Apple Macintosh Powerbook laptop description

My first Macintosh laptop

A notebook computer running Darwin (BSD Unix variant), as an alternative to MS Windows.

The Apple Powerbook features instant on, and a rechargeable battery good for about three and a half hours. It could appeal to those needing instant access, and who found a conventional laptop either too slow to get into action or not sufficiently reliable in returning from a suspended state. In my case, I bought it because using Windows infuriated me too often. The Powerbook range are sold at a premium price compared to the iBook consumer range of laptops.

There were three Powerbook lines in 2004, with 12 inch, 15 inch, and 17 inch diagonal displays. This describes one model in the 15 inch range, current as at February 2004.


M8980 model has 1.25 GHz PowerPC G4 CPU, 512K L2 cache, 167MHz system bus.
Display and Video
15.2 inch diagonal TFT 1280x854 pixel display driven by ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 video using 64MB DDR SRAM, with DVI, VGA, S-video, composite video out.
Weight, Size, Power
5.6 pound. 13.7x9.5x1.1 inches. 4.5 hours battery life claimed, but reviewers report closer to 2 hours. My experience is over three hours, but I don't often watch videos.
Memory and Disks
512MB DDR SRAM memory (2GB max), 80GB ATA/100 hard drive, DVD-R/CD-RW SuperDrive. My experience is that even more memory would help. The operating system seems to leak memory like a sieve.
Full size illuminated keyboard. The keyboard is very pleasant to use, and i haven't been using an external keyboard as I expected I would. The illuminated feature is absolutely great when typing in badly lit hotel rooms. However you do need to be looking down at the keyboard as the light coming through the tops of the keys is very limited. I thought the illuminated keyboard was just a gimmick when I saw it, however it proved exceedingly handy while travelling.
Audio line in, headphone out, built in microphone, built in stereo speakers. Sound quality (especially via headphones) is better than I expected.
Built in Bluetooth, 10/100/1000BaseT (Gigabit) Ethernet, 56K V92 modem.
Firewire 800, Firewire 400, 2xUSB2.0, PC Card Cardbus slot for Type I and II cards.
Similar Powerbooks
This describes the M8981 model. The lower specification M8980 model has 1 GHz CPU, 256MB memory, 60MB hard drive, DVD-ROM CD/RW Combo drive, lacks Airport, keyboard not illuminated. Apple released faster, higher specification models in mid 2004.



Came with a number of video cords and connectors. Also an RJ12 USA style phone cable.

Manual and Help System

Comes with colourful XXX page manual briefly covering many of the features and applications.

Came with a getting started manual.

My experience of the onscreen help via the Help Viewer was uniformly negative. The Help Viewer as installed had something wrong with it that frequently causes it to use all available CPU processing, and made the Powerbook unusable until you manage to shut down the Help Viewer. Given that I was trying to learn how to use the Macintosh from the help system, this left me very frustrated.

In some applications I was able to use the Help Viewer, however many of the help files were banal and confined themselves to stating the bleeding obvious. This help system overall is far inferior to the MS Windows help system for Windows 98 (although that also is annoying and incomplete).

Luckily I had obtained several third party manuals prior to buying the Macintosh. Had I no recourse but the electronic help, I think I would have sold the Powerbook on eBay during the first week I had it.



Date of Manufacture



Processor update path

Apple enthusiasts seem to be very keen on getting a faster G5 based notebook computer, with a CPU similar to that used in the G5 tower case models. Although I believe Apple also see it as a filling a gap in their model line, I think lack of chip availability and high power consumption make this unlikely until late 2005 or even 2006.

In mid 2005, Apple announced it would move from IBM and Motorola processors to Intel processors. Laptops are expected to initially use Intel Yonah and later Merom processors.

Freescale (Motorola) CPUs)

Motorola's chip division - now known as Freescale Semiconductor - updated its MPC7447 130nm G4-class PowerPC processor used in the PowerBook G4 to the 1.5GHz 7447A sometime in February 2004. There was a PowerBook G4 update in mid 2004, which I guess may use the 7447A.

The 7447A adds on-the-fly clock frequency adjustment, to reduce power consumption, for longer battery life. It also monitors die temperature, Freescale says. See MPC7450UM.pdf for details (932pp) of all these G4 CPUs.

The 1.3 volt version of the 7447A chip consumes 20W of power at 1.42GHz, Freescale claims, compared to the 7447's typical 21.3W at 1.33GHz or 30 watt maximum. A lower power 1.1 volt version of the 7447A that consumes less than 9.3W at 1.167GHz, sounds no better than the old lower power 7447's claimed 7.5W at 1GHz. Early reports of the 1.5 GHz Powerbook suggest it has an even shorter battery life, as I would expect.

Essentially, the 7447A is a revised 7447, itself a lower-power version of the 7457. The 130nm 7447 was used by Apple in its PowerBook G4 until mid 2004. At least some earlier iBooks were based on the older 7455. The 7447 is a trimmed down version of the 7457, losing the latter's support for external L3 cache. The 7457 and both versions of the 7447 contain 512KB of on-die L2 cache.

The dual G4 above would have a maximum 333MHz 64 bit access, to give 2.7Gbps memory band width. Compare with 6.4Gbps for the G5 below.

Freescale seemed to have a new name (600e PowerCore) for the G4 in late 2004, when they announced three variations of the new CPU with clock speeds exceeding 1.5 GHz. These are expected to appear in the second quarter of 2005 (so you can't put them in a Macintosh in 2004). Two of the CPUs (single core MPC8641 and the dual core MP8641D) are in 960 HiTCE ceramic pack, so they obviously run hot. These are intended for embedded products, so there will not be a dual core G4 CPU for the Macintosh laptop range.

The MPC7448 is in a 360 pin BGA casing, pin compatible with the G4 used in the Macintosh laptops. The chip is unlikely to appear until mid 2005. It is to be built as a 90nm scale chip (instead of the 130nm of the 7447) using silicon on insulator with copper interconnects. It has a 32k L1 cache and doubles the on-chip L2 cache to 1MB. The front side bus (FSB) to the Northside chip gets an increase to 200MB from the 2004 figure of 167MB. It is designed to run from 0.9v to 1.1v. Freescale claim it provides 2.3 MIPS/MHz. I believe the 7448 CPU was first used in Powerbooks released 19 Oct 2005.


The IBM PPC970 used in the original 1.6GHz G5 models had 58 million transistors, was built using 0.13 micron (130nm) technology, and had a 118mm die. L1 cache of 98K, L2 cache 512K. No L3 cache. However the bidirectional 800MHz system bus (half clock rate) would deliver 6.4Gbps throughput with a dedicated FSB per CPU. AltiVec SIMD core. Theoretical total bus speed of 16Gbps. 12 execution units (2 floating point, 2 integer, 2 load and store, 3 branch prediction). 215 instruction queue, however code not optimised for the G5 will cause delays in flushing up to 215 instructions. It has a longer memory latency than the G4, but a higher data rate.

A dual 2GHz G5 with 400MHz PC3200 DDR SDRAM on a 128 bit data bus would give a maximum 6.4Gbps memory bandwidth (compare with 2.7Gbps for the G4 above). Naturally memory would need to be added in matched pairs, or the data path would be reduced to 64 bit. The automatic speed reduction mode would reduce chip speed to 1.3 GHz, which reduces average power consumption and heat output.

Power used was listed at 51W at 1.8Ghz. There is an Analog Devices AD7417 A/D converter [3] associated with each processor. The processor can read its 7417 through an on-board I2C bus, via its Northbridge chip. IBM did tests on a dual G5. In nap state CPU0 used 33W and CPU1 used 22W, and both ran at around 40C. At 100% use, CPU0 used 79W and CPU1 at idle used 53W. Power use differences amounting to about 11 W were probably due to leakage current differences between CPUs.

HyperTransport protocol gives a chip to chip bidirectional 800 MHz bus.

The XServe product uses IBM's new 90nm G5 chip, the 970FX, and probably have a die area around 60mm. At 2GHz VCore was 1.32v. When idle it draws 15W (11.8A). At 100% 41.5W or 33.5A. Core CPU temperature about 75C with an ambient around 25C. I've heard a dual G5 2.5GHz idles at 52C (memory controller at 62C), and hits 83C on full load. Other figures suggest 24.5W at 2GHz (auto mode typical?) and 12.3W at 1.4GHz.

Why liquid cooling? The size difference from the 130nm 970 CPU to the 90nm 970FX is about 70%, so the area is 70% squared, or about 50%. We know the 970 die is around 120mm, so the 970FX is around 60mm. We know the 970 uses around 42 watts typical, so this is about 350mW/mm2. The 970FX also runs around 42 watts, so this means 700mW/mm2. Same power draw, half the area. For comparison, a bar radiator with a 300mm long bar around 10mm diameter would be around 10,000 square mm, so at 1000 watts that is 100mW/mm2 Wow, maybe I need to find a calculator and check these figures!

I understand Cooligy (out of Stanford) claim their active microchannel cooling system can take up to 1000W/cm2, vs 250W/cm2 for passive cooling.

Chip yields and thus speeds originally were not up to IBM (or Apple) expectations. I heard yield problems above 1.8GHz initially, which would explain why it appeared first only in the less price sensitive Xserve product. IBM were predicting 40% more chips on 300mm diameter wafers at their Fishkill NY chip fabrication plan by the end of 2004. Seems that the 970FX was being produced well by late 2004, as it seems to be in the price sensitive iMac G5. Once yields were up, IBM could potentially get up to twice the number of chips per wafer. There probably were big glitches, because the G4 iMac was pulled before Apple could get any G5 models out.

I thought a lower power version of the 970FX might eventually appear in the high end notebook range, perhaps in mid to late 2005, but this now seems unlikely. Reports of a 970MP using 90nm production suggest dual core optimisations plus heat reducing power save modes. Suggestions are a 3GHz dual core with a 1GHz FSB, Altivec VE, and a 1MB L2 cache. Die size reported 13.23mm by 11.63mm. The die size makes me wonder about plans for 65nm production, but given the problems with the move to 90nm, it seems unlikely.

Other CPUs

The idea is to add AMD, Intel and Sun Sparc here.

For comparison a P4 Northwood draws 18A when idle. A Pentium 4 can stack up to 126 instructions.

Apple Mac
Psion Epoc




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