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Review: PowerBook Firewire G3/500
By Mike
Review date:3/22/2000
(Updated May 2000 for note on free iMovie download)
Documentation and Review Summary
Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Compatibility | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary

The Powerbook manual covers all the basic features and functions in a clear and concise manner. There's even sections on connecting USB and Firewire devices, adding RAM, removing the hard drive and troubleshooting.

The manual also mentions the extensive software based help should you need more details than are in the printed manual. The documentation was typical Apple - very good. OOBE (out of box experience) was excellent. Other than an iMac perhaps, I don't think there is an easier or faster machine to setup and begin using than the Powerbook.

Software included with the PowerBook G3/500 Firewire:

  • MacOS 9.02 (later builds may have a different version)
  • iMovie (included with models after mid-2000)
  • Quicktime 4
  • DVD player 2.1
  • OpenGL 1.1.3
  • Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator Browsers
  • Outlook Express Email client
  • Stuffit utilities

The only sore spot on the PowerBook Firewire is the lack of more application software (Appleworks at least would have been great addition).

Note: This early 2000 model didn't come with iMovie but Apple later made it a free download. However after iMovie 2 was released, the free download of iMovie 1 vanished. iMovie 2 is included on later models or can be bought at the Apple store for about $49.


Bottom line is the new PowerBooks are the most well-rounded portable computers I've ever used. In the past there was always a weak spot as far as performance or capabilities (most notably graphics performance). No more.

Although it looks similar on the outside, Apple has made many changes from the previous Lombard models including dual Firewire ports, ATA/66 onboard controller, 100MHz system bus, faster CPUs, and the most advanced notebook graphics chip available today. Gone from the previous Lombard model is 5MB/sec SCSI port and the hardware DVD decoder. However the new 400MHz PowerBook Firewire with its many other improvements sells for $1000 less than the previous model.

The new Powerbook really grows on you, even for a longtime Powerbook user like myself. I've always called PowerBook G3s 'People Magnets' based on experience with my Wallstreet (read 1998's Into the Lion's Den if you missed it). Even the most die-hard PC fan will usually admire the design of the PowerBook, which has opened many closed minds in my experience.

Is the PowerBook Firewire Right for Me?
The answer for the large majority of buyers looking for portable power is yes. You get a lot of capability in a beautiful package with the new Powerbooks. The better value is the 400MHz model of course, but I'd suggest adding RAM to increase the standard 64MB in that model immediately. Some mail order dealers offer 'free' RAM as an incentive at the moment, so shop carefully.

Bottom Line:
As you already know by reading this review, I am very impressed with the overall performance of the new PowerBook. As with most Macs, I'm confident it will hold its value, both in resale and in utility for some time to come. Compare Mac resale value with the typical PC which loses more than half its value in the first year in most cases. If you're looking for a computer that is portable, powerful and easy to use with a touch of class -- give the new Powerbook a serious look. If Apple keeps turning out Powerbooks like this I'll have to burn my credit cards.

The true test of any computer is to ask its owner how they like it 6 months after the purchase. I suspect most owners of Powerbooks would report they've never regretted the purchase. Unlike many buyers of low-cost PCs that end up collecting dust after several months or have been more problems than productivity, the Powerbook will likely get more use as time goes by. I know my 1998 Wallstreet is the most used and useful computer I've ever owned by longshot. The fact it's portable adds another dimension in versatility. The new Powerbooks add even more features, amazing performance and 3D graphics performance never before seen in a portable.

5 Macs Rating

PowerBook Firewire Review Summary
Excellent performance
Long Battery Life
Best 3D Graphics performance to date in a notebook
Built-in dual Firewire ports (& USB of course)
Dual monitor support as well as mirroring
ATA/66 hard drive
400MHz model sells for $1000 less than previous models
Best design and styling of any notebook to date

No software bundle (iMovie and Appleworks would have been nice)
  (Update - Apple later made iMovie available as a free download)
No included removable/rewriteable drive
Software DVD playback (I wish the Lombard's hardware DVD was retained)
No SCSI interface (PCcard and USB/SCSI adapters available)
I miss the previous Password Security Control Panel

My Wish List:
This is a great machine but here is a small list of what I'd like to see added (easiest items first):

  • Better software bundle such as iMovie and Appleworks. (This costs Apple very little and would be a nice bonus for buyers. At least the high end $3495 model should have some sort of software bundle standard.) [As noted in the update, iMovie was later made available as a free download]
  • I still think every computer should have some included form of rewritable/removable storage, be it ZIP, SuperDisk, or whatever (even a floppy).
  • Option to add more video RAM. This would allow larger texture support and could double the video ram bandwidth. (The Rage128 Mobility chip has support of more/wider vram bus).
  • Twin Media Bays: One feature I liked about the Wallstreet was the fact when on AC power I could have a ZIP drive and CD/DVD drive installed simultaneously. The Lombard and later models don't allow this. Now that I have a USB ZIP drive, this isn't a big issue really. They also lost one PCMCIA slot, which I don't find a real drawback personally.
  • Better DVD player. The Lombard's DVD hardware decoder would have been nice, but other than very sluggish controls, movies seemed to play back OK with virtual memory off.

  • Pricing and Availability

    As of the date of this review (March, 2000) PowerBook Firewire list prices are $2499 (400MHz/6GB HD/64MB RAM) and $3499 (500MHz/12GB HD/128MB RAM). Prices and features may change in the future so always check the Apple Store for the latest information. In some cases Apple dealers may offer incentives or special promotions.

    Other PowerBook Firewire Reviews:

    Other Site PowerBook related articles:


    I welcome comments about this review.

    Index of Powerbook Firewire G3/500 Review

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

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