Other World Computing

PC Mag: Damning the iBook with Faint Praise


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PC Magazine's recent review of the base iBook normally wouldn't attract our opprobrium, but when some of the comments are completely inane, the article deserves to be hung out, drawn and quartered.

The first error is no biggie, just an error of fact: "Perhaps the biggest surprise is that one of the three iBook dips below the $1,000 price barrier--a first for Apple."

No, it's not. The PowerBook 100's price was dropped to $999 when enough 140s and 170s came on stream. The point being that Apple has been in this market before.

Second point: "This iBook isn't a desktop alternative".

Why not? It'd be quicker than, say, a 600MHz iMac CRT that Apple still sells. For many, it would be a desktop replacement. Equally, looking at it from another perspective, why would one even suggest a basic $999 portable would be a desktop replacement?

Third: "No iBook offers a SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW drives), even as a built-to-order option."

Given that Toshiba, Sony and Apple themselves have only just released DVD burners in notebooks, I'd be surprised if you could BTO a DVD writer for any of Toshiba or Sony's entry-level models.

To prove it, I shuffled off to Sony's Vaio site and loaded its stupidly-large pages (when you're on dial-up = not quick). Sure enough, there's a $1,199 Vaio that weights about 6.2lbs (ouch) and comes stock with a 24x CD-ROM. Surprise, surprise, it only comes with 20GB of hard drive and 128MB RAM like the iBook [of which more below]. Now, you can have a Combo drive for 100 bucks more, but - you guessed it - no DVD burner available.

The point I'm making is simple: you mention something that's unavailable which puts a negative slant on the product you're reviewing. But then you fail to mention that competing products offer no such option either. It's called spin and, in this case, it's misleading and deceptive.

[BTW, Sony does offer a FireWire DVD-RW (external) with the Vaio - for $599].

More from PC Mag's review:

"Comparing features, the model we looked at stands up fairly well against $999 Windows machines, although at that price, those systems typically offer more RAM, more storage, or a bigger screen."

As one person commenting on the story at PC Mag said, he got another 256MB for free when he ordered. It is true that Windows laptops can offer 13 or 14" screens [not all LCD panels share the same quality, however], and can have bigger hard drives. But they will lack an internal wi-fi slot and built-in antenna, and most lack FireWire built-in. If FireWire is an add-on, it's CardBus, and the speed is half that of the iBook's FireWire controller, which can blaze away at 33MB/ps, versus around 16MB/ps for CardBus.

"a 56K modem"

Not a big issue, but I'd expect a reviewer to mention the modem is V92, for those who can use it, which, if your ISP supports it, means you can finally upload at 56K. Not earth-shattering, but nice to have.

We've left the best until last:

"The $999 Apple iBook is not an extremely high-end system". (As opposed to an unextremely high-end system, we suppose).

A pretty redundant statement, wouldn't you say? Again, do they presume PC Mag's readers are so stupid, they need to be told that $999 systems aren't "extremely high-end"? We guess a $2,000 system would be "extremely, extremely high-end", and a $3,000 system would be "extremely frickin' high-end". But that would be unkind. And we're all for being kind.

Just one more, and then we can all go home:

"If you've been looking to add another Mac to your home network, consider buying this one."

Switching doesn't enter the picture here; there's no suggestion a PC notebook buyer might conider an iBook, despite the generally positive light in which the Mac is cast. Only Mac owners need apply, seemingly.

Plenty of happy switchers to iBook out there. But clearly PC Mag isn't aware of them. And readers deserve more thoughtful and considered reviews than this column rushed in to meet a deadline.




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