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Deep In The Zone: You May Be Cute, You May Be Cuddly, And You May Be Rugged, But You Are No Substitute For A PowerBook - A Performance Report  On The New iBooks

by David Engstrom

Have questions? Comments?
Below we have a performance comparison of the new iBook G3/800/800/512K (the one that has the 14 inch screen), and the new iBook G3/700/700/512K.

We have thrown in results for the last generation PowerBook G4/800/800/256K/1MB/200, for comparison's sake. There are still a few of the 800 MHz PowerBooks kicking around, but they are getting scarce.

As you will see in the results below the 800 MHz iBook pulls in from 10% to 15% better performance over the iBook G3/700, in straight processor intensive tasks,. However the results will also show that the G4/800  PowerBook runs rings around both of the iBooks in many of these same labors .. obviously not all portables are created equal.

One of the main performance improvements of the new iBooks, was suppose to be the new 7500 Radeon graphics chip with 16 MB of memory in the G3/700 iBook and 32 MB in the 800 MHz version. This is the same graphics system that was installed in the last generation of PowerBooks.But despite them having the same graphics system, once again the PowerBook ran rings around the iBooks in gaming performance. This we believe is because the the graphics system resides in a slower 2X AGP slot on the iBook, and a faster 4X on the PowerBook. The G4 processor may be a factor as well, but we don't know enough about the construction of these games to know if they are capable of taking advantage of the special speed improvements of the G4.

The new iBook is faster at gaming than the previous version of iBook .. ranging from 28% to 49% faster in our testing of the respective G3/700 iBooks.

This is just a first look at the new iBooks performance. We will be posting additional information in the coming days. If you have a specific question about the performance of these new iBooks post it in our forum (see link at the top of the page) and we will see if we can answer it.

Additional Resources


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What's The Difference?

Feature April 2002 800 MHz PowerBook November 2002 iBooks
MSRP $3,199 (Currently $2,394) $999 $1,299 $1,599 $1,849
Processor speed 800 MHz G4 700 or 800 MHz G3
L2 cache size and speed ratio 256K 1:1 512K 1:1
L3 cache size and speed ratio 1 MB DDR @ 200 MHz None
System bus speed 133 MHz 100 MHz
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
32 MB DDR 4x AGP
ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 16MB or 32MB 2x AGP
Display 15.2" TFT Active Matrix 12.1" or 14.1" flat panel
Video Output S-video & DVI-I connector (with VGA adapter) Mirrored VGA
Hard disk drive 40GB Ultra ATA/66
(4200 rpm)
20 or 30 GB Ultra ATA (40GB BTO)
Optical drive Combination drive CD-ROM or Combination drive
RAM 768 MB 640 MB

"Real World" Tests

The tests below are from our suite of real world application tests. These tests feature a diverse selection of applications commonly used by the Mac community. The test suite was designed to render an accurate and well rounded picture of a machine's performance. All of the tests below, except for the game tests, were timed with a stopwatch. The times were then converted to percentages, relative to the new G3/700 iBook, which is set to 100%. For all scores, higher numbers are better.

Desktop Tests


The copy folder test not only stresses drive performance but also takes advantage of faster processing capability & caching schemes.  The PowerBook has a MB of DDR L3 cache running at 1/4 of the processor speed, which we believe is the prime factor for its disproportionately better performance

The test above creates and destroys 1,000 windows. See the Let1kWindowsBloom site for more info. Again we believe that the cache is a factor here for the PowerBook, and perhaps the graphics subsystem as well. All three machines have the same graphics card (the 700 MHz iBook only has 16 MB of graphics memory, rather than 32). But the graphics card is in a 4X AGP in the PowerBook but only a 2X AGP slot on the iBooks

Large document is scrolled from one end to the other using Classic OS 9 when booted in OS 10. This test gauges on-screen graphics performance

Large Document & Database Type Tests

A Macro (series of complex actions) was run in Microsoft's Word program. Word is part of Office X

Number Crunching & Rendering Tests

A Ripple Effect is applied to an iMovie.  Apple is doing a good job of getting all of its applications up to speed to take advantage of the G4 Processor ... such as that in the PowerBook

The Fractal program has been highly tuned to take advantage of the G4 and is precisely the type of work that the G4 was made for. It will also gobble up whatever processing capability is present. This is a good test for assessing the fundamental processing potential of each machine. Really highlights the processing advantage of the G4 processor for programs that can be coded to take advantage of it.

File is run through a series of Photoshop 7 filters that, for the most part, do not take specific advantage of the G4.

Encoding/Decoding Tests

A Sorenson encode compresses a QuickTime movie for streaming on the Web. Again an Apple application tuned for the G4

Converting QuickTime movies to DV allows you to import them into iMovie

CD-ROM drive speed and CPU processing power are the factors influencing the scores above. G4 wins again


MP3 Encode, AppleWorks search & replace and folder copy are all carried out at the same time


Giants is tuned to take advantage of the processor as well as the graphics system. Again we think that the iBooks are being hurt because the graphics card is in a 2X AGP slot. The iBooks turned in about 15 frames per second and the PowerBook about 21.

Both the games above are very demanding on a computer's resources. In the test above the iBooks turned in only 16 frames per second. In high quality mode the game was not really playable on the iBooks. The PowerBook turned in 34 frames per second