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The 12-in. PowerBook: Thin and (feature) rich

July 12, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The old adage that you can never be too thin or too rich seems like a tailor-made description of what road warriors want in their laptops: thin, lightweight machines that are feature-rich and, of course, inexpensive.
With its latest generation of PowerBooks, unveiled back in January (see "Apple updates PowerBooks, touts new technologies"), Apple Computer Inc. may have had that adage in mind: It incrementally updated its aluminum-clad laptop line with faster processors, faster SuperDrives and hard drives; doubled the memory -- and cut prices. The message was simple: You get more for less.
For the past few weeks, I've been using one of the new 12-in. PowerBooks, loaned out by Apple for review purposes, and I've found it to be almost everything I'd want in a portable computer. This iteration comes with a 1.5-GHz G4 processor, the now-standard 512MB of RAM, a 5,400-rpm 80GB hard drive, an 8X SuperDrive (which burns and plays CDs and DVDs), Bluetooth 2.0, an 802.11g wireless card, Apple's new two-finger scrolling trackpad and its Sudden Motion Sensor technology.
Price out the door: $1,699 plus tax. (The model with a Combo drive that only burns CDs is $200 less.)
About the only thing I haven't tried out is the Sudden Motion Sensor. It's designed to park the heads on the hard drive in case you drop your PowerBook, thereby preserving data -- even if the laptop gets broken. Tossing a PowerBook onto the floor -- even if it's not mine -- is something I'm loath to do. I'll take Apple's word for it on this particular bit of technology.
In all other respects save one, I've found Apple's smallest laptop to be a champ when it comes to portable computing. I've always had a fondness for the 12-in. model, which weighs in at just 4.6 pounds -- light enough to carry most anywhere, yet hefty enough to convey a feeling of solid construction. I believe it was Walt Mossberg at The Wall Street Journal who best summed up the 12-in. PowerBook. It's like one of those all-metal Leica cameras that just reeks of quality.
I have to admit having taken a roller-coaster ride of sorts in the past couple of years since Apple introduced its aluminum PowerBooks. I fell first for the 17-in. model (such widescreen real estate), then swooned for the first-generation 12-in. model (a hot little number in more ways than one, especially when you sat it in your lap), then decided that for most users the midrange 15-in. model is the perfect blend of portability and power.
Along the

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