Retro Review: Apple PowerBook G3, Wall Street

Originally published in 1998

Apple is on a roll. With Microsoft in trouble with the Department of Justice and PC users increasingly fed up with the complexity of their system software, Apple is prime to recover some of the market share it lost in the early 1990’s. Who can pass up the fastest personal computers in the world? Who can pass up the fastest laptops in the world? Certainly, the new G3 series PowerBooks are worth salivating over, for they are everything PowerBook fanatics have been wishing for since the PowerBook 100. The top of the line G3 Series I 14.1"/292 gives new meaning to the words "Power" and "Book", for you can now carry around a truly powerful machine which will make every other laptop user on your flight green with envy.

The G3 Series I come in nine different flavors (see G3 Series II below). Separated by screen size, they are the 12.1"/233MHz with no modem, 12.1/233, 12.1/250, 13.3/233, 13.3/250, 13.3/292, 14.1/233, 14.1/250, and 14.1/292. With 1MB backside L2 cache, the 250MHz and 292MHz processors are significantly faster than their cacheless 233MHz counterpart. However, even the 233MHz processor is nearly twice as fast as the 603e-powered 3400c. Any of these PowerBooks will fly compared to earlier models, and with the 292MHz models, you’ll enjoy the fastest laptop in the world (heck, it’s one of the fastest personal computers in the world)! Besides the fast G3 processors, the G3 Series introduces the first 13.3" and 14.1" PowerBook screens. The 14.1" screen in particular is huge, larger even than a Multiple Scan 15" external monitor. A 12.1" dual-scan passive-matrix screen is available with a 233MHz or 250MHz CPU, and these screens are targeted towards budget-minded consumers. Frankly, I can’t recommend the 12.1" screen unless money is a real issue or you plan on using an external monitor most of the time. The 13.3" and 14.1" active-matrix screens are so nice that I would either purchase a leftover or used 3400c, original G3, or 1400c and buy one of the newer G3 models when I could afford the larger screen. As a former passive-matrix screen user now converted to active-matrix displays, I can attest to their difference.

The base models come with 32 MB RAM (thanks, Apple – finally!), a 2.0 GB hard drive, and a 20x CD-ROM drive. When ordering through the Apple Store, you can request up to 192 MB RAM, up to a 8.0 GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, Zip 100 drive, 56K modem, and a few other goodies, making the G3 Series flexible and versatile. Indeed, the G3 Series PowerBooks are the easiest to upgrade since the 1400, and there is even talk about future CPU upgrades. Ease of upgrading is an important consideration to many users, since not everyone can afford to purchase the latest PowerBook year after year. Instead, many folks would like to gradually upgrade their machine over a 2 to 3 year period until they have sufficient funds to purchase a new model.

With the exception of internal PCI slots, a la desktop models, the G3 Series are fully functional computers. With a full array of ports, you can plug in a keyboard, mouse, big external monitor, and lots of other peripherals should you desire. So who needs a big tower anyway? Probably not most of Apple’s customers. Sure, desktop models are cheaper, but unless you’re a graphics professional or otherwise need a high-powered system with extra PCI slots, you’ll be happy with one of these new PowerBooks. Besides, having the option of taking your ‘desktop’ system with you is very appealing.

Outside of price, size, and weight (if those matter to you), the G3 Series PowerBooks are everything a laptop should be in today’s world. The PC world has no choice but to sit up and take notice of Apple’s new compact wonders. Geez, I only wish I could afford a 14.1/292!

On September 1, 1998, Apple introduced the G3 Series II PowerBooks. With 14.1" screens, they came in 233, 266, and 300MHz flavors. This time around, they all had backside cache, and they were much more affordable. Besides the option of changing screen resolutions, they were otherwise identical to the G3 Series I.

Rating

At the time: A+

General (G3 Series I)

  • 233MHz, 250MHz, or 292MHz PowerPC G3 processor
  • 1MB backside L2 cache on 250MHz and 292MHz models, none on 233MHz models
  • 32MB standard RAM (64MB on 14.1"/292), maximum 192MB
  • Available 2.0GB, 4.0GB, or 8.0GB hard drives
  • 20x CD-ROM drive
  • No floppy drive on base 233MHz model, nor 56k internal modem
  • Available as build-to-order through Apple Store

General (G3 Series II)

  • 233MHz, 266MHz, or 300MHz PowerPC G3 processor
  • 1MB backside L2 cache on 266MHz and 300MHz models, 512k on 233MHz models
  • 64MB standard RAM (32MB on 233MHz model), maximum 192MB
  • Available 2.0GB, 4.0GB, or 8.0GB hard drives
  • 20x CD-ROM drive
  • 56k internal modem
  • No standard floppy drive
  • Available as build-to-order through Apple Store as of October, 1998.

Ports

  • 1 serial
  • ADB
  • stereo in
  • stereo out
  • video out
  • HDI-30 SCSI
  • IR
  • 2 expansion bays
  • 2 PC card slots
  • ethernet
  • internal modem

Display

  • 3 different displays (G3 Series I):
  • 12.1" SVGA STN passive matrix at 800×600 resolution
  • 13.3" TFT XGA active matrix at 1024×768 resolution
  • 14.1" TFT XGA active matrix at 1024×768 resolution, standard on G3 Series II. Series II models are able to display varying resolutions.

Weight

  • 12.1": 7.2 lbs.
  • 13.3": 7.6 lbs.
  • 14.1": 7.8 lbs.

Apple’s Specifications:

PowerBook G3 Series 14.1" (233, 266, 300 MHz)
     

Logic Board Ports Power
Processor: G3, 233/266/300
PMMU: integrated
FPU: integrated
Data Path: 64-bit, 66Mhz
L1 Cache: 64kb
L2 Cache: 512K (233)/1MB (266/300)
2nd Processor: none
Slots: 2 Type II PC Card (1 Type III)
ADB: 1
Video: HDI-15
Floppy: none
SCSI: HDI-30
Geoports: 1
Ethernet: 10Base-T
FireWire:
Mic Type: PlainTalk
Other Ports: Printer, Modem, Speaker,
Headphone,
Max Watts: 45
Amps: 1.2
BTU per Hr: 153.9
Voltage: 100-240
Freq Range: 50-60 Hz
Battery Type: 49 Wh Lithium Ion
Soft Power: yes
Memory Video Memory
Logic Board: none
RAM Slots: 2, 144pin SDRAM
Min – Max RAM: 32 MB – 192 MB
Min RAM Speed: 100 MHz
RAM Sizes: 32MB, 64MB, 128 MB
Install in Groups of: 1
Notes: Two SO-DIMM slots support to 192MB 144-pin SDRAM 128 MB DIMM installs in top slot only
Resolution Video Memory
built-in LCD (4MB VRAM)
(built-in)
512 x 384 n/a-bit
640 x 400 24-bit
640 x 480 n/a-bit
800 x 600 24-bit
832 x 624 n/a-bit
1024 x 768 24-bit
1152 x 870 n/a-bit
1280 x 1024 n/a-bit
Physical Software Storage
Introduced: 9/1/1998
Discontinued: n/a
Form Factor: PowerBook G3 Series
Gestalt ID: 312
Weight (lbs): 7.8
Dimensions (in): 2 H x 12.7 W x 10.4 D
Addressing Modes: 32-bit
Orig SSW: 8.1
Orig Enabler: PowerBook G3 Series 1.1
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 4MB
AppleTalk Ver: n/a
Mac OS
Supported:
8.1
8.5
Floppy Size: 1.44MB
Floppy Inject: manual
Min. Int HD Size: 2, 4, 8 GB
Int HD Interface: IDE
Orig CD Speed 20x, DVD
Int CD Support: yes

PowerBook G3 Series 14.1" (233, 250, 292 MHz)
     

Logic Board Ports Power
Processor: G3, 233/250/292
PMMU: integrated
FPU: integrated
Data Path: 64-bit, 66/83Mhz
L1 Cache: 64kb
L2 Cache: none (233)/1MB (250, 292)
2nd Processor: none
Slots: 2 Type II PC Card (1 Type III)
ADB: 1
Video: HDI-15
Floppy: none
SCSI: HDI-30
Geoports: 1
Ethernet: 10Base-T
FireWire:
Mic Type: PlainTalk
Other Ports: Printer, Modem, Speaker,
Headphone,
Max Watts: 45
Amps: 1.2
BTU per Hr: 153.9
Voltage: 100-240
Freq Range: 50-60 Hz
Battery Type: 49 Wh Lithium Ion
Soft Power: yes
Memory Video Memory
Logic Board: none
RAM Slots: 2, 144pin SDRAM
Min – Max RAM: 32 MB – 192 MB
Min RAM Speed: 100 MHz
RAM Sizes: 32MB, 64MB, 128 MB
Install in Groups of: 1
Notes: Two SO-DIMM slots support to 192MB 144-pin SDRAM 128 MB DIMM installs in top slot only
Resolution Video Memory
built-in LCD (4MB VRAM)
(built-in)
512 x 384 n/a-bit
640 x 400 n/a-bit
640 x 480 n/a-bit
800 x 600 n/a-bit
832 x 624 n/a-bit
1024 x 768 24-bit
1152 x 870 n/a-bit
1280 x 1024 n/a-bit
Physical Software Storage
Introduced: 9/1/1998
Discontinued: n/a
Form Factor: PowerBook G3 Series
Gestalt ID: 312
Weight (lbs): 7.8
Dimensions (in): 2 H x 12.7 W x 10.4 D
Addressing Modes: 32-bit
Orig SSW: 8.1
Orig Enabler: PowerBook G3 Series 1.0
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 4MB
AppleTalk Ver: n/a
Mac OS
Supported:
8.1
8.5
Floppy Size: 1.44MB
Floppy Inject: manual
Min. Int HD Size: 2, 4, 8 GB
Int HD Interface: IDE
Orig CD Speed 20x
Int CD Support: yes

PowerBook G3 Series 13.3" (233,250, 292)
     

Logic Board Ports Power
Processor: G3, 233/250
PMMU: integrated
FPU: integrated
Data Path: 64-bit, 66/83Mhz
L1 Cache: 64kb
L2 Cache: (none (233)/1MB (250/292)
2nd Processor: none
Slots: 2 Type II PC Card (1 Type III)
ADB: 1
Video: HDI-15
Floppy: none
SCSI: HDI-30
Geoports: 1
Ethernet: 10Base-T
FireWire:
Mic Type: PlainTalk
Other Ports: Printer, Modem, Speaker,
Headphone,
Max Watts: 45
Amps: 1.2
BTU per Hr: 153.9
Voltage: 100-240
Freq Range: 50-60 Hz
Battery Type: 49 Wh Lithium Ion
Soft Power: yes
Memory Video Memory
Logic Board: none
RAM Slots: 2, 144pin SDRAM
Min – Max RAM: 32 MB – 192 MB
Min RAM Speed: 100 MHz
RAM Sizes: 32MB, 64MB, 128 MB
Install in Groups of: 1
Notes: 2 S0-DIMM slots supports up to 192MB 144-pin SDRAM 128 MB DIMM installs in top slot only
Resolution Video Memory
built-in LCD (4MB VRAM)
(built in)
512 x 384 n/a-bit
640 x 400 n/a-bit
640 x 480 n/a-bit
800 x 600 n/a-bit
832 x 624 n/a-bit
1024 x 768 24-bit
1152 x 870 n/a-bit
1280 x 1024 n/a-bit
Physical Software Storage
Introduced: 9/1/1998
Discontinued: n/a
Form Factor: PowerBook G3 Series
Gestalt ID: 312
Weight (lbs): 7.6
Dimensions (in): 2 H x 12.7 W x 10.4 D
Addressing Modes: 32-bit
Orig SSW: 8.1
Orig Enabler: PowerBook G3 Series 1.0
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 4MB
AppleTalk Ver: n/a
Mac OS
Supported:
8.1
8.5
Floppy Size: 1.44MB
Floppy Inject: manual
Min. Int HD Size: 2, 4 GB
Int HD Interface: IDE
Orig CD Speed 20x
Int CD Support: yes

PowerBook G3 Series 12.1" (233 MHz)
     

Logic Board Ports Power
Processor: G3, 233
PMMU: integrated
FPU: integrated
Data Path: 64-bit, 66/83 MHz
L1 Cache: 64kb
L2 Cache: 512k
2nd Processor: none
Slots: 2 Type II PC Card (1Type III) Cardbus
ADB: 1
Video: HDI-15
Floppy: none
SCSI: HDI-30
Geoports: 1
Ethernet: 10Base-T
FireWire:
Mic Type: PlainTalk
Other Ports: Printer, Modem, Speaker,
Headphone,
Max Watts: 45
Amps: 1.2
BTU per Hr: 153.9
Voltage: 100-240
Freq Range: 50-60 Hz
Battery Type: 49 Wh Lithium Ion
Soft Power: yes
Memory Video Memory
Logic Board: none
RAM Slots: 2, 144pin SDRAM
Min – Max RAM: 32 MB – 192 MB
Min RAM Speed: 100 MHz
RAM Sizes: 32MB, 64MB, 128 MB
Install in Groups of: 1
Notes: 144 -pin SDRAM 2 SO-DIMM slots supports up to 192MB 128 MB DIMM installs in top slot only
Resolution Video Memory
built-in LCD (2MB VRAM)
(built-in)
512 x 384 n/a-bit
640 x 400 16-bit
640 x 480 n/a-bit
800 x 600 16-bit
832 x 624 n/a-bit
1024 x 768 n/a-bit
1152 x 870 n/a-bit
1280 x 1024 n/a-bit
Physical Software Storage
Introduced: 10/1/1998
Discontinued: n/a
Form Factor: PowerBook G3 Series
Gestalt ID: 314
Weight (lbs): 7.2
Dimensions (in): 2 H x 12.7 W x 10.4 D
Addressing Modes: 32-bit
Orig SSW: 8.1
Orig Enabler: PowerBook G3 Series 1.1
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 4MB
AppleTalk Ver: n/a
Mac OS
Supported:
8.1
8.5
Floppy Size: 1.44MB
Floppy Inject: manual
Min. Int HD Size: 2 GB
Int HD Interface: IDE
Orig CD Speed 20x
Int CD Support: yes

PowerBook G3 Series 12.1" (233, 250 MHz)
     

Logic Board Ports Power
Processor: G3, 233/250
PMMU: integrated
FPU: integrated
Data Path: 64-bit, 66/83 MHz
L1 Cache: 64kb
L2 Cache: none (233)/ 1MB (250)
2nd Processor: none
Slots: 2 Type II PC Card (1Type III) Cardbus
ADB: 1
Video: HDI-15
Floppy: none
SCSI: HDI-30
Geoports: 1
Ethernet: 10Base-T
FireWire:
Mic Type: PlainTalk
Other Ports: Printer, Modem, Speaker,
Headphone,
Max Watts: 45
Amps: 1.2
BTU per Hr: 153.9
Voltage: 100-240
Freq Range: 50-60 Hz
Battery Type: 49 Wh Lithium Ion
Soft Power: yes
Memory Video Memory
Logic Board: none
RAM Slots: 2, 144pin SDRAM
Min – Max RAM: 32 MB – 192 MB
Min RAM Speed: 100 MHz
RAM Sizes: 32MB, 64MB, 128 MB
Install in Groups of: 1
Notes: 144 -pin SDRAM 2 SO-DIMM slots supports up to 192MB 128 MB DIMM installs in top slot only
Resolution Video Memory
built-in LCD (2MB VRAM)
(built-in)
512 x 384 n/a-bit
640 x 400 n/a-bit
640 x 480 n/a-bit
800 x 600 16-bit
832 x 624 n/a-bit
1024 x 768 n/a-bit
1152 x 870 n/a-bit
1280 x 1024 n/a-bit
Physical Software Storage
Introduced: 10/1/1998
Discontinued: n/a
Form Factor: PowerBook G3 Series
Gestalt ID: 314
Weight (lbs): 7.2
Dimensions (in): 2 H x 12.7 W x 10.4 D
Addressing Modes: 32-bit
Orig SSW: 8.1
Orig Enabler: PowerBook G3 Series 1.0
ROM ID: n/a
ROM Ver: n/a
ROM Size: 4MB
AppleTalk Ver: n/a
Mac OS
Supported:
8.1
8.5
Floppy Size: 1.44MB
Floppy Inject: manual
Min. Int HD Size: 2 GB
Int HD Interface: IDE
Orig CD Speed 20x
Int CD Support: yes
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