Stale Bread?


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?


Stone Hardman

I just purchased a 12″ PowerBook to replace a faulty 14″ iBook that just *happened to be* out of warranty. I have a 1.5Ghz G4, 64MB VRAM (+ Core Image) 512MB of RAM, 80Gb 5400 RPM HD, and a SuperDrive. Uh…all I can say is this: the “feel” of this machine is 10x what the iBook was. It is MUCH faster and is much more portable. Add to that the fact that I’m going to soon be plugging it into a 20″ cinema display you have a combination that you’re not going to get from an iBook for what I paid for this little bad boy. Frankly, I’ll never go back to the iBook line.

Jason Terhorst

I remember getting my iBook back, and they had included the CDs with the software that they had already put in. It’s a firmware update, so they just run the CD, and that’s it. The updater is what removed the hack. Usually, the techs will not do too much in terms of messing with your stuff… they don’t care what you have on the computer or what you’re doing. So, it wasn’t the tech’s intensions to get rid of the hack, it just happened as a side effect.


Also, I’m thinking when they updated the logic board that probably took out the firmware hack… Or so I think.. I still can’t decide whether to install it or not again. I loved it, but don’t want my computer to fry. But I hear what you’re saying, that a lot of people who don’t use the hack are having these problems.

Jason Terhorst

I’m not so sure that it’s the cause, since many people who aren’t all that technically inclined are having the problem, and Apple wouldn’t be offering the exchange program, or making the hack so easy if it was causing such severe issues.

However, it may be due to faulty video hardware in the first place, since graphics glitches are a big symptom of logic board failure. From what I understand, the hack doesn’t cause the failures, but Apple doesn’t like the hack too much (but they don’t shut the sites down that host it), and it may just be marketing when each subsequent update disables it. (or the updaters are simply resetting the OF to defaults, which does disable the hack, and is a way to fix any problems that the hack causes)


I have a 700 mhz G3 iBook, dual USB, just got it back from Apple for the logic board repair. I had the screen spanning hack and they turned it off. Before I install it again, I’m wondering if the rumors are true that the hack might have something to do with the logic board failure?


I bought a 1Ghz G4PB 14 months ago, and I love it. Best computer I have ever owened. I’m writing on it right now, and I’ve edited four short films, reels, music videos and spent 4 – 8 hrs a day working on it. It has never crashed, broken or failed me ever. I am very careful with it and use an external keyboard / monitor / mouse for editing…

Gareth Potter

I’ve dealt with a great many iBooks – ranging from a clamshell 333 Mhz to a pair of 12″ 1.07 GHz iBook G4s – and I’d probably agree with the suggestion that build quality has improved. My 12″ 800 MHz iBook G3 is currently with Apple for its second logic board replacement, about a year after the last one, and this is my fourth logic board replacement in total (my 14″ 700 MHz iBook died twice, but this is now OK and with my parents as their desktop machine).

But despite the issues I have had, my siblings’ 1.07 GHz iBook G4s have been generally problem-free – one perfect, and one has had a trackpad issue that is currently being fixed. But there’s not been any hint of logic board issues, thankfully – I presume that Apple finally has that one nipped in the bud. And friends’ iBooks, both G3 and G4, have been trouble-free, but they get less use than mine, which gets knocked about a fair bit and is on almost 24/7.

I think the G4 models do feel a little better, especially the keyboards, but of course sacrifices have been made in battery life terms with the move to the G4 processor. The return to 6 hour battery lives with the Pentium M will not be unwelcome.

I do think though that the iBook vs. PowerBook is pretty much a no-brainer though – the PowerBook’s better CPU and motherboard, faster, larger hard disk, better graphics card, etc. – I needn’t go on – make it worth the extra spend. iBooks are for students, those on a budget, and those with houses with large boilers that seem to cause incredibly frustrating interference with wireless networks…


I’ve had a 12″ iBook since december (so it’s a G4). Now, I preface everything I say here based on the fact that this is my first Mac (and yes, have fallen in love and am never ever going back), but have been using and playing around inside PC’s since I was small enough to actually get into the boxes.

But, to my iBook, I have to say I love it and haven’t had any issues really at all (though it’s only been 8 months or so admittedly). I adore the portability of the thing, and it lives in my bookbag, and it comes with me both to my research position and to study. And if I don’t want to have my bookbag with me it can go into a cute tote as well (YMMV *grin*).

I actually like the slot-drive. I have used pc laptops with drawers and I was always having to move stuff from where I was working in order to let the damn thing come out. I’ve had a key stop responding once, but removing the keyboard and cleaning it with compressed air solved that.

However, I made two mistakes I realise now. I wish I had increased the ram and increased the hdd. I only have 256MB, and I only have 30GB. Needless to say I really notice the ram defiency when I am working on multiple aps (which happens a lot) but this is a solvable issue as when I have some extra cash I will be getting some more ram online. However, I am cursing the lack of hdd space, as I’ve got about as much of my iTunes collection as I can fit on the damn thing (I can’t justify the luxury as a grad student of an iPod yet) so of course, it’s a few gig off being full. I can’t do much about that now without surgery, so it’s annoying.

Finally, the one downside of the iBook is it’s colour. Yep, it looks like an iPod, so one can match. But being white it picks up ANYTHING. Try wearing makeup and not getting any on the damn thing, it’s virtually impossible; it seems to pick up dirt just sitting there and not doing anything. The best solution I have discovered is Mr Clean Magic Eraser, which works great, but thanks to the iBook, that doesn’t last long.

If I had the money, I’d probably go with the powerbook (though the 12″ model, again for the portability) simply because of the improved graphics, as with my experience the PB just has crisper edges and more defined colours, but that’s just my opinion.

(course, also, I’m never going backt o PC’s and as soon as I complete my studies and am earning I’m buying a G5 desktop (or whatever the Intel equivalent is by then) *grin*)

Avi Flax

Jason, my 15″ also has 64MB VRAM, and I’ve had mixed results with 3D games. I tried the Battlefield 1942 demo and it wasn’t great. But I recently tried the Halo demo and it ran nicely. Again, not exactly hard data, but those were my impressions for what it’s worth.

Jason Terhorst

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?


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.

Avi Flax

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?

Jason Terhorst

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.

Avi Flax

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

Avi Flax

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.

Jason Terhorst

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”.


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.

Caius Durling

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.

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