Apple introduced the PowerBook 5300 series on August 25, 1995. The line included the PowerBook 5300/100, the 5300c/100, the 5300cs/100 and the 5300ce/117. The new PowerBooks were the first to include a PowerPC processor, and the first to use hot-swappable expansion modules. Prices ranged from $2300 to $6800 depending on the model and options. I purchased my 5300cs/100 in 2007 for $40.

Apple's PowerBook laptops had always led the way in design. The early PowerBooks' functional designs mostly stressed the Mac's advantages, such as connectivity and ease of use and few PC notebooks could even come close, but on the other side of the coin, Apple's PowerBooks had rarely been cutting-edge in either horsepower or capabilities compared with leading PC notebooks. While the 5300 series offered users a tremendous range of capabilities, it only partially addressed the issue of sheer processing power.

The PowerBook 5300 series is the first line of notebooks from Apple to offer a PowerPC processor. There is a noticeable performance boost relative to older 680x0-based PowerBooks, but the PowerPC 603e processor these notebooks use is slower, MHz for MHz, than either the PowerPC 601 or 604 used in Macintosh desktop models. The speed deficiency is the result of the lack of a Level 2 cache. Even though the 5300cs/100 uses a 100 MHz processor, its real world speed is roughly equivalent to a 66 MHz Power Macintosh 6100. Most 5300 PowerBooks use the same 100 MHz 603e processor, with the exception being the 117 MHz top-of-the-line 5300ce, which roughly compares in speed to an 80 MHz Power Macintosh 7100/80.

The PowerBook 5300cs/100 has the following ports: one HDI-30 SCSI port, one serial port for a modem or printer, one ADB port, one sound output port, one sound input port, and one video out port. The 5300 also has infrared (IR) transceivers for wireless communication with other notebooks and desktop systems. The IR window is located on the back right side of the laptop. A built-in microphone resides at the base of the LCD panel, as does a single speaker. The 5300s use a trackpad for cursor control similar to the 500 series PowerBooks. Like the 500 series, the 5300's trackpad does not support double-clicking.

PowerBook 5300cs ports

The 5300 has a single expansion bay. The expansion bay is not wide enough to install a CD drive module. Apple shipped all 5300s with a 1.4 MB floppy disk drive module. There were a wide variety of other expansion modules available including Zip drives and hard drives. You can pop out the floppy drive and put in another devices - even when the PowerBook is running - just as if you were ejecting a floppy disk or removable-media cartridge. Apple provided a PC Card case that fit in the expansion bay after you removed the expansion module that was in the bay.

The 5300 has two slots located on the left side that can accept two Type II PC Card cards or one Type III card. The 5300 has two bomb-bay doors that close when no card is inserted. The 5300 has an eject button for each card slot. You can drag a storage card's icon to the Trash to eject the card, but you have to use the button for networking and modem cards. You can eject any card whether the 5300 is shut down or active. The 5300 lacks an internal expansion port for a built-in RJ-11 modem port or RJ-45 Ethernet port like most previous PowerBooks offered, so these cards are particularly handy for network connectivity.

PowerBook 5300cs with modem PC Card halfway in slot

Originally, the 5300 shipped with a lithium-ion battery that lasted almost half again as long as a nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery's charge like those found in the 500 series PowerBooks. Two early production PowerBook 5300s caught fire, one at an Apple employee's house and another at the factory. The problem was traced to the batteries, which had overheated while recharging. Apple recalled the batteries and replaced them with nickel-metal-hydride batteries. These replacements provided only about 70% the endurance of the original lithium-ion batteries. Total battery life is between 2.5 hours to 4 hours. The battery issue caused Apple a great deal of negative press and marred the 5300 for the rest of its production life. The 5300 uses a 45W adapter that is also compatible with the PowerBook 190.

PowerBook 5300cs battery

The 5300cs/100's video out port supports 8-bit color at 640 x 480, thanks to 512K of built-in VRAM (video RAM). The 5300ce has 1 MB VRAM and video out displays 16-bit video (thousands of colors) at 800 x 600. The 5300ce displays only 800 x 600 on its own 10.4-inch LCD display, while the other color 5300s display only 640 x 480. The 5300cs/100 has a 10.4-inch passive matrix (dual-scan) LCD display that is capable of only 256 colors (8-bit). The 5300c/100 has a 10.4-inch active matrix LCD display that is capable of thousands of colors (16-bit). All models of the 5300 series have color LCD displays except for the 5300/100, which uses a 9.5-inch 4-bit (16 grays) grayscale passive matrix LCD display.

The PowerBook 5300cs/100 has 8 MB built-in RAM (later versions have 16 MB built-in RAM) that is expandable up to 64 MB using PB53xx RAM. All versions of the 5300 series have the same maximum RAM limit, but the 5300ce/117 originally and through out its production life shipped with 16 MB onboard RAM. All versions have one RAM expansion slot. My PowerBook 5300 has 32 MB RAM. By removing three screws at the base of the notebook, you can lift off the keyboard and replace RAM. Apple allowed users to perform the operation without voiding the warranty.

The 5300/100 shipped with a 500 MB IDE hard drive. The 5300cs/100 and 5300c/100 shipped with either a 500 MB or 750 MB internal IDE hard drive. My 5300cs has a 500 MB hard drive. The 5300ce shipped with a standard 1.1 GB internal hard drive.

The 5300 series PowerBooks originally shipped with Mac OS 7.5.2 and they support up to Mac OS 9. My PowerBook 5300c/100 uses Mac OS 8.5. I would not suggest installing Mac OS 9 without 64 MB RAM.

"About This Computer" showing Mac OS and RAM

Click to view screen capture 1

Click to view screen capture 2

Click to view screen capture 3

Click to view screen capture 4 (Calculator)

Click to view screen capture 5 (Memory Control Panel)

The 5300 series PowerBooks push product innovation beyond mere design niceties, offering capabilities that only the most adventurous PC notebooks offered at that time. Apple included these technologies across the entire line, not just on a few high-end models. The 5300 series were high-end, expensive portables in their day with the entry-level grayscale 5300/100 starting at $2300. Original pricing with available options was as follows:

  • PowerBook 5300ce/117: $6800, 32MB RAM, 1.1 GB hard drive
  • PowerBook 5300c/100: $4700, 16 MB RAM, 750 MB hard drive
  • PowerBook 5300c/100: $3900, 8 MB RAM, 500 MB hard drive
  • PowerBook 5300cs/100: $3700, 16 MB RAM, 750 MB hard drive
  • PowerBook 5300cs/100: $2900, 8 MB RAM, 500 MB hard drive
  • PowerBook 5300/100: $2300, 8 MB RAM, 500 MB hard drive

Although the 5300 series held much promise, many users ultimately viewed them with disappointment. The line suffered many early issues including the aforementioned battery troubles, problems with cracked cases, and the general impression that the 5300's performance was lackluster. Furthermore, the 5300 was an expensive notebook and only the very expensive top-of-the-line models like the 5300ce and 5300c had decent LCD displays. The 5300cs/100 has a less than satisfactory color passive matrix monitor. Finally, many decried the lack of a CD drive expansion module and inability to add a standard network port through a real communication slot (other than through a PC Card).

Apple discontinued all models of the 5300 series by September 1996. A few months later, the company introduced the remarkable 3400 series PowerBooks, which kept the same basic case design as the 5300 but with significantly enhanced capabilities that would instantly make the 3400 series one of the most popular line of PowerBooks ever.

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