Apple PowerBook G4 (17-inch; 1.67GHz) review: Apple PowerBook G4 (17-inch; 1.67GHz)

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.9
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Service and support: 4.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Brilliant display has superfine native resolution; less expensive than prior version; DVD burner; improved battery life; includes Apple's Sudden Motion Sensor and ambient-light sensor.

The Bad Expensive; lacks a TV tuner card; has only two USB ports.

The Bottom Line The 17-inch PowerBook G4 delivers a competitive set of features, a great software package, good battery life, and style in spades, but you can find plenty of less expensive options out there.

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Apple PowerBook G4 (17-inch)

Apple's reluctance to mess with a good thing brings a handful of modest upgrades to the new 17-inch PowerBook G4, which now offers a finer native resolution of 1,680x1,050 and a list price of $2,499--$200 less than before. Though it's significantly more expensive than comparable Windows-based hardware, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 remains the dream machine for creative professionals already committed to the Mac OS, and for anyone else looking for the sleekest, lightest-weight 17-inch wide-screen laptop on the market.

The 17-inch PowerBook has the same rock-solid aluminum-alloy case as the other PowerBooks. It measures 15.4 inches across, 10.2 inches deep, and just 1 inch thick, making it considerably sleeker than the competition. It's also remarkably lightweight at 6.9 pounds, which is at least 1 to 2 pounds lighter than most 17-inch PC laptops. For example, the HP Pavilion dv8000z , which starts at $1,099, weighs 8.3 pounds; the Dell Inspiron 9300, which starts at $999, weighs 8.2 pounds; and most other PC desktop replacements weigh much more. The high-end $2,499 Toshiba Qosmio G25-AV513 weighs 9.5 pounds.

With the same keyboard layout as the 15-inch and 12-inch models, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 has rounded keys that are shaped to fit your fingers. An ambient-light sensor automatically illuminates the keyboard in low lighting. The spacious touch pad's two-finger scrolling feature, for scrolling horizontally and vertically, is magical (use it for a few days, and you'll wonder how you ever did without it).

The screen is the star here. Apple claims it has improved the brightness by 46 percent (we did not test this claim) and increased the top resolution to 1,680x1,050 pixels (up from 1,440x900), giving you 36 percent more real estate on your screen. The higher resolution makes icons and text quite small, but the image quality is crisp, and the display is equally excellent for graphics work, watching movies, and surfing the Web.

Some of the 17-inch PowerBook G4's lightness comes from what it doesn't have. It lacks a TV tuner card, as found on the Qosmio G25-AV513 and the Sony VAIO VGN-AX570G, and it provides only two USB 2.0 ports; we consider four ports standard for a desktop replacement. Otherwise, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 has a complete assortment of connections, including a PC Card slot and ports for 56Kbps modem, 10/100/1,000 Ethernet, FireWire (one for 400 and one for 800), analog and digital audio input and output, VGA, S-Video, composite video, and DVI. It also has a slot-loading single-layer DVD burner. Since it comes on the heels of the revamped iMac G5, which has a built-in iSight camera, we wish this pricey PowerBook also arrived with a built-in camera and Apple's Front Row software (and a remote). Alas.

Like all Apple laptops, the 17-inch PowerBook G4 lacks a true productivity suite, but it ships with one of the strongest software packages around. You get the latest version of the terrific Mac OS X , nicknamed Tiger, plus Apple's excellent iLife '05 software bundle for managing photos (iPhoto), videos (iMovie), and music (iTunes). Also included are more professional-grade apps, including Art Directors Toolkit, OmniOutliner, and QuickBooks for Mac.

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Where to Buy

Apple PowerBook G4 (17-inch; 1.67GHz)

Part Number: M9970LL/A Released: Oct. 19, 2005

MSRP: $2,499.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct. 19, 2005
  • Resolution 1680 x 1050 ( WSXGA+ )
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • Weight 6.8 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW (+R DL) - fixed
  • Graphics Processor AGP 4x - ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 - 128 MB DDR SDRAM
  • CPU PowerPC G4 1.67 GHz