Tools Of The Trade: The Apple 17-inch PowerBook

Click to follow

It is a testament to Apple's design team that its updated, large-screen laptop can be so big without appearing bulky. This is helped by the smooth lines of the aluminum case and the fact that there are no protruding buttons, switches or catches to snag on luggage. The computer is also surprisingly slim, and not much heavier than a standard 14- or 15-inch display portable.

Nonetheless, the ergonomics are not perfect. The large screen would be hard to use in cramped environments such as on a plane or train, and the larger casing means the keyboard is not positioned as well as on Apple's 15-inch model.

This is unlikely to be too much of a drawback for Apple's main target market, professionals in the creative industry. It would be hard to justify buying a 17-inch display laptop just for word processing, but the raw horsepower of the PowerBook, along with the display, makes it ideal for video editing, sound production, graphic design or visualisation.

The main feature of Apple's update to its PowerBook range is higher-resolution screens. These pack more pixels into the same space, so more information can be displayed.

This is a real benefit for users of applications such as Adobe's Photoshop or Apple's own Final Cut Pro video-editing software. These tend to have lots of on-screen windows, menus and tool pallets, and Apple says that the new screen gives 36 per cent more working space than on the previous model.

The 17-inch PowerBook's screen lives up to expectations. Apple has resisted the glossy coatings adopted by some PC makers in favour of a large display that works in lots of different light conditions. A decent graphics card (an ATI Mobility Radeon 9700) makes the screen responsive, and the computer can also run Apple's 30-inch flat-panel display.

The 1.67GHz main processor provides a good reserve of power for heavy-duty software applications, and the computer comes with a drive that can write to DVDs, Bluetooth and wireless networking. Apple has also added analogue and digital audio inputs and outputs, again with its creative audience in mind.

The basic 512MB of main memory is probably not enough for video editing or intensive graphics work, so most buyers will want to add more RAM. Some form of docking station would also be a useful option for creatives who use a PowerBook as their main computer.

This computer is designed for the niche, rather than the mass market. It might not sell in huge quantities, but the creative professionals who need its capabilities will be happy.

RATING: 4 out of 5.

PROS: high-resolution, high-quality screen; good design, strong performance.

CONS: no Apple-branded docking station; users will need more RAM.

PRICE: £1,749 including VAT.