Apple Ups PowerBook to 1.67GHz; Lowers Prices (UPDATE)

Apple Computer announced Monday faster PowerBook laptops and reduced prices across the product line by up to US$200. All models now include a new trackpad with scrolling capability, and a sudden motion sensor to park the internal hard drive to prevent data damage.

The top-of-the-line 15-inch PowerBook and 17-inch models feature a PowerPC G4 processors running up to 1.67 gigahertz (GHz). This is a speed increase from 1.5GHz. The 12-inch combo drive and 12-inch SuperDrive models will now have a 1.5GHz G4 processor, up from 1.33GHz.

15- and 17-inch 1.67GHz models will now include the ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processors with either 64 megabytes (MB) or 128MB of dedicated graphics memory.

The 17-inch PowerBook now features a Dual Link DVI connector to support Appleis 30-inch Cinema HD Display. The Dual Link interface is a build-to-order option on the 1.67GHz 15-inch model for an additional $100. It also includes an additional 128MB of video memory.

The refreshed laptop line also includes 512MB of standard DDR SDRAM memory, 5400RPM hard drives, 8x read/write speed, slot-loading SuperDrives and Airport Extreme 802.11g-based wireless networking, standard.

All models now include Bluetooth Enhanced Data Rate (EDR), with up to three times the speed of previous Bluetooth versions. EDR offers a maximum data transfer rate of 3 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to the 1Mbps speed for standard rate Bluetooth. According to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a 1MB image that takes 12 seconds to download over Bluetooth 1.2 would take 4 seconds to download over Bluetooth EDR.

With Bluetooth EDR -- what some call Bluetooth 2.0 -- the increase in transfer rate also means that, for a given amount of data, EDR will be active up to three times less than standard v2.0. Less activity will mean reduced power consumption and longer PowerBook battery life.

Bluetooth 2.0 is compatible with Bluetooth 1.2 devices.

All PowerBook models now include a new trackpad with scrolling capability. PowerBook users can now drag two fingers instead of one over the trackpad to scroll vertically and horizontally or pan around any active window.

Another new addition: Sudden Motion Sensor technology. Similar to the technology used in automobiles to deploy airbags upon impact, the new patented feature uses a microchip on the system board to detect system acceleration, such as in a fall. The system responds by temporarily parking the driveis read/write head until the system is stabilized, lessening the risk of damage and improving the chances of retrieving valuable data.

Some insurance and analyst reports indicate that more than 10.5% of notebooks in corporate enterprises are damaged annually, and that accidental damage accounts for the majority of PC loss claims. Of the three notebook components most prone to damage -- hard drive, display, and keyboard -- hard drive damage results in the loss of data and ultimately productivity.

IBM introduced a similar technology in its line of ThinkPad notebook computers last year.

All of the five new PowerBook configurations are $100 cheaper than before, except for the 15-inch model with Superdrive, which was reduced in price by $200, from $2,499. It is thought the wider price reduction is a result of cheaper SuperDrives.

The 17-inch 1.67GHz model, equipped with 512MB of RAM, a 100GB, 5400 RPM hard drive, 8x SuperDrive and ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor with 128MB RAM will retail for $2,699.

The 15-inch model will be available in 1.5GHz and 1.67GHz G4 processor speeds with 512MB RAM and 80GB, 5400 RPM hard disk drives and ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics with 64MB of video memory. The 1.5GHz model will retail for $1,999 and the 1.67GHz model for $2,299.

The 12-inch model, with a G4 1.5GHz processor, is available in a low-end model with 60GB hard drive and Combo drive for $1,499 and a mid-range model with 80GB hard disk and SuperDrive for $1,699.

Every PowerBook now includes iLife i05, Appleis suite of digital lifestyle applications, including iTunes 4.7.1, iPhoto 5, iMovie HD, iDVD 5, and GarageBand 2.

Apple said that all PowerBooks will be available later this week.

A spokeswoman from Apple Computeris public relations department refused a request from The Mac Observer for an interview with PowerBook product managers for further details on the new laptop product line.