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Apple PowerBook G3

Apple Computer has hit another home run with its 1999 PowerBook G3 Series portable computers, just a year after wowing the computing world with the popular iMac.

The company says the $3,499, 400 MHz model I checked out is the world's fastest notebook. It also is 20 percent thinner and two pounds lighter than its predecessor.

This PowerBook comes with a 14.1-inch active matrix screen, 64 megabytes of RAM, a 1MB L2 backside cache, a 6-gigabyte hard disk, a DVD-ROM drive with built-in decoding for watching DVD movies, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a 56kbps modem, two USB ports, an SCSI port, one Type II PC-card slot, and VGA and S-video outputs.

Conspicuously missing is a floppy drive, which Apple has dropped from its computers. Apple also no longer includes serial and ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) ports, favoring USB connections instead.

The keyboard performs crisply, and the display is crystal clear from a very wide viewing angle. The PowerBook's video output can supply millions of colors to a 21-inch monitor, a breakthrough for a laptop. Apple also touts the PowerBook's battery as long lasting, saying it can play the DVD of Austin Powers twice on one charge _ a great diversion for your passengers on long road trips.

This is the only laptop I've seen that made me want to give up my desktop machine. A 333 MHz ($2,499) model, which shares the lighter chassis but has fewer features, is also available.

(www.apple.com)

_ JIM ROSSMAN

Pop Radio

You know what they say about people who hear voices in their heads. What would they say about people who buy a product in order to hear voices in their heads?

Pop Radio gives us a chance to find out. This handheld, battery-powered device, about the size of a small flashlight, provides two sensations: the sweet and the strange. It feeds radio sound vibrations into your mouth via the stick of a lollipop. See what I mean? Sweet, but strange.

Stick a lollipop or one of its plastic "bite bars" into the top, hold the candy or bar in your teeth (you don't have to bite down), and your head becomes a radio. The sound isn't great (no, your fillings won't mess up the reception), but you will be more struck by the effect than by the audio quality. Well, perhaps struck is a poor choice of words. The manufacturer, Tiger Electronics, assures that this is perfectly safe. Vibration, not voltage, is being fed into your head.

Pop Radio, to be priced about $10 when it becomes available in September, comes with Sound Bites candy.

(www.tigertoys.com cq)

_ JOHN C. DAVENPORT

PrivateTime phone screening device

If you cannot stand telemarketers, consider Command Communications' PrivateTime phone screening device. First, though, you better have a simple phone setup and a separate answering machine or be a techy type who doesn't mind puzzling out wiring.

PrivateTime allows only callers who enter a one- to four-digit access code to ring through to your phone. Other calls are diverted to your answering machine, without your phone's ringer sounding.

The device has jacks for hooking up the phone line from the wall, an answering machine, the phone handset and an auxiliary jack, marked Caller ID on the directions.

Neither Caller ID nor phone company voice mail services work when PrivateTime is switched on _ I have both on my main line. The connections on my second line, shared by a modem and a fax/answering machine, proved too complicated. A friend's phone setup, though bare bones, would not work because her phone and answering machine are a single device. Command suggested attaching a second phone to the telephone answering device port of her answering system to use PrivateTime.

Command says that PrivateTime, listed at $139.95, won the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show's Design & Engineering Showcase Honors. But my crew decided it is simpler to get up from the dinner table when the phone rings and check the Caller ID.

(www.command-com.com)

_ LINDA STALLARD JOHNSON

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