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Product Review: Apple Titanium Powerbook G4

Few can look at Apple hardware like the sleek Titanium Powerbook without admiring its physical beauty, but Apple has always been handicapped by a perception that there is no software available for it. While you definitely have more options available on Windows, Lightwave, Maya, and at last Photoshop all have OS X versions available.

Few can look at Apple hardware like the sleek Titanium Powerbook without admiring its physical beauty, but Apple has always been handicapped by a perception that there is no software available for it. While you definitely have more options available on Windows, Lightwave, Maya, and at last Photoshop all have OS X versions available. (3DS Max, however, remains available only under Windows.) The loss of some applications gains you access to a variety of Apple-exclusive applications, including - most notably for game developers - Final Cut Pro, Apple's exquisite video-editing software. Apple has recently released a version of Shake, a high-end compositing product for OS X, at a significant price reduction over the Windows and Linux versions.

My review unit had an 800MHz PowerPC G4 processor and 512MB of RAM, a setup that retails for $3,199. The base model Titanium Powerbook has a 667MHz G4 processor and 256MB RAM for $2,499. Both come with ATI's Radeon Mobility 7500 with 32MB of DDR video memory. Other custom-built options are available direct from Apple.

When discussing the hardware, before you even turn it on, you just want to sit back and admire the artistry of the industrial design. It measures less than one inch thick, but the titanium shell feels incredibly solid.

Looking around the edges of the machine, it appears to lack ports. Looks are deceiving, however, because under a clever flip-down rear plate the Powerbook reveals two USB ports, nine-pin Firewire, a gigabit Ethernet port, as well as a built-in modem. There is also built-in 802.11b connectivity (standard on my review model, an add-on on the lower-priced version), though I did find the reception to be spotty compared to some other computers. For anything else you may need, a PC card slot allows for future expansion.

Not just pretty on the outside, the TiBook has real juice to it. Photoshop 7 zips along with ease. It's hard to get any real work done with a touch pad, but you can easily add a mouse or tablet, both of which travel well. In fact, I know of one artist who brings his Powerbook and tablet to life-drawing sessions instead of a sketch pad.

Maya is currently available for Mac OS X in version 3.5, though Alias|Wavefront announced that version 4.5 will bring Maya into parity across all platforms. Alias|Wavefront actually recommends against using the Powerbook to run Maya, though for me everything seemed to run at a more than reasonable pace for a laptop, with only minor hassle depending on whether you are working with a one-, two-, or three-button mouse. Also, Alias|Wavefront does not offer the Unlimited version of Maya for the Mac, only the Complete package.

Apple recently released the DVI to ADC adapter, which allows Macs with DVI connections (like the Titanium Powerbook) to use their line of fantastic Studio Display monitors.

As for battery life, the TiBook had incredible legs, as long as I wasn't using the hybrid CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive constantly watching movies or playing audio CDs. Average life on a single charge was approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. OS X includes a relatively accurate battery life utility that not only tells you how much time you have left while operating on a battery, it tells you how long till you have a full charge while running off the AC adapter.

Putting a Mac person and a PC person in a room to debate which is faster hardware is like putting two wet badgers in a sack. When it's all over, you can't really tell who won, and all it leaves is a big old mess. I'm not going to lie to you - the G4 is not as speedy as your latest Pentium or Athlon, and the ATI Mobile Radeon does not give the polygon performance of a Quadro4 2 Go, never mind a desktop workstation-class video card. But for 3D modelers and animators working with high-density geometry, this is not a workstation replacement. It's a great system to use on the road, or as a personal system.

For texture artists, sound designers, and programmers, it has all the power you need, with the style and user interface Apple is famous for. Add in the new capabilities of OS X and you have a platform ready for anybody. This is best evidenced to me by the fact that at the company I work for, our lead artist just bought one, and our technical director (of the programming variety, not the art kind) was planning to get one within a couple weeks. A computer that satisfies the needs and wants of not only an artist, but a programmer? Inconceivable.


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Titanium Powerbook G4
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3body_arrow_sm_right.gif Price:
$2,499

 

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