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A look back at the Macintosh PowerBook G3

In 1998 the newest incarnation was not inexpensive-Apple has long realized that that users will pay a premium for a PowerBook, a fact that unfortunately no longer applies to its desktop systems-but it was fast, well-loaded and, well, fast.

This PowerBook uses the newest generation of PowerPC chip, called, oddly enough, the G3. At 250MHz, this laptop was one of the speediest laptops on the planet, a record previously held by the PowerBook 3400c/240. It was enhanced by a 512-Kbyte Level 2 backside cache, accessible at 100MHz; an amazing 5-Gbyte hard-disk drive; and 32 Mbytes of RAM, upgradable to 160 Mbytes.

Macintosh PowerBook G3 1 A look back at the Macintosh PowerBook G3

Other features include 2 Mbytes of VRAM for powering external displays; a video controller for enhanced graphics; zoomed video; a 20X CD-ROM module; a four-speaker sound system; and a 12.1-inch active-matrix screen. Other standard features include 10-Mbyte-per-second Ethernet; a 33.6-Kbps modem; as well as infrared, serial, video-out and SCSI ports. The machine comes pre-loaded with Mac OS 8, cross-platform compatibility software, browsers from Netscape and Microsoft and Internet set-up software.

The PowerBook G3 also featured the Apple Location Manager, a software utility that allows location-dependent system settings to be saved. Through it, settings for networking, printer, time zone and file sharing can defined for several locations and easily selected.

On the technical side, the PowerBook G3 was nearly twice as fast as a Power Macintosh 9600 604a running at 200 MHz, according to Apple-supplied figures using MacBench, a subsystem-level benchmarking package that compares relative performance levels of Macintoshes.

This was truly was an impressive laptop during tenure, and it was the first to take full advantage of the relatively new Mac OS 8. The active-matrix screen was fantastic and the sound superb (like the 3400c, the G3 has a movie theater-type design behind the screen that projects sound beautifully). The keyboard responds well, although it was missing an inverted “T” cursor setup. Unlike many of its brethren in the PC world, the G3 allows the floppy and CD-ROM drives to be hot-swappable.

Macintosh PowerBook G3 A look back at the Macintosh PowerBook G3

Quibbles were a few, given how heavily loaded this machine comes, however, 32 Mbytes of RAM standard was almost laughable. Considering that this machine comes with 5 Gbytes of storage under the hood, this was not a laptop that will be used simply for E-mail and light word processing. Resellers wanted to upgrade memory before the client sees the box. At 7.5 pounds with the floppy disk drive or 7.7 pounds with the CD-ROM module, this was not the lightest notebook on the market but was typical. Price also was a major quibble.

That said, the PowerBook G3 was a stand-out notebook. Apple was advertising it as the notebook that eliminates the “mobile user’s compromise.” That was an ad line that hits the mark, in the opinion of the CRN Test Center.

Macintosh PowerBook G3 had a price tag of $5,699, when it was released, ouch!

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