Apple continues to bring innovative technology and designs to the hardware market

5th January 2001 at 00:00
Les Watson looks at the range of sophisticated products it will showcase at BETT 2001.

Should computing be a sensory experience? Apple thinks so. No other exhibitor at BETT 2001 uses such design and style in its products, virtually everything on the Apple stand this year is new.

Over the past 18 months Apple has consolidated its position as the most exciting mass-market computer manufacturer, producing a flood of upgrades and new products on the themes of power and design.

Both iMacs (from pound;552+ VAT) and iBooks (from pound;1,031+VAT) have enhanced capability since last year. The iMac family now has four members: the iMac, a DV (digital video), DV+, and Special Edition versions. The colours: ruby, indigo, sage, graphite and snow have a stylish opacity, which makes them highly desirable.

Like all previous iMacs they are fanless, quiet, and easy to use. The claim that you can be surfing within 10 minutes from opening the box, still holds. And, in a recent Which survey, iMacs came top in the "easy-to-set-up" category by a 20-per-cent margin over the nearest competitor.

All iMacs also have a built-in radio antenna and, with the addition of an AirPort card (pound;62+VAT), you can surf the Net through the walls of your classroom using a wireless connection.

Similarly, the Apple laptop, iBook, got top marks for ease-of-set-up in the Which survey, and also comes with ready-to-use wireless networking, requiring only an AirPort card.

When the iBook was launched, I thought it was the perfect portable, until I had to do my first presentation with it and found that I couldn't. The new iBook has video, so now it really is my perfect portable. There's also 60 per cent more disk space, providing a massive 10 Gb of hard disk storage as standard.

The most exciting new machine in the Apple family is the G4 cube (from pound;1,147 +VAT). The machine looks like an upmarket ice bucket, but has the power of a super-computer. You can't get much cooler than that.

What's a super-computer? It's all about performance. The super-compter barrier being the ability to complete more than one billion floating-point operations per second (this is known as a gigaflop). The G4 cube claims up to 3.6 gigaflop performance and all in an eight-inch naturally-cooled cube. Impressive.

The G4 is powered by the 450 MHz PowerPC G4 processor, with Apple's new Velocity Engine. Needless to say it blows away the nearest Intel PC rival and takes up only 25 per cent of the space of its slower competitor.

The G4 cube design is also functional, as the electronics are elegantly accessible, enabling easy upgrade. The cube simply slides out of its case revealing all.

Apple also has some beautifully designed, flat-screen active-matrix, liquid-crystal display monitors. Both the 15-inch Studio (pound;639+VAT) and the 22-inch Cinema (pound;2,799+VAT) display are a joy to behold. The screens have the ADC (Apple display connector) that carries the video signal and the power, reducing the number of trailing leads that detract from the overall design concept. The screens are also clear, sharp and bright.

On the sound side, Apple has formed a strategic alliance with Harman Kardon, which has produced stunning see-through speakers (pound;118+VAT, including sub-woofer) that take advantage of the digital sound output of the Apple family of machines. If you think of your purchase as a high-quality stereo system and a computer, it is a real bargain.

On the input side, the Pro mouse has the ultimate see-through design and uses a high-precision optical tracking system. No moving parts, so no more cleaning mouse balls - and it doesn't need a mouse pad. The Pro has only one button, but this time it's the whole of the top of the mouse.

Combine the ice-cool G4 cube, the 15-inch or 22-inch cinema display, the Pro mouse and the Harmon Kardon speakers, and you have a Millennium computer that any design-conscious user would be proud to own. This is my perfect system, providing all the power I'm likely to need in the foreseeable future.

Apple at BETT: stand E34F34. Tel: 0208-218 1500

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