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Apple turns on faster portables

The company updates its two notebook lines, the PowerBook and the iBook, with faster PowerPC G4 processors running at 1GHz to 1.5GHz

Apple Computer on Monday updated its two notebook lines, the PowerBook and the iBook, with faster PowerPC G4 processors running at 1GHz to 1.5GHz.

The changes, which also include faster graphics chips on some PowerBooks, are designed to keep Apple's portable sales singing. Nearly half of the computers Apple has sold recently have been PowerBooks or iBooks.

"We're growing pretty sharply" in terms of notebook sales, said Greg Joswiak, vice president of hardware product marketing at Apple. As a result, "we want to make an even better value proposition for our customers. That means making our notebooks even faster and adding more features so people can manage their digital life on the go."

Apple's PowerBook continues to come in three basic configurations with 12-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch displays. But the updated PowerBooks sport faster PowerPC processors, running at 1.33GHz and 1.5GHz. They previously ran at speeds between 1GHz and 1.33GHz.

In addition, Apple's AirPort Extreme, which is 802.11g wireless networking, now comes standard on the PowerBooks. And the 15-inch and 17-inch models now also feature ATI Technologies' Radeon 9700 graphics processor. That's a step up from the 9600 processor previously used.

Despite the faster chips, Apple kept its PowerBook prices the same or lower.

The $1,599 PowerBook G4 with a 12-inch display features a 1.33GHz PowerPC chip, 256MB of RAM, a 60GB hard drive, a combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM and AirPort Extreme networking. An extra $200 buys a version of the machine with Apple's 4x SuperDrive, which can burn DVDs.

The $1,999 PowerBook G4 with a 15-inch display comes with the 1.33GHz processor, 256MB of memory, a 60GB hard drive, a combination CD burner/DVD-ROM and AirPort Extreme.

Apple lowered the prices on two of its PowerBooks. A SuperDrive-equipped version of the 15-inch PowerBook with a 1.5GHz PowerPC processor, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive costs $2,499, Joswiak said. That's $100 less than the previous high-end model, which had a 1.25GHz chip.

The $2,799 PowerBook G4 with a 17-inch display includes the 1.5GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, the SuperDrive and AirPort Extreme. That is $200 less than its predecessor, Joswiak said. The previous model sported a 1.33GHz chip.

Apple also boosted the processor speeds on the iBook, its lightweight notebook for consumers and the education market. The machine now sports faster 1GHz and 1.2GHz PowerPC G4 processors. Previously, it started at 800MHz.

Apple's least-expensive iBook starts at $1,099 and comes with a 1GHz chip, a 12.1-inch display, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive and a slot-load combination CD-burner/DVD-ROM drive.

An iBook with a 14.1-inch screen starts at $1,299 and comes with the 1GHz processor, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive and the slot-load combination drive.

A 14.1-inch model for $1,499 comes with a 1.2GHz PowerPC G4 and gains a 60GB hard drive and AirPort Extreme.

Apple will also make new options available to customers who order directly from the company. When ordered from Apple's online store, the 14.1-inch iBook model can be fitted with the SuperDrive for an extra $200. Meanwhile, 15-inch and 17-inch PowerBooks can be ordered with up to 128MB of video memory, for better graphics performance.

The PowerBook line was last updated in September, when Apple introduced a 15-inch model running at 1.25GHz and a 17-inch model running at 1.33GHz. Apple added the PowerPC G4 to the iBook in October.

With the exception of the 17-inch PowerBook--which will be available in May--all of the new notebooks are available now, Apple said.