Monday, January 31, 2005

Apple updates du jour

Apple departed a little bit from their usual playbook today - they announced new systems today instead of waiting until Tuesday (the "traditional" announcement date).

Today's updates, as expected, were to the entire PowerBook line. Apple has now bumped up the top speed to 1.67 GHz (from 1.5), which is available on the 15" and 17" models. They also bumped up the 12" PowerBook to 1.5 GHz (from 1.33). A low-end 15" is also available in the 1.5 GHz speed.

Besides the speed bumps, the new line also gets the following other improvements: Upgraded graphics subsystems (nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 on the 12", ATi Radeon Mobility 9700 on the 15" and 17"), with the ability to drive the 30" display, Bluetooth 2.0 (faster), improved keyboard lighting, an 8x SuperDrive, bigger hard drives (up to 100 GB), scrolling support added to the trackpad, and a new system to help protect data if the PowerBook takes a header. The 17" PowerBook also gets S/PDIF support. The 12" and 15" PowerBooks now ship standard with 512MB - that was standard on the 15" before, but now it is a single DIMM. So you can easily upgrade to 768MB or 1 GB - since you now get an open slot when you buy it (to upgrade my older one to 1 GB I had to ditch both the built-in 256MB DIMMs).

Oh yeah - they also lowered prices at the same time. Every model except the 15" Combo drive version got a price cut of at least $100. The top-of-the-line 17" is now $2700 - a $300 cut.

This upgrade was no surprise (the rumor sheets had it pegged a month ago), but a necessary holding action until Apple can ship a PowerBook based on either the multi-core G4 that Freescale just came out with or a G5 chip. I figure these will take the edge off upgrade demands for a little while at least.

If I were in the market for a PowerBook today, I'd buy now. I think it'll be at least 6 months before anything else comes to market. Expect a minor eMac update soon - possibly a low-end G5 version. Other than that, Apple will probably stand pat on hardware until WWDC at mid-year.

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