Backstage: Pimp My PowerBook!
Published: Thursday, April 7, 2005
So you own an Apple PowerBook (or comparable but not quite-as-nifty laptop), and you’re looking to give it the Xzibit treatment? (Xzibit’s the rapper and host of MTV’s Pimp My Ride, for those unfamiliar with the TV show that turns beat up old cars into shiny new pimpmobiles.) We have a couple of suggestions.
The first is something we’ve been eyeing on the web site of Power Support for months: the Ergo stand. If you’ve ever seen Power Support’s serious metal stands for the iPod - and serious is the right word for them, given their sandblasted, all-steel bodies and $40-82 price tags - you’ll know why Ergo ($110) is an instant object of lust. There are versions made to fit different PowerBooks, iBooks, and non-Apple laptops, and we came to love Ergo after finding Rain Design’s iLap a bit disappointing.
You can see plenty more pictures by clicking on Read More, but suffice to say that we’re talking about a hinged design with two shelves - one for your laptop, one underneath to hold peripherals - that adjusts to wrist-friendly angles and just conveniently manages to reduce nasty laptop heating issues. It’s not a perfect stand for use on your lap - though we’ve tried and had generally good experiences with it in that position - but it’s virtually ideal as a desk-mounting solution.
Separately, we’ve been playing with and generally enjoying Altec Lansing’s XT1 USB-powered laptop speakers ($129.95, available for $85 and up), which throw a couple of extra speaker drivers at both the left and right sides of any laptop with a powered USB jack. They come in a nice reinforced fabric carrying case and include both retractable and fabric-coated USB cables, along with a fabric-coated cable to connect the speakers to each other, and a gold-tipped auxiliary stereo minijack cable that can conceivably connect the speakers to your iPod or a similar audio device.
There’s a lot of good news and only a little bad news on these: the good news is that they’re highly attractive, with a predominantly metalic front and side panel design and a glowing blue power light on the right speaker. They also feature integrated power and volume controls (on the side of the right speaker), and sound good in the same way that Altec’s portable iM3 and iM4 speakers sound good: good midrange and bass, not much treble. Since owners of small speakers (and users of built-in laptop speakers) so frequently complain about the absence of bass, the XT1s will likely give them exactly what they want and need - richer sound for enjoying music or movies.
More good news is that once they’re jacked into a computer - such as the PowerBook above - you can control the volume solely through the Mac’s volume panels. You’ll have to activate the controls through the Sound Control Panel, but they’ll work, and the built-in buttons won’t be necessary.
The bad news: since they’re USB-powered, they’re not overwhelming from a volume standpoint, and your likelihood of using USB-powered speakers with an iPod or similar device is pretty low. They’re also not standouts on clarity - a regrettable limitation of most portable speakers, but not of other non-portable speakers in the same price range. In other words, the XT1s are best for people who use their laptops on the go, and especially for PowerBook owners, they’re most pimpworthy in the looks and bass departments. Don’t forget to see our extra pictures of the XT1s by clicking on Read More.
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