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Top-speed PowerBooks out

Apple Computer makes a play for the title of "world's fastest notebook" in unveiling its fastest model yet.

Apple Computer made a play for the title of "world's fastest notebook" with today's unveiling of its speediest PowerBook model yet.

Apple introduced new portables

PowerBook G3
PowerBook G3
that feature up to a 292-MHz PowerPC processor and the first 14.1-inch display on a PowerBook, as previously reported, and is offering a DVD-ROM drive as an extra cost option.

The Macintosh maker also unveiled a $1,299 desktop unit called the iMac.

At the high end of the new notebook lineup, the system comes with an 83-MHz system "bus" to speed the flow of information to the processor for better performance. This is faster than the 66-MHz bus, or data path, offered on Apple's desktop computers, and is also faster than the 66-MHz bus used on Intel-based notebooks.

Apple touted the PowerBook's performance advantage at a media event today. Currently, the fastest Intel-based notebooks offer a 266-MHz Pentium II processor. Apple claims that the desktop version of the PowerPC 750 can perform up to twice as fast as a desktop version of the Pentium II given a comparable clock speed, and the comparison should hold with the new notebooks as well.

Apple says battery life won't suffer, even with the faster processors. With an optional second battery installed in the modular docking bay, users can expect around seven hours of operation. The bays are hot-swappable, meaning that a CD-ROM or floppy disk drive can be removed and another component inserted without restarting the computer. Windows-based notebooks typically must be rebooted.

The high-end PowerBook will ship with an 8GB hard drive, CD-ROM, a modem, and built-in networking capability for a suggested retail price of $5,595, with one reseller already offering the system for $5,395.

A PowerBook G3/233 with 233-MHz processor, 12.1-inch display, a 2GB hard drive, CD-ROM, and built-in networking capabilities starts at $2,299.

As of early March, resellers had expected the new low-end notebook to be priced at $2,000, but Apple has since added more memory and other features to the system.

Apple is also offering a G3/233 with a 13.3-inch active-matrix display for a suggested retail price of $2,999, and a system with a 14.1-inch display will be available with prices starting at $3,499.

The notebooks represent a significant product introduction for Apple as it strives to maintain profitability, officials have said. The company recently posted its first consecutive quarterly profits since 1995, based on strong sales of the G3 line.

Apple is hoping that pent-up demand for new notebooks will boost the company to profitability again in the third quarter, a time frame that should also benefit from seasonal sales to education customers. The current top-line 3400 series PowerBooks were originally introduced in February 1997, and were refreshed in November with a faster PowerPC 750 processor.