Powerbook G5: A Hard Look

G5 processor Following the release of newly upgraded Powerbook G4’s, I feel it’s time to do a little soul-searching on the topic of the G5 processor in Apple’s Powerbook line. There are so many things that Apple has to contend with (way to go, to The Apple Blog’s Chris Holland for being quoted) before a viable Powerbook G5 could even be considered for the consumer.

Obviously, don’t hold your breath for it anytime soon. A couple minutes of simple thought (all I’m usually capable of) bring a couple show-stoppers (or show-slower-downers) to mind. Heat, Power, Size.

Guys especially beware: those laptops can get hot, and if you want children, you’d better be careful about using it as the name implies. Anyone who’s used their laptop on their legs, held it in their hand, or anywhere else close to exposed skin knows that they get hot. And that’s only a G4. The G5 Power Mac uses 9 (Yeah, like as in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!) fans to cool the beast. Powerbooks are a skosh smaller and less ventilated. Peeling scalded skin from bodies is not a feature Apple will pursue… This will be one of the largest issues to contend with.

My 17″ Powerbook gets 2 and a half hours of battery life. Tops. Yes, it’s a large display to power, and I usually run the processor without power-saving measures. But what happens when the G5 is chugging along? There’s a lot more going on in the G5 architecture than in the G4. I haven’t done the in-depth examination, but it seems to me that the added capabilities of the G5 chip are taking away more power than they’re conserving. IBM is working to create a ‘lite’ version of the G5 that will consume less power (around 100 watts – which is still up there for a notebook) at lower clock speeds. While that’s a step in the right direction, there still seems to be a fairly large gap between now and a viable G5 Powerbook solution. My next question would be, is there potential for the power-saver setting on a lower clocked G5 to be more sluggish than the current G4 in the same configuration? I don’t know. It’s something to think about.

It does matter. Especially to Apple and their product design. They didn’t get to be the Number 1 Brand of 2004 by neglecting aesthetics. Anyone who’s seen, touched, or used an Apple product can attest to this. So how then will they be cramming the G5, it’s cooling, and its power supply into a 1 inch (or nearly 1 inch) thin enclosure as we’ve become accustom? Will consumers settle for a larger/thicker/heavier Powerbook design just for a slow(ish) G5 processor? Personally, I think not.

Will there be a G5 Powerbook? Of course there will be. There are G5 Xserves and iMacs. The ability is close, but it’s the details that Apple will strive to get right before they release ‘the Holy Grail’ to consumers. This is why Apple has been successful – they sweat the small stuff. While I’m as on-edge about The Announcement as the rest of you, I’m not planning on hearing it anytime soon. I trust Apple to give to us the G5 Powerbook with their blessings, when it’s ready to rock our world, without making compromises.