Stylish PowerBook G3s set new standards
In the dim and distant past (i.e. a couple of years ago), Apple's computers were slow and overpriced compared to their Windows counterparts. Under the benevolent dictatorship of Steve Jobs, that's changed. Apple's current offerings are fast, competitively priced and set new standards for design and innovation.
While Apple's most recent PowerBooks don't share the striking design of the iMac, the iBook and desktop G3s and G4s, they do set new standards for notebook performance.
Unlike desktop G3s, the new G3 PowerBooks ($2,499 to $3,499) can't be configured with almost every option under the sun, but there's a good reason for that: They come with many common options already built in. The base model is a 333 MHz machine with a huge, bright 14.1-inch screen, 64 MB RAM, 24X CD-ROM, a 4 GB hard drive, a 56K fax modem, SCSI port, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, two USB ports, VGA and S-video outputs and one PC card slot. The 400 MHz version adds a 2X DVD-ROM drive and a 6 GB hard drive.
The PowerBook G3s are beautiful machines. Their cases have gentle, graceful lines and a rubberized area in the center for a good grip. The keyboard is a translucent bronze, and the lithium-ion battery has a built-in LED power gauge.
Beyond its appearance, the PowerBook G3 is impressively engineered. The keyboard flips up for easy access to RAM, hard drive and the other important components. It sleeps automatically when you close the lid. The screen is gorgeous, with a large viewing angle that offers more than enough screen real estate. Battery life falls short of the five hours claimed by Apple, but I've gotten four hours with fairly heavy use.
The PowerBook's flaws are few and minor. When not on a hard, flat surface, the bottom of the computer becomes uncomfortably warm. Not scorch-your-shorts hot like earlier PowerBooks, but enough to make you want to take it off of your lap once in a while. I also miss the ability to put a drive or a battery into either of the two bays. .
All things considered, Apple's new PowerBook G3s kick butt. They're slimmer, lighter, faster and more affordable than their predecessors, and they can easily hold their own against top Windows notebooks. They aren't as easy to carry as some of the ultra-slims, but they provide a full-featured, no-compromise desktop replacement system at a reasonable price.
Information: 800-795-1000 or www.apple.com.
-- Andrew Sasaki
Chessboard challenging for beginners and pros
Kasparov Chess Academy ($249.95) is the latest entry in Saitek's line of chess and other electronic game boards. This impressive high-end chessboard can do everything from teach a new player the game, walking you through step-by-step with voice instruction, to challenging the most seasoned player.
The board has an ELO rating of 1,900 Swedish. (ELO is an international system for rating the strength of human and computer players. A score of 1,900 is high enough to give even the most dedicated player a run for the money.)
Kasparov Chess Academy also has more than 20 hours of synthesized speech instruction, 100 complete interactive lessons and a library of 100 opening moves.
The handsome, high-tech silver case looks impressive on your coffee table. A door beneath the unit stores all of the playing pieces. The game takes three AA batteries, which Saitek claims will last for up to 550 hours.
Of course, if you want to, you can use the Chess Academy board to play against a good, old-fashioned human opponent. A special "Non-Auto Mode" will even allow the computer to monitor your game as a referee, keeping track of the time and checking the legality of your moves.
Information: 800-452-4377 or www.saitekusa.com/chess/
-- Gareth Branwyn
For reviews of these and other gadgets, visit www.streettech.com.