Weight and screen: 4.9 pounds (5.4 pounds with power adapter), 12.1-inch LCD (1,024 by 768 pixels).
Processor and memory: 1 GHz G4 processor, 256 MB memory, 32 MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 graphics.
Storage: 27.9 GB hard drive, 24x/16x/24x CD-RW/8x DVD-ROM combo drive.
Communications: 100-Mbps Ethernet, 802.11g WiFi, v.92 modem.
Expansion: One six-pin FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports, one VGA monitor/composite video/S-video port.
Support: One-year warranty. 90 days of 9 a.m.-9 p.m., toll-free phone support; $49 per issue afterward.
What to say about the Apple iBook G4? It's an Apple -- well put together, good fit and finish, with better software integration than you're likely to see on a Windows machine and great battery life. It also features Apple's characteristic little design refinements, such as a subtle, barely visible apple logo on the lid that glows when the laptop is in sleep mode and a charging light around the power connector plug.
And, of course, it's white.
The iBook is a relatively light, at just under five pounds without the AC adapter (which itself adds just half a pound, much less than most laptops' power bricks). It has fewer expansion options than many competitors -- no PC Card slot and two USB 2.0 ports instead of three -- but many users may not notice the difference.
The small, 12.1-inch screen offered excellent off-axis visibility. There's a large touchpad and a decent but not great keyboard (it fell short of the smooth, authoritative feel of an IBM ThinkPad's). An Airport Extreme WiFi card is optional; the one included here worked flawlessly.
Setting up the iBook was straightforward, except that its registration sequence would not let me set it up and start working without entering personal information in a marketing-oriented questionnaire. I can opt out of receiving Apple's e-mails or phone calls, but I can't skip this questionnaire.
The iBook's default configuration is on the skimpy side, with a smaller hard drive than most machines and just 256 megabytes of memory.
A couple of other annoyances surfaced in day-to-day use: Its spiffy, slot-loading CD-RW/DVD drive frequently failed to eject a disc far enough for it be grabbed by its edges, and the charging indicator light often neglected to turn green when the battery was fully charged.
Then again, we didn't have to charge the battery too often. The iBook surpassed every other machine in this roundup, lasting 2 hours and 50 minutes at DVD playback, running 4:06 and 4:26 in our digital-music tests and an amazing 61/2 hours at its lowest power settings.
The software bundle, beyond the usual media applications of iPhoto and iTunes, included Quicken for Mac 2004 and the aging AppleWorks 6, which pleasantly surprised us by accurately reading current Microsoft Office files. That alone could be a real money-saver.
Tech support made us wait -- 10 to 15 minutes on two of three calls -- but was not only knowledgeable but friendly and willing to chat, a rarity these days.
-- Alan S. Kay