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18 May 2005

Nerd Factor X



I Got The Power (Book)

Look, I need help. Seriously. My work starts offering new laptops paid for by salary sacrifice, and I just can’t help myself. A week or so later and I have a brand new PowerBook. I blame this on genetic flaws. Something to do with the Y chromosome, definitely.

The full story I’ll save for another day, but for now I’ll just gloat over my new hardware.

It’s prettymuch the best laptop you can get right now: a PowerBook 15” with a 1.666 GHz G4 processor. It’s well loaded too, with a Radeon Mobility 9700 video controller, 128MB VRAM (as a custom order), “SuperDrive” (that’s a DVD burner to everyone but Apple), 1GB RAM, 80GB HD, Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0, Firewire 800, 802.11g, etc, etc. It’s all good.

But the specs don’t tell the whole story. Since upgrading I’ve found some of the nicest surprises have been in the changes they’ve made under the (unchanged but extremely attractive) skin.

  • The sound quality has improved. With the old laptop it was pretty easy to hear distortion through my Audio Technica A900 headphones. The new one is crystal.
  • Screen brightness (there’s more of it)
  • Ambient light sensor and backlit keyboard. OK I admit I’m not going to be using this one all that much. But it is cool. If there’s not enough light, the Powerbook automatically dims it’s screen and turns on the keyboard backlighting. “Dim” being the operative word - it’s not a light switch, but would have been had it been designed by lesser mortals than the Apple hardware engineers.
  • Screen closes and locks smoothly. This is more accurately described as eliminating a design flaw in the first generation of Aluminium PowerBooks. The old one creaked and groaned sometimes when closing the screen. And sometimes didn’t lock properly, meaning that the computer wouldn’t sleep (or would wake shortly). The new one is lovely, like the door of a BMW.
  • Wireless reception. Seems to be better, but I haven’t had very scientific tests.
  • Sudden Motion Sensor. It parks the hard drive if it detects sudden accelleration, such as falling off a desk. Hopefully I won’t need this, but check out the link, it’s such a cool feature.
  • Trackpad scrolling. Finally, an equivalent to the scroll wheel for the trackpad! One finger moves the cursor, two fingers scrolls the active window. What could be simpler? [Aside: It seems that Apple were only able to build this by in-sourcing a previously out-sourced development project. Good for them!]
  • Battery life. More likely due to a new battery than any specific power-saving feature of the laptop itself, but hey.

Just the thing for running Tiger. But more about that later.