Apple 17-inch PowerBook G4/1.5GHz Product Information - PCWorld

Apple 17-inch PowerBook G4/1.5GHz Product Information - PCWorld
Apple PowerBook 17 1.5 GHz

The PowerBook 17-inch G4 1.5GHz is Apple's third revision since debuting the first ever 17-inch laptop in early 2003. One of the core reasons Apple has been able to distinguish its products from other computer makers is in part due to its stunning design and ease-of-use. The new PowerBook 17-inch sets the standard again with a revolutionary design, this time introducing a faster processor, enhanced graphics, and faster SuperDrive burning speeds.

The fastest Apple notebook to date and the most expensive (MSRP $2,799), the PowerBook 17-inch features the 1.5 GHz PowerPC G4, equipped with 512MB DDR PC2700 SDRAM (upgradeable 2 GB), built-in slot loading DVD burner, ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 GPU 64MB DDR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FireWire 400/800, USB 2.0, and illuminating keyboard housed in a 6.9 pounds, 1-inch aluminum alloy enclosure; thus warranting it as one of the most full-featured and most powerful portable computer currently available in the market. Users who demand power, features, and elegance from a laptop computer may want to consider the Apple PowerBook 17-in G4 1.5GHz.


Apple claims the PowerBook 17-inch is the thinnest and lightest 17-inch notebook in the market. At only 1-inch thin, and 6.9 pounds with the battery, portability is more than feasible. The weight is well balanced considering its large wide-aspect 17-inch display. However, carrying 7 pounds may be a bit heavy when traveling extensively. The PowerBook 17-inch is measured at 15.4 inches wide and 10.2 inches in depth, quite large but will fit larger carrying cases and backpacks. I traveled with the PowerBook 17-inch on a flight and there was barely enough room in a coach seat to place the PowerBook 17-inch in front of me.

PowerBook 15-inch (top) and PowerBook 17-inch (bottom)

Case and Design
The PowerBook 17-inch is comprised in a lightweight and anodized aluminum alloy. The case design is robust and well-polished. The aluminum clamshell is stiff and very durable, thus making it resistant to stains and scratches. The 17-inch display is wide but very thin. Lifting the LCD display open or closed feels very light. The Apple logo on the back of the display lights up when the PowerBook is powered up. When the display lid is closed while the unit is still on, a white light illuminates on the latch button to indicate it is in sleep mode. The heat is dispensed through two vents on each side/bottom of the laptop, and although its only 1-inch thin, it's still cool enough to function on your lap. The construction and case design is simply stunning.

The full-size keyboard feels comfortable, evenly and comfortably placed. Pushing the keyboard buttons feel very soft and sounds very quiet. The keys are flat, appearing more of an integral part of the machine. There are key buttons for adjusting the brightness, volume, and illumination brightness. There is a key to eject the CD or DVD from the slot loading drive. The 4-inch wide trackpad is responsive and has one large click-button. The palm rest area has a lot of room so ensure your watch or bracelet doesn't scratch the surface. The microphone is built-in located underneath the left speaker grille. The stereo speakers are placed on the left and right side of the keyboard and are quite decent coming from a laptop. There are ports on the left and right side to conveniently connect your peripherals. The slot-loading SuperDrive DVD-R/CD-RW is placed in front right.

The ability to upgrade the PowerBook internally is very limited. Users are able to upgrade the memory (512MB is installed in one slot, leaving an open slot to upgrade for a total of two slots) at a maximum of 2GB by just simply opening the latch located at the bottom with 2 screws. The hard drive is capable of being replaced but opening the aluminum PowerBook models are more difficult and require specific tools and precision. Authorized Apple repair centers are capable of replacing your hard drive for a fee, according to them, does not affect the standard Apple warranty - some may dispute this claim.


The PowerBook 17-inch is powered by the PowerPC G4 with velocity engine running at 1.5 GHz with 512KB L2 Cache and 167 MHz bus speed. You have the option to clock down the processor in the energy saver settings to conserve battery usage. It also reduces the heat substantially when the processor is reduced. The fan spins faster, which means it is more audible when the processor is set at full-speed (when it runs warmer).

The ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 with 64MB DDR SDRAM (optional 128MB DDR upgrade) powers the graphics processing, more than suitable for 3D gaming and graphics applications. 2D display looks sharp and 3D graphics in Quake 3 and Warcraft 3 runs smooth, without any hiccups. Thus, the PowerBook 17-inch can be considered a gaming laptop.

Display and Backlit Keyboard:
The display is bright (brighter than the first 17-inch release), produces vibrant colors and sharp images. The display runs at a native resolution of 1,440x900 which is perfect for viewing two documents side-by-side. The text is strikingly sharp and crisp. The brightness can be adjusted from 1 to 16 bars, 1 being the lowest and 16 as the highest. The viewing angle on the 17-inch screen is impressive as the color and brightness barely shifts when viewing from different angles. DVD playback looks crystal clear and runs undoubtedly smooth. The screen brightness can automatically adjust to room conditions - turn off the lights and the screen will automatically dim while the keyboard will illuminate a white glow! Turn on the lights and the machine will automatically increase the display brightness and turn off the keyboard illumination.

Backlit Keyboard:

Airport Extreme is built-in with two antennas on each side of the LCD display. Airport Extreme is based on the 802.11b/802.11g Wi-Fi standard, capable of reaching 54MBps (real speeds are approximately 20-35Mbps depending on range and interference). The Airport Extreme provides excellent range. I tested the laptop 30 feet away, passing through 2 rooms and was still able to maintain signal status of 12 bars out of 15 (15 being excellent) on the range indicator. There is a feature in the Airport Extreme setting called 'interference robustness', which provides stronger connection between the client and base station and also minimizes interference from microwaves and 2.4 GHz cordless phones. The only drawback is it reduces overall range - none that we noticed while the feature was enabled.

Logitech MX900 and Logitech diNovo keyboard:

The PowerBook 17-inch features integrated Bluetooth wireless technology to wirelessly connect Bluetooth enabled devices such as printers, mouse, keyboard, PDA, and cellular phones. I tested the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with the PowerBook 17-inch and it worked flawlessly, connecting without a hitch. Furthermore, I decided to connect the Logitech Bluetooth diNovo media setup (MX900 mouse and keyboard) with the PowerBook and it connected within minutes by using the Bluetooth setup wizard. The MX900 and keyboard both felt responsive and precise. The Logitech MX900 didn't feel as responsive (slower precision) as the Apple Bluetooth mouse, however the Logitech Bluetooth diNovo keyboard was just as responsive as the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. Drivers are not necessary in order for the Logitech diNovo setup to work even though Logitech hasn't officially released compatible OS X software drivers.


The PowerBook 17-inch gives you flexibility to connect external peripherals on each side. You have the option to connect your Internet/LAN connection to the Gigabit Ethernet port (10/100/1000Base-T) for faster file transfers. There are two USB 2.0 ports (one on each side),FireWire 400 (400 Mbps transfer rate) and 800 (800 Mbps transfer rate) on the right-side to connect to high-speed external devices such as camcorders and external storage solutions. There is an internal modem port to connect a standard phone line. A PC Card slot to support Type I/II and cardbus formats. There is an audio line-in port to connect to a line-level microphone and also a headphone out port to connect external speakers, headphones or other sound devices.

Left Side:

There is a DVI and S-Video port to allow you to connect to an external display or TV - a converter cable is included. Connecting the PowerBook 17-inch to an external display allows you to video mirror the same display or run it as a dual-display to extend the view. It can simultaneously supports up to 1440 by 900 pixels on the PowerBook 17-inch display and up to 2048 by 1536 pixels on an external display. We connected the PowerBook 17-inch DVI to the new Apple 23-inch aluminum display and by simply pushing the F7 key, it worked without a hitch. The PowerBook 17-inch is capable of connecting to virtually all LCD/CRT monitors with DVI or VGA (adapter included) connections.


Optical Drive and Storage
Apple is one of the rare laptop manufacturers that offer a slot-loading optical drive in their laptops. The SuperDrive is capable of burning DVD-R and CD-R/RW discs. It can write DVD-R discs at up to 4x speed and read DVDs at up to 8x speed. CD-R discs can burn at 16x speed and CD-RW discs can burn at up to 8x speed. CDs are read at 24x speed. I burned DVD-R and CD-R/CD-RW discs at full speeds flawlessly on every attempt. Apple offers a standard 80 gigabyte 2.5' hard drive - some models will include either Fujitsu, Hitachi, or Toshiba. Our 80GB hard drive was a Toshiba upgraded from 4200-RPM to 5400-RPM. It runs sufficiently cool and operates quite silently during seek and idle mode. In a silent room, the hard drive is barely audible.


The battery is a 58-watt-hour lithium-ion prismatic battery installed underneath the laptop and is advertised by Apple to run at 4.5 hours. Battery performance is affected by the screen brightness setting, wireless, CPU speeds, hard drive access, and Bluetooth wireless. With the brightness turned half way, the battery indicator calculated 3 hours and 53 minutes left. With the brightness set to the lowest setting (1-2 bars) in a dark room and the keyboard illumination on, the battery indicator calculated 4 hours and 15 minute remaining. You will see on our battery performance test by draining the battery with DVD playback to obtain a little more accurate reading. You can actually swap batteries without powering down the system. There is an internal backup battery to maintain the contents of RAM for up to 3 minutes while you change the battery. Not only is there a battery indicator in the operating system, but there is a battery LED indicator on the battery itself by pushing a button.


The PowerBook 17-inch is preloaded with an excellent line of software. You are getting a robust and stable operating system with Mac OS X Panther. Also included, software such as the iLife bundle--which includes iDVD, iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie--as well as iSync, iCal, OmniGraffle, and OmniOutliner, GraphicConverter, QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, EarthLink TotalAccess 2003 (with 30 days of free service), a FileMaker Pro 6.0 trial, and Microsoft Office X Test Drive. Safari, Apple's own browser is also included - features fast and simple web browsing. The instant message software, iChat connects to AOL Instant Messenger service, and can be used with the Apple iSight web camera to communicate via voice and video.


Laptoplogic's method in running performance test with Apple laptops: Xbench test, which is a comprehensive benchmark on overall system performance; measured the time for iTunes to convert a CD to MP3; measured the time for Adobe Photoshop to open and read a 120MB PSD file; Quake 3 Time Demo set at 1024 x 768 with default settings to measure the frames per second; and DVD playback to measure the battery performance. We also tested Microsoft Virtual PC 7 to see how it performed.

System Configurations

PowerBook 17-inch PowerBook 15-inch iBook 12-inch

Mac OS X Panther 10.3.6 Mac OS X Panther 10.3.6 Mac OS X Panther 10.3.6

1.5GHz PowerPC G4 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 1.2GHz PowerPC G4

167 MHz 167 MHz 133 MHz

512MB DDR333 PC2700 1GB DDR333
PC2700 256MB DDR266

Hard Drive
Toshiba 80GB 5400RPM Hitachi 80GB 5400 Fujitsu 30GB 4200RPM

ATI Radeon 9700 64MB DDR ATI Radeon 9600 ATI Radeon 9200 32MB DDR

Xbench Performance Results
Comprehensive benchmark on overall system performance: CPU, Memory, Disk, Thread, Quartz Graphics, OpenGL, User Interface. (Ran 3 times, took the median score)

Application Performance:
PhotoShop CS: Time it takes for Adobe Photoshop CS to open and read a 120MB PSD file. Note: Photoshop will open and read the file much faster when initially loading Photoshop prior to running the tests. Therefore, I restarted the computer each time prior to initiating the test (Ran 3 times, used the median score).

iTunes: CD track to MP3 conversion, importing setting set to high quality (160 kbps); Smashing Pumpkins - "Siamese Dream", 13 track CD - 1:02:08 total.

Gaming Performance:
Quake 3 1.32 Time Demo 1 - Demo Four. Resolution set at 1024 x 768 and default settings. This is measuring the frames per second. The PowerBook 17-inch 1.5GHz pulls ahead at 101.2 FPS. (Ran 3 times, took the median score)

Battery life Performance:
The test was done by running a DVD movie on full-screen with sound on, and brightness set to half (8/16 bars). The PowerBook 17-inch 1.5 GHz lasted 2 hours and 58 minutes in our DVD drain performance test and came on top of the PowerBook 15-inch due to its larger capacity battery. The PowerBook 15-inch and iBook 12-inch lasted 1 hour 45 seconds and 3 hours 33 seconds, respectively. By simply reducing the displays' brightness, you can extend the battery operating time. As mentioned before, we were able to obtain almost 4 hours by setting the brightness to low (1-4 bars out of 16 bars as the maximum). The power settings power management was set to 'automatic' in which the processor speed was reduced.

Virtual PC 7 with Windows XP Professional
We tested the latest Microsoft Virtual PC 7 with Windows XP on the PowerBook 17-inch to determine the usability and performance. Loading Windows XP was quite fast and the system properties reported the computer as a 686 processor, 294 MHz with 256MB of RAM. Virtual PC 7 with Windows XP performed well overall for the most part. Simple word processing and web browsing was very useable. I installed a couple of Windows programs flawlessly, however at times it felt as if the system was indeed a 294MHz Windows machine - loading certain programs slowly. There is a way to improve the performance by changing the visual effects . Another annoyance I encountered was the fans turned on extensively to cool off the increase processing power required to run Virtual PC 7. Essentially, the PowerBook 17-inch is more than capable in handling Virtual PC 7 to run your favorite Windows applications.
Virtual PC 7



* Fast performance in applications and 3D games
* Aluminum casing is durable and stunning
* Full-featured notebook with everything you need and some
* Thin, sleek design, quiet operation, runs cool
* Simple to use
* Mac OS X Panther and applications.
* Vibrant and crisp 17-inch wide-aspect display
* Good battery performance


* Large, might be heavy to some
* Expensive compared to PC counterparts
* Only 1 year support (90 days phone support)


The PowerBook 17-inch is a full-featured and powerful machine in a thin and lightweight construction. highly recommends the PowerBook 17-inch for users who require a portable notebook to serve as a primary computer. For the gamers, the ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics processor is capable of smoothly running the latest 3D games. The PowerBook 17-inch is also ideal for graphics design, video editing and audio creation on the go or in the office. For the PC users, Microsoft recently released Office 2004 for the Mac (files are interchangeable on the Mac and PC) and Virtual PC 7 if you still need to run PC software on the Mac. Undoubtedly, the PowerBook 17-inch is a high price to pay if you absolutely must have the best portable desktop replacement computer but we think it's worth it. Otherwise, users who demand only simple computing such as web browsing, word processing, E-mail, and musc listening should consider a cheaper alternative such as the Apple iBook line or the PowerBook 12-inch, starting at $999 and $1599 respectively. PC notebooks ranging between $700 and $1500 will fulfill your needs.

Price and Availability:
The PowerBook 17-inch 1.5GHz M9462LL/A is available now at a suggested retail price of $2,799 with 1 year standard warranty (90 day telephone support). There is an optional extended warranty for a total of 3 years with Apple Care Protection plan for $349. There are numerous cases and sleeve cases made specifically for the PowerBook 17-inch computer.

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