Buying a laptop typically demands certain trade-offs, but with the beautifully designed thin-and-light 15-inch PowerBook G4, there's no need to compromise: it delivers portability, performance, and a 15.2-inch (diagonal) display that's great for graphics work, watching DVDs, and just about anything else. Like the 17-inch PowerBook G4, this 15-inch model includes features such as a scrolling trackpad and a Sudden Motion Sensor that protects the hard drive when the laptop is dropped. In addition, the 15-inch PowerBook G4 is among the new fleet of Macs running on Mac OS X Tiger, and it ships with the iLife '05 software suite. Though the excellent software package adds significant value, on a pure hardware basis, the PowerBook G4 comes at a premium: a similarly configured ThinkPad T43, for example, costs $500 less.
The Apple PowerBook's sleek aluminum shell is hard to miss, and the 15-inch model has particularly pleasing dimensions. Measuring just 1.1 inches thick, 13.7 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep, it is similar in size to the Portable One MX and the ThinkPad T43. At a reasonable 5.6 pounds, the PowerBook G4 weighs about average for a thin-and-light laptop--slightly heavier than the ThinkPad T43 and 0.5 pound heavier than the Portable One MX. Its 0.4-pound AC adapter makes for a total weight that's acceptable for carrying on the occasional trip.
Lift the lid of the 15-inch PowerBook G4, and you'll find the same minimalist design as on its 17-inch sibling: just a power button, a big keyboard framed by stereo speakers, and a large trackpad with a single mouse button. Unlike the lower-end iBook, the PowerBook G4 has a silver case and keyboard that do not pick up finger smudges. Though the keys are a bit shallow, they're wide, and we found them comfortable to use for long stretches of typing; we also loved the keyboard backlighting, which automatically adjusted to changes in ambient light levels. Like on other PowerBook G4s (and now iBooks, too), the generously sized trackpad lets you scroll through long documents and Web pages by dragging two fingers down the pad. The laptop's 15.2-inch (diagonal) TFT wide-screen display is adequately sized for most productivity and entertainment applications, and its vivid 1,280x854 native resolution teamed with the PowerBook's stereo speakers make it a good portable movie theater.
With two USB 2.0 ports; the rare combination of FireWire 400 and 800; a PC Card slot that accepts Type I and II PC cards; and support for DVI, VGA, S-Video, and composite video, the Apple PowerBook G4 can connect to virtually any peripheral, from digital cameras to ProTools hardware. It's equipped with Bluetooth to interface with cell phones, and you can access the Internet via 802.11g Wi-Fi radio, Gigabit Ethernet, or modem. This 15-inch PowerBook G4 also accommodates a neat slot-loading SuperDrive that plays and burns DVDs and CDs. Unlike most Windows laptops, the PowerBook G4 doesn't include a built-in media reader for flash memory cards, though the USB and FireWire ports can usually connect directly to peripherals that use card memory.