Macintosh PowerBook 520

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Macintosh PB520.jpg
Macintosh PowerBook 520
CPU: 25 MHz Motorola MC68LC040
RAM Type:Pseudostatic RAM
Maximum RAM: 36 MiB
Supported OS: System 7.1.1 - Mac OS 8.1
Introduced:May 16 1994
Discontinued:September 16 1995
MSRP:$2270 (520), $2900 (520c) (US)
Full Specifications

Launched alongside the other three machines in the all new PowerBook 5xx series, the PowerBook 520 was available in either monochrome or colour versions (PowerBook 520c) and represented the new standard in 'economy' when it came to using your Mac on the move.


Having put the ill fated Macintosh Portable well behind them, Apple had released not one, but two successful series of portable machines: the PowerBook 1xxs and the PowerBook Duos. Both had been heavily, but by no means exclusively, dependent on the Motorola 68030, yet time hadn't stood still as the newer 68040 processor was available and already installed in many of the desktop Macs. It would have been easy to simply upgrade the existing product lines, but Apple took the opportunity to release a whole new range of machines: The PowerBook 5xx series.

Having weighed up the pros and cons of both the PowerBook 1xxs and the Duos, Apple realised that while users craved portability, they also valued connectivity – a failing of the Duo machines. The new PowerBook 5xx series not only addressed these issues, but also introduced a swathe of new features not seen on any laptop, be it Mac, PC or otherwise.

Offering unrivalled power in the form of the Motorola 68LC040 – a low power version of the 68040 that omitted a dedicated floating point unit (FPU) – the 5xx machines were not only fast, but very battery friendly, too. Power was a major concern to users, and Apple designed the 5xx machines in such a way that the a second battery could be fitted into the bespoke expansion bay – this bay would also allow users to add a PCMCIA adaptor if they felt the need. Elsewhere, the machine boasted built-in Ethernet, a trackpad in place of the usual trackball; stereo sound, with stereo speakers built into the case lid; a RAM ceiling of 36 MiB, as opposed to the 14 MiB limit foisted by the PowerBook 1xx machines of the period; and the option to upgrade to the next generation of PowerPC processor – when they became available, of course.

The entire range featured four machines and all were released at the same time with the 520 and 520c being aimed at the more budget conscious buyer and the 540 and 540c designed with the more demanding user in mind. The differences between the four machines were minimal: two different speed options (25 MHz or 33 MHz; two different display options (colour or monochrome – passive on the 520s, active on the 540s. It should be noted that the PowerBook 5xx series did eventually consist of five machines with the PowerBook 550c only being released to the Japanese market one year later.

The 520, whilst being the bargain basement machine, might not have looked pretty with its passive matrix mono screen, but it was still great to use; offering power – even at 25 MHz the 68LC040 screamed compared to the older 68030 – connectivity, great battery life and just about everything that users could ask for. Those who were willing to pay the extra $630 received the added bonus of colour in the form of the 520c.

Full Specifications

  • General
    • CPU: 25 MHz Motorola MC68LC040
    • ROM: 2 MiB
    • Bus Speed: 25 MHz
    • Data Path: 32 bit
    • RAM Type: Pseudostatic RAM (85 ns)
    • Standard RAM: 4 MiB
    • RAM Onboard: 4 MiB
    • RAM Slots: 1
    • Maximum RAM: 36 MiB
    • Cache: 8 KiB (L1)
  • I/O & Expansion
    • ADB: 1
    • Serial: 2
    • SCSI: 1 (HDI-30)
    • Ethernet: 1 (AAUI)
    • Audio In: Mini-jack
    • Audio Out: 16 bit stereo 22 KHz (mini-jack)
    • Built-in Speaker: Mono
  • Storage
    • Hard Drive: 160 MiB or 240 MiB (or 320 MiB in 520c)
    • Hard Drive Type: SCSI
    • Floppy Drive: One 3.5" 1.44 MiB SuperDrive
  • Video
    • Built-in Display: 9.5" 4-bit 640×480 passive matrix (520) / 9.5" 8-bit 640×480 colour dual-scan passive matrix (520c)
    • Max Resolution: 640×480 (4 bit) (520) / 640×480 (8 bit) (520c)
    • Standard VRAM: 512 KiB
    • VRAM Onboard: 512 KiB
    • VRAM Slots: 0
    • Maximum VRAM: 512 KiB
  • Miscellaneous
    • Codename: Blackbird LC, Bonsai
    • Gestalt ID: 72
    • Power: One (or two) Nickel-Metal-Hydride
    • Case Style: PowerBook 520
    • Dimensions: 11.5" x 9.7" x 2.3" (W x D x H)
    • Weight: 7.1 lbs. (both batteries), 6.3 lbs. (one battery)
    • Mac OS Support: System 7.1.1 - Mac OS 8.1
    • Introduced: May 16 1994
    • Introduced: September 16 1995
    • MSRP: $2270 (520), $2900 (520c) (US)

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