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Apple iBook G4

It also has a video out port so you can output video to a larger screen, while the 10/100 Ethernet port will get you hooked up to your home or office network with ease. The ports are all grouped on the left hand side of the machine, rather than spread around the chassis. Where you prefer the ports and connectors on a notebook to be situated is a subjective thing, so it’s worth considering this before purchase.

Battery life is pretty phenomenal; I used this machine for a sold three days without recharge, mostly having it on sleep mode, using it for an hour or so during my tube journey, playing CDs and generally waiting for it to go flat. It didn't.

For a real 'road warrior' this is a pretty compelling machine, you really will get a true working day out of the G4, and at just over 2kg it’s a very portable system. As someone who helps a sales team that really does travel around the world, I know having a small, powerful laptop with good battery life is an extremely useful business tool. However, this machine's key market is the consumer and the overall usability and design lend themselves well to the target audience.

Due to the power of current software and operating systems, and the still evident truth of Moore's Law, near enough any machine you can buy in the shops today is going to meet the needs of the average home user. What comes to the fore are the elements that make it a machine you can use straight out of the box, and one that looks good. Apple products look like they come from designers that Ikea wish they could afford. And an iBook does work straight out the box, with a bombproof operating system, and a range of consumer orientated applications that are extremely easy to use.

You have the iLife suite of media applications, iTunes for music, and iPhoto for digital images and iVideo for your home movies. All these are highly intuitive, and produce good results

You also get AppleWorks, a productivity suite that has a long heritage, having started out as ClarisWorks, and has been around as long as Microsoft Office. Unlike Office it hasn't become a de-facto package, with a host of powerful features that are, unfortunately, deeply buried and ignored by ninety percent of users. Instead you get a competent combination of word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation applications that would cover the needs of the majority of students and consumers. It also has compatibility with Word and Excel 2000 formats, so you're not cutting yourself off from the rest of the world.

If you pay, and this has to be done at purchase, for the Bluetooth and Airport Extreme options to be installed you get a very useful business user package. With very easy synchronisation between suitable Bluetooth equipped phones and the OS10.3 Address Book, which I've tested on PowerBooks. With this you get a very easy way of backing up and organising your contacts.

Airport Extreme is the WiFi 802.11g standard implementation from Apple, which will give you higher bandwidth than the more common 802.11b standard seen in most PC based notebooks. That said, you have to be connecting to an 802.11g wireless network to make use of the extra bandwidth.

There’s no denying that the £849 asking price is reasonable, especially compared with the current crop of Centrino based notebooks on the market. However, it’s also worth noting that you’re only getting 256MB of RAM and a 30GB hard disk, which is half of what’s seen on many PC notebooks. In fact if you increase the memory and hard disk size, and install the Airport Extreme card, the price jumps up to around £1,060. Taking this price into account the iBook is a bit less compelling. In fact you can pick up the award winning Acer TravelMate 661LMi for less than £100 more, giving you a larger screen, much higher resolution, PC Card and memory card slots, as well as a smart card reader for extra security.

But ultimately you don’t necessarily buy an Apple because of the specs and power, and the whole iBook package is appealing to the consumer who doesn’t want to invest in extra productivity software.

Verdict

The G4 iBook is a nice little notebook computer for the consumer market. It’s true that you can get something more powerful and better featured if you look to the Windows based market, but the iBook is undeniably stylish and simple to use. It’s worth factoring in the upgrades mentioned earlier, but you do get a pretty full suite of software as standard.

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