HAVING only just released one of the fastest personal computers on the market and then following it up with some of the cheapest-to-buy and easiest-to-use family computers, Apple Computer has now brought out yet another group of computers aimed at the middle-to-high-end. The three new machines are all based on the PowerPC microprocessor, as are nearly all of Apple's new Macintoshes. Two of them are based on the PowerPC 601 running at 90 and 100 megahertz and the other is based on the more recent and faster PowerPC 604 and runs at 120 megahertz. All three computers use the new peripheral component interconnect (PCI) bus instead of the older and slower NuBus. Apple recently made the switch to PCI because it is an industry standard and will mean faster throughput to other devices. There is also more available to run on PCI than on NuBus. The Power Macintosh 7200/90 is a low-priced PowerPC that comes with 16 megabytes of RAM which can be expanded to 256 MB. The 7200 comes with a built-in AppleCD 600I quadruple-speed CD-ROM drive and there is a choice of either a 500 MB hard disk or a one gigabyte hard disk. There is one megabyte of built-in VRAM that can be expanded to four megabytes. The machine supports screen resolutions of up to 1,280 by 1,024 pixels. The Power Macintosh 7500/100 is a step above the 7200, running the PowerPC 601 microprocessor at 100 megahertz. The 7500 is the smallest of the new Macintoshes that holds the CPU and the clock on a daughter card that can be upgraded with a new CPU running at a faster clock rate. This addition will be quite welcome among Macintosh enthusiasts provided the future upgrade path is not too expensive. The 7500 comes with 16 megabytes of built-in RAM and a one gigabyte hard disk. It also has the AppleCD 600i CD-ROM drive. The top-of-the-line of the new range is the Power Macintosh 8500/120, the second fastest Macintosh now available. Running the PowerPC 604 microprocessor at 120 megahertz, it is only slightly slower that the 9500 which runs the same processor but at the faster clock speed of 132 megahertz. The 8500 also has only three PCI slots while the 9500 has six. The 8500 comes with 16 megabytes of RAM, a two gigabyte hard disk and an AppleCD 600i quadruple-speed CD-ROM drive. Apart from having fewer slots than the 9500, the 8500 also comes fully equipped to deal with video. The back of this computer looks more like a VCR than it does like a PC. The machine is definitely aimed at the multimedia authoring market. It will take 24-bit video input and can handle real-time video playthrough of up to 640 by 480 pixels with NTSC or 768 by 576 pixels with PAL. In NTSC it can capture up to 320 x 240-pixels at 25 frames per second. It also supports 24-bit video output. Both the 7500 and the 8500 are capable of videoconferencing. The only thing the user has to supply is the camera; everything else is built in and ready to go. Apple Media Conference is a QuickTime conferencing application that comes with the Macintoshes. A microphone has been included in the systems for the latest release of PlainTalk which, an Apple spokesman assured, will work much better than the original release. Apple Media Conference makes it quite literally a click of the mouse to go into conference mode. The application supports the ability to take quick snapshots of things while they happen and it allows the users to share a whiteboard. All three machines are able to take Apple's GeoPort Telecom Adapter Kit, a device that can enable some Macintoshes to handle faxes and voicemail as well as work like a modem. The GeoPort is not quite the same as a modem because it depends on certain things that are built into some of the Macintoshes. The GeoPort can also be upgraded through software, something that most modems cannot do. Apple keeps the prices coming down and this new batch is no different. The 7200/90 with a 500 MB hard disk is US$2,599; with a one gigabyte hard disk it is $2,899; the 7500/100 is $3,799 and the 8500/120 is $5,599. The latest range of Macintoshes means that there are a lot of Macs out there at vastly different prices. Anyone who wants to experience the power of reduced instruction-set computing (RISC) can now do it at reasonable prices. Mac enthusiasts will no doubt be pleased with the new releases, but the big question, the one that everyone in America as well as Hong Kong is asking is: where are the PowerPC notebooks? The rumour in America is that this question will not remain unanswered for much longer.