Recently, I had an interest in a Powerbook – specifically, the 12 inch. I don’t particularly like the iBook, as I’ve had all of the commonly mentioned issues happen to my 700 MHz iBook G3. The logic board failures, the backlight cutouts, battery death, power cord […]

Recently, I had an interest in a Powerbook – specifically, the 12 inch. I don’t particularly like the iBook, as I’ve had all of the commonly mentioned issues happen to my 700 MHz iBook G3. The logic board failures, the backlight cutouts, battery death, power cord failures, you name it; it’s all happened to the iBook I own. It’s working well, but the screws don’t exactly fit, because I’ve opened up so many times, and it’s a little weird – not wonderfully classy like it was when I first got it. My sister now uses it, but complains about speed issues. (Since she’s only using it for email, Adium, and Shockwave games, I don’t care.

But, getting back to my point – when I look at the highest model of the iBooks, and the lowest model of the Powerbooks, I wonder – where is any of the differentiation? The Powerbook 12-inch can actually be a sort of step backwards in some respects. I’ve tried the 12-inch Powerbook before (borrowed from a friend for a weekend), and noticed that it’s only marginally thinner, and the slot-load drive can actually be a disadvantage to some people (specially sized disks, for example), but I do like it. The Powerbook I borrowed had an issue of the palm rest area (just below the keyboard, on the left side of the trackpad), where the outer layer of material (metal, paint, whatever it is) would just come off. I don’t know the history of the ‘book, as it had changed owners several times. It was only an 800 MHz model, but created significant heat, when all I was really doing was surfing the Internet. Did I mention that even with the maximum amount of RAM, the machine still didn’t seem as snappy as it could have been? (It was about as slow as the brain-damaged iBook I mentioned)

Even though the processor of the Powerbook would be 1.5 GHz, as opposed to the 1.3 GHz of the entire line of iBooks, what speed advantage is that? They’re both using the now-disappointing G4 processor – same abilities, everything. That used to be a big issue when the iBook was a G3, but not anymore. Are these things actually going to be faster than an 800 MHz Powerbook? Running cooler? Lots of fan useage?

The 14-inch iBook isn’t all that interesting, because its video card is the Radeon 9200, with 32 MB of VRAM, where the Powerbook doubles that. (What irritates me is that you can only get 128 MB of VRAM on the higher-level Powerbooks) The playing field is slightly evened by the fact that you can apply a hack to make the iBook dual-screen capable, but it makes my 700 MHz machine dog-slow.

The 12-inch Powerbooks just seem to be at a weird spot right now. Sure, they’re cheap and small, but the iBook is creeping into their territory, and at the same time, they can’t have the things that the larger models have – decent (read: 128 MB VRAM) video card, the faster processor, even gigabit ethernet, or silly things like the backlit keyboard. The fallback plan, for cheaper prices, is the iBook. But it hasn’t been a good experience for me with the current one. Why would I want another one? Not to mention that I’ve bought a computer that could easily run a dual display setup, but Apple merely disables it. Lame.

For a while, I was thinking of a Powerbook. But, at this point, I’d rather just wait for the Pentiums. The benchmarks for those test systems are better than the G5 systems, and the test models aren’t up to what Apple will actually be selling in 2007!

How many of you out there have one or two of Apple’s portables? What’s your experience so far?

  1. Caius Durling Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    I own a 12″ Powerbook and a 366Mhz G3 iBook. My mate at college has the 14″ iBook.

    Firstly I don’t see the point in the 14″ iBook. The screen is just a blown up version of the 12″‘s, which makes stuff pixelate on it compared to the crispness of the other displays. Secondly the 14″ is waay to big and heavy considering you don’t get anything more compared to a 12″pb.

    The 12″ pb for me was a no brainer choice. Small screen, decent video card, many video out options, multi screen spanning as standard, superdrive, alloy case, faster HD.

    The only thing I would change about my 12″ powerbook would be three things.

    Backlit Keyboard – I could really do with a backlit keyboard, times like now I’m touch typing in darkness with the only light source coming from the screen.

    Faster hard drive – I could really do with a 7200rpm 100GB HD in this beast, but then I guess it’d be noisier and run hotter, but at least 5400rpm isn’t noticable most of the time.

    Better Airport Reception – Although I don’t have directional problems I find the airport signal is a lot less with my powerbook than with the G3 iBook. But then I prefer the alloy to plastic :)

    Also a bad point about the 14″ iBook is that it feels very kid friendly. ie it has a big trackpad, but most of the trackpad is taken up with the button.

  2. I really don’t see your point, it seems just a rant, nothing more.
    I would rather have an iBook over a PowerBook. Yes I like power, Yes I would like a PowerBook, but if i had to choose, i’d get an iBook… why? – Well it looks like my iPod doesn’t it.

  3. Jason Terhorst Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    fra, you are right, it is a rant. I just wanted to relay my less-than-happy experience of my iBook, and ask readers what their experiences have been with the newer portables, and a comparison, and whether or not they are even worth buying. I also wanted to see whether or not the reed switch, video cables and backlight power control cables still get pinched within the display hinge of the iBook (or if the Powerbook is known to do that as well?). Though it also happens among the product lines of HP/Compaq, Toshiba, and Dell, I was hoping that Apple would have developed a better way of doing things to avoid it, seeing as how the design of the iBook has remained pretty much the same for the last 5 years or so.

    I would also agree with Caius, that the iBook has felt rather kid-friendly, especially the early ones (like yours). Though the logic board would probably prevent it, I could bet that Apple would have been able to make the iBook’s more recent revisions slightly smaller, and maybe even thinner, to match the form of the Powerbook. I only wish that such a thing had occurred in the G3 days. Some of the G3 iBooks had processors that ran significantly cooler than the G4 ‘books. But I emphasize the word “some”.

  4. I’ve had a few iBooks and a few PowerBooks. My first iBook was a 550 MHz G3 “Dual USB” – it did develop problems later in its life. It was followed by an 800 MHz G4, and I got my mom a 900 MHz G3. As I used newer and newer iBooks I perceived a steady improvement in quality.

    Right now I’ve got a 1.25 GHz 15″ Al PB, and my wife has a 1.33 Ghz 12″ PB. So I’ve had experience with a wide range of Apple laptops.

    Rather than just tell you my opinion, I’ll tell you my personal plans: First of all, as much as I love my 15″ for the screen, the PC card slot, the half-decent speakers, and the various other edges it has over the 12″, I am just totally won over by the effortless portability of the 12″. On paper the dimensions and weight don’t seem all that different, but in real day-to-day life, the 12″ is just small enough that I can throw it in a bag without a second thought, and the 15″, while also nice and slim and quite portable, is more of a commitment.

    So, I plan to sell my 15″ so I can buy a 12″ Apple laptop. I just have to decide whether it will be an iBook or a PowerBook – a similar scenario to your topic.

    The numbers look like this:

    12″ iBook 1.2GHz G4
    512MB, 80GB (4200 RPM), Combo, BlueTooth, ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 with 32MB DDR, AppleCare, 4.9 lbs.

    12″ PowerBook 1.5GHz G4
    512MB, 100GB (5400 RPM), Combo, BlueTooth, NVIDIA GeForce FX GO 5200 with 64MB DDR, AppleCare, 4.6 lbs.

    As you can see, the PowerBook is exactly $500 more, for which you get: a CPU faster by 300 MHz, a larger and faster hard drive, an better video card, and you lose 0.3 lbs. The PowerBook also has DVI video out while the iBook has VGA only. I don’t count display spanning as a PB advantage, because it’s easy to enable on the iBook. Some people prefer one case style over the other, I call it even – the iBook’s white plastic can absorb bumps better and doesn’t show scratches quite as easily, while the PowerBook’s aluminum looks and feels better.

    To conclude: I’m leaning toward the iBook. While the PowerBook does have some nice edges over the iBook, for me they don’t justify spending an additional $500, roughly 25% more.

    BTW, everything on this page may soon be made irrelevant, if Apple releases a new iBook in the next week or two.

  5. Crap, I’ve got a typo in my closing blockquote tag in my above comment. Could someone fix it?

  6. Jason Terhorst Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    I fixed your blockquote tag for you, Avi.

    Since you have a number of the iBooks, my question would be for you – have you opened the various models up? Have you noticed whether anything has changed in the process of manufacturing for the iBooks? It seems that right after I bought my computer, they changed it from the transparent plastic with inside white painting, to an opaque white plastic. I’ve also read online that they cheapened the wiring. Is there anything that they significantly improved in design? I know that there are a rediculous number of screws inside in mine – have they made it simpler to service?

    On the other hand, I’m not sure that the plastic of the iBook resists scratches. It does better than most, but if you look at it in reflected light, you can see a lot.

  7. Thanks Jason!

    I wish I could tell you I had, but no, I haven’t opened the various iBooks. For that level of detail we’ll need a Mac tech to chime in, I think.

    As for the scratch thing… I don’t know, my wife and I just feel that the PowerBooks just show dirt and smudges much stronger than the iBooks. It’s not exactly a Consumers Union scratch test, just a vague impression we have.

    Oh, one more thought: if I get the iBook, I may just leave the HDD at the standard 30GB, and install an 80GB 7200 RPM Hitachi TravelStar. That would be faster than the PowerBook’s drive and still be very cost-effective. And while I was at it, I might remove the iBook’s internal optical drive, to save a half-pound of weight, making it lighter than the PowerBook too. I probably use my optical drive while out less than twice a month, I can live without it while traveling, and I can use an external DVD burner at home.

    Man, I love this stuff. Wish someone would hire me to do it for them. Anyone looking for a Personal Mac Shopper?

  8. The Apple Blog » Potential Intel Products Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    [...] ay PPC based unit. Notebook Intel/Apple Products At the moment, as pointed out in this recent post the delineation between an iBook and a PowerBook is not very much. The main reaso [...]

  9. I also have a G3 700mhz dual usb 12″ iBook. I too had a faulty logic board and an intermittent back light. It has 384 MB of ram and it is pretty fond of the spinning beach ball. A couple of months ago I purchased a 12″ PowerBook with a superdrive and 768 MB of ram. I absolutely love it. In my opinion, you’re either a 12-incher or you’re not. I’m a student, and I love being able to carry my laptop with less hassle than a lot of my textbooks. Also, the performance difference is not limited to the clock speed of the processor. I can only compare to the G3 iBook, as I knew I wanted a superdrive and didn’t look at the G4 iBooks. The faster hardrive, upgraded video card, and DDR SDRAM all work together very well and my 1.5 GHz G4 beats the pants off the 700MHz G3. But that goes without saying. Forgive me if this is a rambling comment, love isn’t always logical, and I love my little PowerBook.

  10. Jason Terhorst Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Michael, how does your 1.5 GHz perform in games? Say, America’s Army, Medal of Honor, or other graphics-heavy FPS games? Considering that it can only go to 64 MB of VRAM, how does it hold up?

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