The PowerBook G3 (Pismo), also known as the PowerBook G3 (Firewire) is the last black colored PowerBook. Manufactured from February 16, 2000 to January 9, 2001, it features a 14.1" TFT display and a G3 processor running at 400 or 500 mhz. It shares the same case as the PowerBook G3 (Lombard), but has two FireWire ports, instead of the Lombard's single SCSI port. It can be distinguished from the PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet) by the presence of a solid silver Apple logo at the top of the screen, when the power is on, as opposed to the Wallstreet's rainbow Apple logo, at the bottom of the screen. Also, the Pismo is slightly thinner than the Wallstreet.
The technical specifications are as follows:
PowerPC 750 (G3) processor at either 400 or 500 mhz - 1 mb of L2 cache, with processor upgrades available from Powerlogix (www.powerlogix.com), either to a 500 mhz G4 or a 900 mhz G3. The 500 mhz G4 has been discontinued due to the faster speed and popularity of the 900 mhz G3, which presently retails for $349. This upgrade requires that you supply Powerlogix with a working processor card - Powerlogix sends a shipping container, you remove your processor card and return it to them, they modify the card and replace the processor, then return it to you.
The computer ships with a base configuration of 64 mb of ram (other configurations available by special order). It is upgradable to 1GB via 2 512 mb SO-DIMMs, on the processor card, one which must be "low profile".
The display is a 14.1 inch TFT operating at 1024 x 768. It has 8 mb of VRAM on motherboard, which is not upgradable. There is hardware support for DVD playback.
The Pismo shipped with a 6 GB hard drive, larger drives available by special order, upgradable with industry standard 2.5 in. IDE drives.
There are two expansion bays. Unlike the PowerBook G3 (Wallstreet), the left expansion bay may only be used for a battery (or a plastic " weight saving device". The right expansion bay ships with a 6X DVD drive, though other expansion bay drives are available from third parties, including a Zip drive and floppy drive. Drives made for the PowerBook G3 (Lombard) are compadible - those made for the Wallstreet are not.
It (and the Lombard) are the first Macintosh PowerBooks to use industry standard IDE laptop DVD drives. Though the standard 6X DVD drive is nothing special, this standardization allows relatively easy upgrading (one must merely remove the drive caddy and four screws) to either cheap CDRW/DVD combo drives, or to drives like the Panasonic UJ-815b. The Panasonic UJ-815b is the drive commonly known as the "superdrive" in PowerBook G4 computers - a slot loading drive that writes CDs at 16X, CDRWs at 8X, DVD-Rs at 2X, DVD-RWs at 1X, DVD-RAMs at 2X - except that the version in the PowerBook G4s has the 2X DVD RAM capabilitly removed. There are ROM upgrades available for many of these drives that allow the bypassing of region codings.
The Pismo has one external PC Card slot and one internal Airport card slot. The external PC card slot can be used for a third party 802.11 card. This is primarily useful if one wishes to install an external antenna, to improve reception.
Standard ports include microphone, headphones, 2X USB, 2X Firewire, 10/100 BaseT ethernet, VGA out, S-Video out, IRDA and a 56k modem.
The VGA out is different from previous PowerBooks in that in addition to video mirroring, extended desktops are supported. It is not stated what the maximum resolution for a second display is, however I have been able to run a display at 1600 x 1200, 60hz, and that was only limited by the maximum resolution of the monitor.
This computer may be run as a dual boot system, running both MacOS 9 and X.
The Pismo is a fairly hefty computer at about 7 pounds.
It uses the failure prone "flying saucer" AC adapter. Presently, this does not seem like so much of a defect as it once did - having now tried to repair computers where the stress from force on the AC adapter is placed on the power jack, instead of the cord, and the jack is soldered to the motherboard, making it about impossible to replace or fix, it seems much more reasonable to have an AC adaptor that breaks, as it is far cheaper and easier to fix.
As a user of a Pismo for about six months now, I am extremely pleased. Running as a dual boot computer with Mac OS 9.2.2 and 10.2.8, it is the most pleasant and easy to use computer that I have every had the pleasure to own. Apple seems to have finally gotten the hardware and software combination right - everything just works, without me having to think about it, which is as it should be.
It is a true desktop replacement computer. The 14.1 in. TFT is beautiful. The weight, though a little bit hefty, is comfortable, and not excessively hot. DVD playback is stunning, and without flickers or frame drops. The slight curves of the case feel more comfortable to my hands than the flat surfaces of the aluminum PowerBooks and iBooks. The capability to attach a second screen and run an extended desktop provides as much screen real estate as most users need. The speed and memory capabilities are as much as I need for most anything, and with a CDRW/DVD combo drive, and an expansion bay Zip drive, I have all the capabilities that I would need in a desktop computer.
The Pismo does not seem to have the flaws that were present in many of the earlier PowerBooks, although more time will tell for sure. The screen still seems to be bright and crisp. The hinges have not broken, and the AC jack appears solid. My only complaint is the incredible slowness of Virtual PC - but it is always slow.
Overall, this computer is really a winner. I hope to keep mine for a few years, probably upgrading the processor and adding a bit more memory - the cost will be about the same as a comparable unupgraded computer, but the physical design of this computer is just about perfect - far preferable to the newer PowerBooks.
Update: March 21, 2007
I'm still using my Pismo, albeit with some upgrades from my wife's computer. It currently has a 500 mhz G3 processor, 1 gb of ram, and a slot loading superdrive on the days that I don't carry two batteries.
After considerable trouble with regard to the AC power plug on the computer - due primarily to the computer being dropped onto said point a couple times - and the job I did of soldering it being mediocre at best, I finally resoldered and epoxied the power plug into place. It seems securely attached to the board with no hope of coming loose ever again.
The only real problem I have - and this is probably due more to my care (or lack thereof) than anything else - is that the case has signifcant cracks. I guess more epoxy is in order.