The 15.2″ 1.5-GHz PowerBook G4 arrived via FedEx this afternoon. As usual, Apple’s superb packaging starts everything off right. It is immediately obvious that this is a product that has been crafted, not slapped together like some other companies I could name (cough…*DELL*…cough…cough). This feels like opening a treasure chest, and the contents do not disappoint.

Apple has redesigned their power adapter since I got my Pismo four years ago, and the new gizmo is a marvel. Not only can you wind up the power cord around the base of the brick by opening little concealed wings, you can also remove the plug from the brick itself and replace it with an included extension cord. In other words, it’s a snap to make the power cord go as long or short as you need.

Apple includes two video adapters, DVI-to-VGA and S-video to TV. The former can be used to connect most monitors to the PowerBook, though I’m happy to report that it is not needed for Apple’s newer LCD Cinema Display monitors. The latter connector is obviously for hooking up to TV. I’ve not tested either of these or the modem cable, but one assumes they work fine.

The included manuals are basic but well-written. They include everything you need to know to get up and running, but “The Missing Manual” series by David Pogue is well-named. Would it really kill Apple to include a $20 book? It’s not like we didn’t spend enough money here. Still, I suppose it would extraneous for some folks…like, I guess, me. But who wouldn’t want a free $20 book? OK, I’m just babbling now. Let’s proceed to the heart of the matter.

Ah, the PowerBook itself. Wider than the Pismo, that’s obvious at first glance. Attractive aluminum. Very sleek, very modern. The keyboard feels solid. Touch typing not a problem. I like the Pismo’s keyboard as well, but I think the Aluminum is better. Certainly I love that Apple’s put a command key on both sides of the space bar. I only briefly tested the backlit keyboard. Yeah, the lights under the keys turn on when the room is dark, and, yes, it’s cool.

The built-in speakers are clearly better than the Pismo’s, but for any serious audio you’d be nuts not to add externals. There is a sound out port that doubles as a headphone jack. There’s also a sound in.

The Airport Extreme card appears to be working just fine. Once I configured the Airport Base Station to let the G4 on board, the PowerBook had no issues whatsoever in joining the party. I don’t have any BlueTooth devices (yet) but presumably that wireless system works as well in the PowerBook as the 802.11g.

I confess that I did not realize just how nifty the Quartz Extreme graphics were. They’re really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but my oh my are they cool looking. Rotating cubes and effects and all kinds of things. The Pismo’s measly 8 MB video card offers none of this eye candy.

At least in initial testing, the PB G4 is speedy. I wouldn’t call it out of this world speedy, but there have been no slow downs whatsoever and that’s a very nice feeling compared to using Trinity. I ripped an AAC file from an AIFF (more on that in a sec) and it was a good 4x faster than Trin. That felt great.

For the most part I’ve spent this evening simply installing applications with the idea that I’ll get around to moving personal documents and files off of Trinity tomorrow using FireWire Target Disk Mode.

I probably won’t finish this task tonight. And that’s because I spent a couple hours fiddling with Garage Band, Apple’s easy-to-use music-making software. While it’s true that putting together a reasonably cool tune is simple, Garage Band is no threat to the Digital Performers of the world. In short, it took me 45 minutes to create the basic structure for a song in Garage Band. That’s amazingly fast, but the flip side is that I could really only choose from the pre-made loops that Apple provided. Sure, you can roll your own and Garage Band is a cool application for quick pre-production work, but if you’re gonna do your own music anyway, you might as well do it on something that gives you all the power you need. That’s my musician’s take on it, anyway.

I’ll post the song I created along with Part 2 of this report. Hopefully you’ll like the tune as much as Jonah did, because he loved it.