September 29th, 2003 • 9:52 pm
Every computer design involves hard choices. Obviously when Apple designed the original PowerBook G4 (the so-called Titanium PowerBook), they chose to sacrifice the computer’s AirPort range. AirPort range problems have plagued every generation of the TiBook, and that’s a clear indication that the problems with the first generation were not an accident. The TiBook was simply designed in such a way that AirPort range would be sub-par, and no amount of tinkering with the design could fix the problem. Only a brand new design would finally solve the problem, and that’s (presumably) what happened when Apple announced the new aluminium-based PowerBook G4 15″ design earlier this month.
The new design for the 15″ model brings it in line with other current PowerBook G4 designs (the 12″ and the 17″ models), which, as far as I can tell, are not plagued by the same AirPort range problems as the original PowerBook G4.
Now it appears that Apple has done it again, this time with the desktop line of Power Macintosh models. Based on a reader report on the G5 at MacInTouch.com,
AirPort reception on the G5 is abysmal when compared to the G4 towers or ibooks. Even with the external antenna installed, this reader gets 15 feet of coverage, compared to 30-100 feet with the Power Mac G4 and 100-150 feet with the iBook.
If other readers confirm this report, it’s going to be very bad news for AirPort users again. Just like the original PowerBook G4, the G5 is a brand new design, which means that, in all likelihood, Apple will stick with it for a while. And it sounds like the problem with the AirPort range is, once again, caused by the computer design itself. After all, let’s not forget that the Power Mac G4 doesn’t even require an external antenna. The case is made of plastic.
The G5 enclosure, on the other hand, is made of “anodized aluminum alloy“. In other words, it’s metallic. Yes, it looks slick and “professional” and everything — but it obviously blocks AirPort radio waves.
The specs for the G5 make no mention of the machine’s AirPort range. They just say that the AirPort Extreme Card slot is “based on the IEEE 802.11g specification” and “802.11b Wi-Fi certified”.
Granted, AirPort range for a desktop machine is less important than for a portable computer. But 15 feet? Such a range is ridiculously low, and entirely defeats the purpose of using AirPort in the first place.
If this news were to be confirmed, it would mean that, once again, Apple has failed to achieve the appropriate balance between functionality and design.
We had the problem with the AirPort range of the TiBook. Then we had the problem with the Power Mac G4 MDD and noise. Are we really in for yet another Apple hardware embarrassment? It seems highly ironic that, in each case, the affected hardware is a pro-level model. These are machines that cost thousands of dollars and that Mac users rightfully expect to perform better than their consumer-level counterparts — not worse!
PS: Another report on MacInTouch.com on September 30 seems to indicate that the problem might be specific to the original poster’s situation. This other user is using his G5 as a Software Base Station and gets a range of approximately 100 feet, which is certainly acceptable.