The laptop that made Apple switch to aluminum
They had a different attitude: Music Music when it launched in january 2001. The titanium powerbook g4 was the first major redesign of apple’s professional laptop in about three years. These days, that’s not a very long time, but back then it marked a major change in the company’s design philosophy. Instead of the sweeping black plastic curves of the g3 series, the g4 instead opted for a simple boxy look. The new machine was also dramatically more compact than its predecessor. It was almost an inch or three centimeters shallower and thinner than the last of the powerbook g3 models, though the g4 was also about an inch wider. This came with the benefit of a bigger display. Moving from 14.1 inches to 15.2, it was also the first apple laptop with a wide screen, lcd featuring a 3×2 aspect, ratio and resolution of 1152 by 768 and even by today’s standards. The display bezels are ridiculously small granted built in webcams weren’t, really a thing in 2001. to keep those bezels looking clean apple, even put the display latch on a hinge. It would be drawn out by a magnet when the screen was closed, though, on my machine. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, its smaller form factor did involve some compromises, though the powerbook g3 series had a hot swappable bay for things like an optical, floppy or zip drive, and it could also support two batteries for extended run time there just wasn’t space For that in the titanium g4, so the single lithium ion pack snapped into the bottom and up front was a built in slot loading optical drive.
Expandability then was intended to be had through external devices. This particular g4 has a single firewire, 400, two usb 1.1 gigabit ethernet dvi, and s video audio input and 56k modem ports around back with the headphone jack on the rear, left corner. The original revision of this machine, though, came with a vga output and only featured 10 100 networking instead of gigabit one thing the geforce new design didn’t give up was its upgrade ability. Users could simply undo two latches at the top of the keyboard and flip it onto the palm rest to gain easy access to the machine’s two ram slots. It used standard pc100 and in later revisions, pc 133, so dimms and maxed out at one gigabyte of memory. The cooling was a bit more substantial than in previous apple laptops, due to the g4’s increased power consumption and during its production, processor speeds ranged from 400 megahertz up to one gigahertz to access other parts of the system. The bottom panel needed to come off, but this just involved removing a few torx screws and carefully lifting it away from there. One could easily replace or upgrade the machine’s hard drive, which came in capacities from 10 to 60 gigabytes. This one is 30 gigs at 4, 200 rpm, but due to the relatively slow speeds of the ata 66 bus, it connects to not much performance was lost from the slower rotational speed. Also accessible was the optional airport wi fi card.
This was a big deal, as apple was relatively early when it came to offering wireless networking launching its airport base station router in 1999. A lot of windows laptops at the time still needed to rely on an add on pc card. Initial reviews of the titanium g4 were overwhelmingly good critics loved its thinner, lighter design, which had apparently been inspired by sony’s z series laptops. The machine also represented good value, with a larger screen, faster processor, more ram and improved graphics than the g3 models at a price. Only a hundred dollars us higher it looked fresh and modern a welcome respite for those weary of the candy colored translucent plastic of the late 90s. But while it seemed very compelling on paper after some time, buyers found that the titanium g4 had a devastating flaw. As its name suggests, the laptop was made from titanium apple boasted how the material was lighter and stronger than other metals like aluminum, but this was the first time the company had used it in a product and thus didn’t have any experience dealing with it. This came back to bite them in a major way. Simply put the machines started falling apart, the paint had trouble adhering to the metal, so it chipped and flaked off with use, while titanium is indeed a strong material. It also tends to flex which led to cracks in its plastic trim and perhaps worst of all its display hinges, proved to be fairly weak and broke.
Frequently wi fi reception also suffered. The antennas were hidden behind small plastic strips on either side of the bottom case, which weren’t enough to overcome the shielding caused by the titanium enclosure. Apple did slowly address these problems through incremental improvements over the machine’s production run, alongside periodic upgrades to other components. In april of 2002, the computer received a substantial upgrade. The screen resolution was increased to 1280 by 854, the video output was switched from vga to dvi and the six times dvd reader added cd burning capabilities, all in addition to cpu graphics, ram and hard drive improvements. It was a conflicting time to be a mac user. The titanium powerbook g4 was a very appealing machine, not just because of its hardware specs, but also because it could dual boot, both the classic mac os and os 10, which at the time was very new and hadn’t, been fully adopted by all the major software manufacturers. But even the later revision machines like this one, were still somewhat prone to the build quality problems. Try as it might apple, could never fully shake these issues, and so in january 2003 it introduced two new powerbook g4s, with 12 and 17 inch screens featuring a new design made out of aluminum by the fall of that year. A 15 inch version was launched alongside them, and the troubled titanium model was finally discontinued. Despite its flaws, the machine remains sought. After by collectors, it still looks sleek and fresh.
Yet has some interesting complex elements that have long since disappeared in favor of apple’s, minimalistic design, philosophy, it’s, a look that declared it was ready to be taken seriously, but without giving up too much of the fresh design. Apple had become known for in 2001, the company was in the midst of several major transitions and the titanium powerbook g4 wraps all of that up hardware and software into one flawed, yet compelling package.