Leg four: firing up the Ti roadster
Even though the outside of the TiBook remains its same beautiful self, Apple has made a number of changes under the hood. Interestingly enough, many of these changes haven't made it to the advertising pages of notable Mac distributors who were still listing incorrect specs at the time of publication; the most overlooked improvement was the new graphics card.
If you haven't reviewed the improvements yet, hop over to the tech specs on Apple.com. You'll notice that the enhancements for the Titanium 667 include:
- 667MHz PowerPC G4 processor (up from 500 MHz) with 256K of on-chip level 2 cache, running at the same speed as the processor. The 256k level 2 cache might seem like a downgrade from the previous 1MB but it's not, because now it's on-chip and running at the same speed as the processor, which it wasn't before.
- 133MHz bus speed (up from 100 MHz).
- ATI Mobility RADEON graphics accelerator and 16MB of DDR video memory (up from the previous ATI RAGE Mobility 128 graphics accelerator).
- Optional Slot-loading CD-RW drive (even though I prefer the DVD).
- Hard drive options up to a 5400rpm 48GB monster.
- AirPort card pre-installed (this is a biggie for anyone who has ever tried to put the bottom cover back on a TiBook).
- Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet (up from previous 10/100 configuration).
One other slick improvement that I want to mention is the new, square power adapter that fits in your pocket or in the corner of your bag. It's quite ingenious and a welcome change for road warriors.
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So how do these enhancements translate into real world performance? That depends on how much your computing depends on disk-drive activity.
I had been using a 400 MHz G3 bronze-keyboard Pismo with Mac OS X 10.1, 384 MB RAM, and a 20GB hard drive spinning at 4200 rpm. Moving from the Pismo to the TiBook (OS 10.1, 667MHz G4, 512MB RAM, 30GB 4200 rpm hard drive) for normal operations such as opening the System Preferences window, there wasn't a world of difference, but there was improvement. Here are the results from a few typical tests:
- Opening the System Preferences window -- 2 bounces (two seconds) for the TiBook, and 3 bounces (3 seconds) for the Pismo.
- Initial launching of OmniWeb 4.0.5 -- 7 bounces (5 seconds) for the TiBook and 11 bounces (9 seconds) for the Pismo.
- Cold launching of QuickTime 5 -- 4 bounces (3 seconds) for the TiBook and 6 bounces (4 seconds) for the Pismo.
(Note for non-OS-X-users: the Dock resides at the bottom of your display in Mac OS X, and on it holds your designated application icons. When you launch one of those applications, the icon "bounces" while the program is loading. The fewer the bounces, the faster the launch.)
What about something a little more heavy-duty? I exported a 45MB QuickTime file using the Sorenson 3 and Q Design 2 codecs, adding a sharpening filter for good measure, and got these results:
- Time required (min:sec) to export 45MB QuickTime file on TiBook -- 7:03.
- Time required (min:sec) to export 45MB QuickTime file on Pismo -- 10:19.
Even though a 30-percent increase in speed is nothing to sneeze at, you'd think that it might be even more when you compare a 400 MHz G3 processor (with slower bus, etc.) to a 667 MHz G4 configuration. In part, this can be explained by what I consider the achilles' heel of laptops -- the hard drive.
If you check the TiBook specs, you see that the 20 and 30 GB drives spin at 4200 rpm. Compared to the 7200 or even 10000 rpm drives that you can get for desktop computers, 4200 is pretty slow. So if the function you're testing requires lots of hard drive activity, it's going to hold back some of the speed improvement that you might see otherwise.
If you demand the best performance from your TiBook, then I would recommend upgrading to the 48GB, 5400 rpm hard drive available at the Apple Store. But it will cost you and additional $300 over the price of the 30GB, 4200 drive.
I do, however, want to heap praise on Apple for upgrading the graphics card to the ATI Mobility RADEON. Graphics performance is stunning. I downloaded a demo version of Cro-Mag Rally 2.0 from the software folder in my iDisk, and played the game at full 1152 x 768 resolution. It was truly an immersive, and impressive, experience.
The bottom line, in terms of raw performance, is that the 667 TiBook is a solid upgrade from previous G3 notebooks. The graphics performance is outstanding. But if you're under the impression that it is going to blow away your existing G3 laptop on disk-intensive activities, then you'll be disappointed, unless you pony up the extra dollars for the faster hard drive.
Scoring for leg four of the Ti road test -- 8 points out of 10. The 667 PowerBook does what it's supposed to do: perform fast and steadily. Graphics are stunning. If Apple could find a way to include a really fast hard drive in this speedster, then the score would jump even higher.