December 3rd 2002
By Mike Flaminio
The consensus among PowerBook G4 owners is that wireless reception using Airport is still lousy, but everything's relative: the iBook may be too good.
A Newsfactor story quotes Tidbits editor, Adam C. Engst, who argues that while Apple has made iterative improvements with each successive model of the TiBook, the design decision which placed the antenna in the base of the PowerBook delivers an "inferior radiation pattern."
But the iBook apparently "exceeds industry specifications" in its implementation of 802.11b. The original model iBook (1999), which was the first Mac to support Airport, also delivered impressive wireless range, with the antenna built around the screen.
Engst reports that TiBook owners have overcome the Airport limitation by using PCMCIA cards in the PowerBook's slot, although this lacks the elegance of an internal solution. Nevertheless, this remains the most frequently employed solution when using a PC notebook. Most Windows notebooks have 802.11b as an optional add-on. By contrast, an internal Airport slot is built into all shipping Macs.
The Wi-Fi certification is also somewhat vague on signal strength; certification does not automatically mean that all PCs under all circumstances will have a usable range of 150 feet.
It is also possible that the inclusion of CDRW drives in notebooks, a 2001 addition to the TiBook line, may also create additional electrical interference with the wireless antenna.
Analysis: As Adam Engst notes, Apple has not made TiBook 802.11 reception an issue, but it is conceivable that Apple could dosument the fact that TiBook Airport is 'within spec' of the certification standards issued by the Wi-Fi group.
The answer, says Engst, is costly and would require a significant redesign of the current TiBook. We think that Apple will introduce an all-new PowerBook G4 at MWSF in '03 and it probably won't be made of metal.