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Apple's new portable PowerBooks include one more for the road


Apple Computer introduced several new PowerBook portable Macintoshes last Monday, bolstering its most popular line with more power, better displays and the ability to connect directly to a wide variety of desktop monitors.

Apple also added two new members of the desktop Macintosh II family, the Mac IIvi and the Mac IIvx.

One of the new PowerBooks is a thin, lightweight version called the Duo, which, as the name implies, is part of a twosome. By itself, the Duo is an impressive, 4.2-pound notebook computer.

But when it is inserted into an optional desktop docking station, in a process similar to inserting a videocassette into a VCR, the Duo can be transformed into a fully powered desktop machine by attaching a big color monitor, a full-sized keyboard, extra disk drives, printers and other peripherals.

Instead of buying one Mac for the office and one for the road and contending with transferring files between them, you can use the Duo and its Duo Dock option to fill both roles.

The Duo comes in two versions, the model 210 and the model 230, ranging in price from $2,249 to $2,969. The 230 uses Motorola's 33-megahertz 68030 microprocessor, which is as powerful as any Mac II desktop system, while the 210 uses the 25-megahertz version of the same chip.

MA The Duo Dock docking station will cost $1,079 when it becomes

available next month. In late December, Apple will provide a MiniDock adapter ($589), a small backpack for the Duo that permits connection to external peripherals while you are on the road.

The PowerBook line has been phenomenally successful since its introduction last year. Apple says it has sold more than 400,000 of the laptop computers, generating more than $1 billion in revenue.

Many of those 400,000 buyers will be envious of the new PowerBooks and perhaps miffed, too. There are no provisions for upgrading older PowerBooks, which suffered from a few annoying problems that are corrected in the new models.

And, though color screens are increasingly common on Windows and DOS-based portables, a color PowerBook will not be available until next year.

The original PowerBooks, the models 170, 140 and 100, are being discontinued. The replacements are, in addition to the Duo, the models 180, 160 and 145. The 145 was introduced in August.

The PowerBook 180, which ranges in price from $4,109 to $4,469, is the flagship of the line.

The 6.8-pound computer has a 10-inch display that provides remarkable brightness and clarity. Part of the difference comes from a new lighting system, and part comes from displaying images in 16 shades of gray.

The Model 180 is built around the 33-megahertz version of the Motorola 68030 microprocessor, which means it is as powerful as any Mac II desktop machine. (The same chip powers the Duo model 230.) It also has a built-in math co-processor chip that speeds any numerical computing chore.

The 180 comes with four megabytes of system memory and either an 80-megabyte or 120-megabyte hard disk drive as standard equipment.

Apple's "superdrive" diskette drive, which can read diskettes created on DOS and OS/2 computers as well as Macintoshes, is also standard.

One of the big weaknesses of the earlier PowerBooks was the impossibility of attaching the computer directly to a desktop monitor. An expensive adapter was needed. The adapter is now built into the new PowerBooks, and it works with standard VGA color monitors, as well as with Apple monitors.

There are other improvements that will eliminate minor annoyances, including better access to the machine's ports on the back, automatic "sleep" mode when the lid is shut and an indicator light on the "caps lock" key.

The 180 also has a slot for an optional modem, and Apple has a dandy, although it will not be available until December.

The PowerBook Express Modem ($319) sends data at 14,400 bits per second, which is faster than most personal computer modems. It doubles as a 9,600-bit-per-second fax modem for sending and receiving facsimile messages.

Another disappointment with the original PowerBooks was the battery, which Apple said would run two to three hours on a charge.

In practice, users got slightly more than an hour of operation. With the new battery system, the PowerBooks should deliver on the original promise.

(Peter Lewis works out of the New York Times' Austin, Texas, bureau: [512] 328-8258.)

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