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PowerBook G4

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The PowerBook G4 is a series of notebook computers that was manufactured, marketed, and sold by Apple Computer, Inc. between 2001 and 2006. It is powered by the PowerPC G4 processor, initially produced by Motorola and later by Freescale, a Motorola spin-off. The PowerBook G4 had two different designs: one enclosed in a titanium body with a black keyboard and a 15" screen; and another in an aluminum body with an aluminum-colored keyboard, in 12", 15" and 17" sizes.

Between 2001–2003, Apple produced the Titanium PowerBook G4; between 2003–2006, the Aluminum models were produced. Both models were hailed for their modern design, long battery life and processing power. When the Aluminum PowerBook G4s were first released, however, only 12 and 17 inch models were available, so the Titanium PowerBook G4 remained available until the 15" PowerBook G4 was released in September of 2003.

The PowerBook G4 line was the last generation of the PowerBook, and was phased out in favor of various Intel-powered MacBook Pro models in the first half of 2006.


[edit] Titanium PowerBook G4

The first generation of PowerBook G4s were announced at Steve Jobs' keynote at MacWorld Expo in January 2001. They featured a PowerPC G4 processor running at either 400 or 500 MHz. They were just 1 inch (25 mm) thick, 0.7 inches (18 mm) thinner than their predecessor, the PowerBook G3. The PowerBook G4 Titanium also featured a front-mounted slot-loading optical drive into which optical discs (initially DVDs or CDs) could be inserted. The nickname "TiBook" was given to the notebook, derived from the chemical symbol of the element titanium, Ti, which the computer's case is made from, and the brand name iBook, Apple's other product line of laptop computers.

[edit] Expansion/ports

The first generations of the Titanium PowerBook G4 featured 2 built-in USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, a 1/8" audio output, a 56k modem, 10/100 Base-T Ethernet, a PC card slot, a slot-loading CD/DVD drive, optional AirPort (Apple's name for 802.11 b/g networking), a VGA output, for operating a second display, and a built-in microphone. Later models featured similar I/O but the Ethernet was upgraded to Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Base-T), AirPort became standard (on high-end configurations), the CD/DVD drive was upgraded to a CD/DVD burner (on high-end configurations), and a 1/8" audio input was added. Also, the older VGA port was replaced with DVI output.

[edit] Revisions

There were three updates of the TiBook specification, featuring CPU speed increases, more powerful graphics chipsets, and other upgrades such as Gigabit Ethernet, DVI, and an optional SuperDrive DVD burner. The four releases are referred to by Apple as follows:

  • Mercury, January 2001
This was the original iteration, featuring a 400 or 500 MHz PowerPC 7410 processor. It featured a 100 MHz FSB, 2 RAM slots (that took up to 512 MiB modules, allowing for a maximum of 1 GiB), and an ATI RAGE 128 Mobility graphics card (with 8 MiB of VRAM; running at 2x AGP). Discontinued in October of 2001.
  • Onyx, October 2001
Now with a 550 or 667 MHz PowerPC 7450 processor. The 667 MHz model featured a 133 MHz FSB, and both models had the same ATI Radeon Mobility graphics, running at 4x AGP with 16 MiB of VRAM. This was Apple's first powerbook to fully support Quartz Extreme which is available in OS X 10.2 and later. Both models also now included Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 Base-T); as a result this revison is also sometimes refferd to as "Gigabit Ethernet". Discontinued in April of 2002.
  • Ivory, April 2002
Sporting a new DVI output, this PowerBook revision featured a 667 or 800 MHz PowerPC 7455 processor, with both models running a 133 MHz FSB. They also featured an improved ATI Radeon 7500 Mobility graphics chip-set, running at 4x AGP, with 32 MiB of VRAM. Discontinued in November of 2002.
  • Antimony, 1 GHz/867 MHz, November 2002
The only iteration to not receive a new incarnation of the PowerPC G4, it sported a minor speed bump to 867 MHz at the low end, and 1 GHz at the high end. It also featured an ATI Radeon 9000 Mobility running at 4x AGP, which shipped with 32 MiB of VRAM on the 867 MHz model and 64 MiB on the 1 GHz model.

Following the release of the 12" and 17" Aluminum PowerBook G4s, the Titanium PowerBook G4 remained available until September of 2003, about nine months later, at which time it was replaced by the 15" Aluminum PowerBook G4.

[edit] Industrial design

The initial design of the PowerBook G4s was developed by Apple hardware designers Jory Bell, Nick Merz and Danny Delulis. The new design was a sharp departure from the black plastic, curvilinear PowerBook G3 models that preceded it, more modernist than ergonomic. Apple's industrial design, headed by British designer Jonathan Ive, was to continue toward simple, elegant, and minimalistic designs—the TiBook laid the groundwork for the Aluminum PowerBook G4, the Power Mac G5 and the Mac mini.

[edit] Quality issues

The hinges on the Titanium PowerBook display are notorious for breaking under heavy use. Usually the hinge (which is shaped like an 'L') will break just to the left of where it attaches to the lower case on the right hinge, and just to the right on the left hinge (where the right hinge is on the right side of the computer when the optical drive is facing you). At least one manufacturer began producing sturdier replacement hinges to address this problem, though actually performing the repair is difficult as the display bezel is glued together.

[edit] Aluminum PowerBook G4

On January 7 2003, Apple introduced a new line of PowerBook G4s with 12- and 17-inch screens and aluminum cases (prompting the new moniker "AlBook"). The new notebooks not only brought a different design to the PowerBook G4 line but also laid down the foundation for Apple’s notebook design for the next three years, and even the successor to the PowerBook G4, the MacBook Pro, is still manufactured with an aluminum body and a very similar design. New features on the Aluminum PowerBook G4s included FireWire 800, faster USB, built-in AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth, and a fiber-optic backlit keyboard (available on the 17" and 15"), among other things.

[edit] Expansion/ports

The Aluminum PowerBook G4 featured connectivity similar to the earlier Titanium models, with some upgrades to the ports; it featured 2 USB 2.0 ports, FireWire 400 and 800 ports, a PC card slot (on the 15" and 17" models), AirPort Extreme (a faster version of the original AirPort), Bluetooth, a slot-loading SuperDrive (on some configurations), audio in and out, 56k modem, Gigabit Ethernet, a DVI port on the 15 and 17" models (the 12" models featured a Mini-DVI output), and a [trackpad].

[edit] Revisions

At the Apple Expo in Paris on September 16 2003, Apple added the 15-inch aluminum PowerBook to the portable computer lineup and introduced minor upgrades to the existing 12 and 17-inch models. The 15 and 17-inch models were widescreen, with respective 3:2 and 16:10 aspect ratios, while the 12-inch model featured a conventional 4:3 aspect ratio TFT LCD screen.

On January 31 2005, along with minor speed upgrades, Apple officially introduced an updated USB trackpad, replacing the ADB trackpads used for almost a decade. These new devices, which were also included in some PowerBooks sold in late 2004, allowed users to scroll in any direction, much like a scroll wheel found on computer mice, by using two fingers on the pad instead of the normal single finger. This was an often-requested feature, as shown by the third party trackpad driver SideTrack that added a similar ability to older PowerBooks and iBooks. A technology called Sudden Motion Sensor (SMS) which monitors the orientation of the laptop and detects sudden changes in velocity was also introduced at this time. PowerBooks were designed to utilize the SMS feature to prevent damage to the hard disk caused by strong vibrations or sudden motion. When the SMS feature is triggered, the disk heads are disengaged from the hard disk platters, thereby preventing or minimizing data loss which may occur as a result of disk head crash. Various hacks have harnessed the output of the SMS feature for use in "tilt-sensitive" applications.

The last PowerBook G4 generation, announced October 19 2005, originally consisted of 12-, 15- and 17-inch models in aluminum enclosures. The 17-inch model now featured a screen resolution of 1680x1050, equal to that of Apple's 20-inch iMac and Apple Cinema Display, while the 15-inch model now offered a 1440x960 resolution, higher than that of previous 17-inch PowerBooks. All PowerBooks now shipped with 8x DVD-burning SuperDrives, with dual-layer drives on the 15- and 17-inch models. The slot-loading Combo (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) drive was available as a build-to-order option. The 15-inch model joined the 17-inch model in natively supporting Apple's 30-inch Cinema Display, and hard disk space now ranged from 80 to 120 GB with speeds of 5400 RPM to 7200 RPM. Other PowerBook specifications remained unchanged, with 1.5 GHz and 1.67 GHz CPUs; 512 MiB to 2 GiB of RAM (with a maximum of 1.25 GB on the 12-inch); the NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200 (64 MiB) on the 12-inch and the ATI Technologies Radeon 9700 Mobility GPUs with 128 MiB of VRAM and Dual-Link DVI on the 15- and 17-inch, and many other features. The 17-inch and 15-inch models now used PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM, though it operated at 333 MHz, and the PowerPC G4 processor did not take advantage of DDR's second tick per clock, giving it an effective 1.33 GB/s bandwidth rather than the maximum 4.2 GB/s.

While the Titanium PowerBook G4s were capable of running Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X operating systems, the Aluminum PowerBook G4s could only boot in Mac OS X from startup. Both series of machines could run Mac OS 9 in Classic mode from within Mac OS X.

[edit] Industrial design

The Aluminum PowerBook G4 was designed by Apple's VP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive, and used a slightly different design from the preceding Titanium models. The most obvious change was the use of Aluminum, not Titanium, to manufacture the body. The keyboard, which was originally black, was changed to match the color of the body. On 15" and 17" models it was backlit. The design was considered superior to most other notebooks when it debuted in 2003, and consequently it made the PowerBook G4 one of the most desirable notebooks on the market. The external design of Apple's professional laptops has never really strayed from the original however, and there are many critics who point out the vast improvements other manufacturers have made in their models in the same amount of time and wonder when Apple will actually do a substantial revamp of the Powerbook/Macbook Pro line.

[edit] Quality issues

Some users of recent Aluminum PowerBook G4 models are reporting a design flaw resulting in the failure of their PowerBook's lower memory slot. The typical resolution is replacement of the logic board, similar to iBook failures. A petition was started in early June 2005 and as of March 2007 has collected 2,520 signatures. Presently, Apple has started a Repair Extension Program for PowerBooks affected by the issue, for up to 2 years from the original date of purchase, even if the computer is out of warranty. However this repair program does not include the G4 PowerBook 1.25 Ghz model, which are affected by the same problem. It also does not cover the G4 Powerbook 1.5 Ghz model if its serial number does not fall into the range of serial numbers that Apple has approved for repairs. This model also exhibits the exact same problems as the identified models. So far Apple officially does not acknowledge the problem with this model, just as they previously did with the now covered models.

Another issue came to light concerning the amount of heat generated inside the PowerBook G4 by its internal processors. The fan included does not seem to dissipate much of the heat. This, some critics contend, can cause issues with the logic board functionality, and even in some cases cause the hard drive to crash. Compared to the Titanium PowerBook G4, however, current PowerBook models run cooler and with less fan noise.

It is not uncommon for the 15" PowerBook G4 (2004–2005) to reach temperatures as high as 63 °Celsius (145 °Fahrenheit) during periods of extensive use and operations that require a large amount of processor power, such as video editing, games, etc. Similarly, a 12" PowerBook may reach up to 66 °C (150 °F), while under a heavy load. 50 °C (120 °F) is the normal running temperature for most moderate levels of activity. A fix for the overheating is to lift the laptop above a surface. The final generation of the 15" and 17" aluminum PowerBook models were affected by a defect in audio output. Hundreds of users reported an echo or loop effect emitted from the internal speakers and audio line out on these models. This issue was fixed in the Mac OS X 10.4.5 update.

The PowerBook G4 17" 1.67GHz type M9689 introduced in Q2 2005 suffers from poor quality displays. The devices were the last ones shipped with the matte 1440x960 pixel low resolution display. After 15 months of usage the displays show permanently shining lines of various colors stretching vertically across the LCD.

[edit] Discontinuation

As time passed by and processor technology advanced, it became clear that the aging G4 processor could not live up to the computational demands of today's applications; the PowerPC G5, which powers Apple's now-discontinued Power Mac G5 and iMac G5 computers, proved to be too power-hungry and heat-intensive to use in laptops. This, along with the stalling development of the G5, is one of the main reasons for Apple's transition from PowerPC to Intel processors. On January 10, 2006, Apple released its first Intel-based laptop, the MacBook Pro, which was the successor to the 15" PowerBook G4; the 17" PowerBook G4 was replaced by a 17" version of the MacBook Pro on April 24, 2006. The 12" PowerBook G4 was replaced along with the iBook by the 13.3" MacBook on May 16, 2006, ending the whole PowerBook line.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted during the introduction of the MacBook Pro that Apple wants the word "Mac" in the name of all its Mac hardware products. Consequently, the trademark name "PowerBook" has been retired as of 2006.

[edit] References

[edit] External links

This article was started using a Wikipedia G4 article
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