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The Source for Mac Performance News and Reviews
Review: PowerBook Firewire G3/500
By Mike
Review date:3/22/2000
Specifications and Features
Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Compatibility | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary
What's under the hood of these new Powerbooks?
Photo courtesy Apple Computer
photo courtesy of Apple

PowerBook Firewire System Specifications:

Processor, Cache, RAM and Storage:

  • 400MHz or 500MHz G3 CPU with 1MB backside cache at 2.5:1
    (This sample had an IBM copper G3)
  • 2 PC100 SODimm Slots for up to 1GB RAM
  • 100MHz system bus
  • CPU cooled via heat-pipe design
  • 6GB (400MHz) or 12GB (500MHz) ATA/66 hard drive standard
    (Later in the year 10GB and 20GB became standard)

Courtesy Apple computer
photo courtesy of Apple

Audio/Video Specs:

  • Rage128 Mobility AGP 2x video chip w/8MB SDRAM
  • 14.1 inch (diagonal) Active Matrix (TFT) LCD display
  • 1024x768/millions colors maximum
  • Removable 6X (24X equiv. CDROM rating) DVD ROM drive
    (The drive can also read type II DVD-RAM 2.6GB disks)
  • VGA output (supports mirrored and extended desktop modes to 1280x1024)
  • S-Video output (NTSC and PAL support)
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Built-in Microphone (correctly position away from the main chassis)
  • Audio input and output jacks

courtesy Apple Computer
photo courtesy of Apple


  • Dual USB ports (12Mbps max)
  • Dual Firewire ports (400Mbps max)
    (note - due to UniN chip revision limits, max sustained rates are appx 16-19MB/sec.)
  • 10/100BaseT Networking
  • 56K/V.90 internal modem
  • VGA HD15 Connector
  • S-Video Output
  • Audio Input
  • Audio Output
  • System Reset Button
  • Optional AIRPORT wireless Networking
    (card mounts internally)

Included Accessories:

  • Mac Monitor Adapter
  • Power Adapter (Yoyo/iBook Style)
  • Composite to S-Video adapter cable
  • Phone cord (high quality)
  • Expansion bay weight-saving device

Of course one 5100mAh battery is also included. (The battery is the same as the previous Lombard model.)

About the Internal Modem: As with other recent Macs, in my week of testing I had no disconnects and consistently high connect rates (43-46K - usually 45.3K) with the new PowerBook's internal modem. This is as good as any modem I've used and is the max these phone lines/my ISP can deliver. Remember that the quality of your phone lines, wall jacks and ISP can affect modem performance.

Temperature: Although the copper G3/500 in the new PowerBook runs at twice the clock speed of my Wallstreet PB G3/250, it's lower voltage and improved cooling design result in significantly lower operating temperatures (as much as 20C indicated lower). The bottom of the new Powerbook still gets hot, but not nearly the temperatures of the Wallstreet models. On battery power the bottom stayed cool enough for lap use.

Battery Life: As I said on the front page of the review, battery life was impressive. Without using the CDrom, but with the display at mid-brightness, I worked for about 4 hours on one battery, including copying over 2GB of files from an external Firewire (AC powered) hard drive, editing images, writing an article and even playing a quick game. The battery is a 5100mAh Lithium-Ion type with built-in charge status LEDs (a nice touch). The DVD ROM drive can be removed and replaced with a 2nd battery.

Battery life during DVD movie playback is about 2.5 hours (using normal brightness), twice the duration of a high-end Sony Vio notebook according to a Sony Vio vs PB Firewire review at SF Gate.

Display Adjustments: Unlike the studio display (desktop LCD), there is no screen adjustments on the Powerbooks. I did find that changing the default color setting (gamma) from 'Color LCD' to 'Powerbook G3' helped increase brightness a bit (different gamma). Graphics professionals have commented that the display has too blue a tint. Some said Photoshop's custom calibration can help, but that perfect color matching (to printed media) may not be possible. This is not a show-stopper for most portable users I suspect. [Note:: Owners of 14" display Powerbooks and iBooks might want to try the colorsync profiles sent by reader Brock Brandenberg. See the 3/22/2000 news page for more info . I've made the files available for download here.]

For more information on the new PowerBook, see Apple's PowerBook page. If you're serious about mobile DV editing, check out Apple's portable movie studio page.

The final page of the review has comments on documentation, included software and overall summary of the system.

Index of Powerbook Firewire G3/500 Review

Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Compatibility | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary

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