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Apple juices its iBook line

The company offers a minor speed improvement to its iBook consumer notebooks, boosting the hard drives and processor speeds and adding more powerful graphics.

Apple Computer on Monday offered a minor speed improvement to its iBook line of consumer notebooks, boosting the hard drives and processor speeds and adding more powerful graphics.

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The new iBooks are priced similarly to their predecessors, and all feature improved ATI Mobility Radeon graphics processors as well as a new video-out port and twice as much cache memory.

The entry-level version, priced at $1,199, comes with a 12-inch screen, 600MHz G3 processor, 20GB hard drive, and CD-ROM drive. A $1,499 midrange model that can play DVD movies and burn CDs now comes equipped with a 700MHz G3 chip and 20GB hard drive. The $1,799 top-of-the-line model also includes a combo drive, but has a 14-inch screen and now comes with a 700MHz chip and 30GB hard drive.

Apple is no longer offering a version that could play DVD movies and read, but not burn, CDs.

However, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has also added a build-to-order model on its online store that features the faster 700MHz chip, a larger 14-inch screen, and a 30GB hard drive, along with a CD-ROM drive, for $1,649.

"The iBook is our best-selling consumer and education notebook ever," Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior director of hardware product marketing, said in a statement. "Now iBooks are even better for creating, organizing and sharing digital photos, movies and music on the go."

The new iBooks are available on Apple's Web site, the company said.

Last month, Apple offered minor improvements to its Titanium PowerBook G4, improving the screen and graphics card.

Apple's moves come amid increased price competition in the Windows-based notebook market. Gateway offers the $999 Solo 1450 SE with a DVD drive, while computers with a combo CD-RW/DVD drive have been dropping in price.

For example, Best Buy is offering for $1,399, after rebate, a Compaq Presario 725US notebook with 14-inch screen, AMD's 1600+ Mobile Athlon, 256MB of memory, a 20GB hard drive and combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive.