the power and features, no other laptops come even close to the new PB G3s. Apple will be addressing the desires of those wanting a sub-notebook later this year when the P1 finally sees the light of day.

It really would have been nice if Apple had been able to include FireWire support in the new line without requiring a CardBus card. They did the next best thing however by introducing Newer's FireWire card though. Built-in FireWire support would have helped give even more manufacturers incentive to come out with new FireWire devices.

Lastly, limiting the new PowerBook to only two speeds helps to simplify the product line considerably. This is sure to make inventory management easier for Apple and retailers alike, something that everyone will enjoy. It is simply amazing to see Apple's new operations show in even these minor details.


A Mac Observer Report:
Apple's World Wide Developer Conference 1999
The oldest article is at the bottom, newer items are placed at the top of the list.

WWDC Coverage: Apple Shows Off G4 With Altivec, Should Ship In October - 5/11/99

A Detailed Overview Of The New PowerBook - 5/11/99

On The Flip Side--My Impressions On Mac OS 8.6, New PowerBooks, And The WWDC! - 5/11/99

WWDC Coverage: MacOS X Client And The Wrap-up - 5/10/99

WWDC Coverage: Sonata And Sherlock II, Including Screenshots! - 5/10/99

WWDC Coverage: OpenGL Final, MRJ 2.1.2, And QuickTime - 5/10/99

WWDC Coverage: Introduction, New PowerBooks, Sears, And 1st Mention Of P1 - 5/10/99

Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference Begins Today - 5/10/99

Headlines For Friday, September 10th

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