At a reader's suggestion, I have added a subsection here for comments and further information. A few more people have contacted me since. Here are my exchanges with them:
Ted in Toronto
The first few questions come from Ted in Toronto. Powerbook or iBook? G5?
Hi Ben, awesome site! I ran by your website through google doing a powerbook review search. You had a very thorough review and I am pretty much convinced from other reviews and from my friend's 12inch ibook, that I should be investing in an apple computer! Anyways, sorry back to the point, you said your 12inch powerbook cost 2100CDN! I'am stunned can you tell me where you ordered this? I am from Toronto, Ontario Canada I can't seem to find a deal like this anywhere! At compusmart with the configuration you had [SNIP] was close to 3000! Thanks again for your great website, and time Ben I hope you will be able to help me out with my quest for the powerbook! I'am also open to your advice and opinons on purchasing a mac, I don't trust those sales people out there haha. One more tech question if you don't mind Ben, nVidia5200 vs ATI9700 on the other powerbooks, is there quality and performance difference in your opinion? In case you were wondering I was a avid pc user in the past, I do mainly graphics design and video editing. Main software used is the adobe line, and for editing I used adobe premiere. But I have been recently using Final Cut Pro and its amazing. I'am pretty sure the 12in powerbook might not be ideal for editing, but what do you think? can this small dude handle Final Cut Pro? If not I can live with that because I will use my PC for editing for now, and with everything else I'll let the little but kick arse 12inch powerbook tackle. Thanks once again Ben, I hope to hear from you soon. regards, Ted
Hello Ted, I work at a university, so that was their academic price. Still, the price on the Apple site as I configured it is $2377. I'd suggest buying it directly from Apple. As for the video, I'd guess that the only place you'd notice it is when playing games. Moreover, to be completely honest, Apple systems aren't the best game machines. Besides, the nVidia is the only option in the 12". I've had better luck with nVidia cards in the past, but that's mostly because of ATI's Windows drivers. My old iBook had an ATI Radeon 7000. Considering the age, it was a great card too. The really important part is that both the nVidia and ATI 9700 support Apple's upcoming CoreImage. The ATI 9200 found in both the iBook and Mac Mini do not support this. I'd bet that this will be a real consideration after Tiger is released. I haven't done any real video editing with mine. Keep in mind, though, that before Feb. a 1.5GHz G4 was Apple's top of the line laptop processor. I'm sure that the 12" can handle anything you throw at it. Now, you mentioned concern over the screen size. This is one place where the PB makes a huge difference over the iBook. If you plug an external monitor into the iBook, it can only mirror 1024x768. The PowerBook spans to pretty much any screen resolution. I routinely plug mine into a 17" LCD at 1280x1024 when doing work that requires a bigger display. (Typically programing, image or web editing.) I was torn between buying a low end 15" or a high end 12". The specs are very similar, with the 15" coming in at about $500 more with a combo drive. I decided on the 12" and an external monitor. This way I'm very portable most of the time, but can still hook up to a big monitor when I need/want to. I made the right decision for how I work, but I can't speak for you. Good luck with your decision, Ben
totally awesome thank you for your input Ben! one last thing, what is your speculation on the relase of G5 notebooks?! lol you suggest waiting for that instead? I feel like waiting several months until they do an upgrade on the powerbook g4 with tiger, and perhaps with some boosted hardware, but technology is always going to get better as you wait longer, the real question is do you need it and how badly and for what purpose! I right now have a Toshiba Satellite 5100, it is the first laptop I have ever owned and its been amazing since and still working great, only prob is heat, short battery life, and heavy large laptop! boooo powerbookg4 is really tempting! but the harmon kardon speakers are unbeatable on the Toshibas! and their UXGA display!!! man I can't find UXGA's displays anywhere on latops anymore. Thanks again for your great site and help and support Ben! hope to hear from you soon!
Well, given that they just updated the PB line, I wouldn't wait. Tiger will be out in 9 days now, so anything you buy will come with a coupon for Tiger. If you wait until the 29th to order you'll presumably get Tiger preinstalled. If and when the G5 PBs emerge, they'll certainly run hotter and have a shorter battery life. I easily get 5 hours on my PB. I'd also bet that they won't have a 12" G5 PB right away, as it would be quite a challenge cramming everything into the space. The other thing is that I have tended to buy late rev laptops from Apple as they are most likely to be free of any niggles. A friend bought the first rev 12" PB when they were released. It had a lot of heat and noise problems. These were completely ironed out for my PB. (Rev 4, IIRC.) I bought my G3 iBook less than a year before they upgraded those to G4s. Personally, I was glad that I'd bought the iBook when I did. It's really up to you. After watching Apple for the last couple of years, I'd guess that a G5 PB is a good year away at least. When the 12" PB first came on the market, the 900MHz G3 iBook was benched about the same as the 867MHz G4 12" PB... Tough call, I guess. I'll tell you what though, I'm selling my G3 iBook for $700CDN. It's about two and a half years old now. It was $1500 when I bought it. Apple laptops seem to hold their value quite well. You could probably buy a G4 now and sell it if/when the G5 comes out and only be out a few hundred dollars. Toshiba laptops are tanks, aren't they? We have many of them at work. Without a doubt, the speakers are better on the Toshiba. However, I was initially a little too harsh on my review of the PB speakers. They're actually quite good. Certainly much better than the iBook's. I do find myself listening to the PB without external speakers, though I never doubt that it is a laptop I'm listening to. Good luck with your decision. Let me know how it goes. I must say, it's great to know that someone else out there is finding my review useful. Cheers, Ben
thank you so much again for your insights Ben, I am going to university this coming September I'm hoping to buy the same laptop with same config as you with education discount. Thanks for your laptop offering though I appreciate, btw you should post it on your website people might just be interested. Thanks for your great website again I hope to see more reviews on other great mac products as well, and thank you for sharing your wealth of computer wisdom and knowledge =)
And, as you know if you've read this, I did post it to my website. Thanks for the idea Ted!
Simon in Alberta
Simon, a U of A student wrote to ask me about the sound quality of the PowerBook. I hadn't thought of this...
Great review on the 12" powerbook; was thoroughly impressed to get a well-rounded and comprehensive review from an actual user. Your're Canadian to boot which is nice, I'm from Calgary. Also, I'm a university student at the U of A. I'm seriously considering this laptop in the fall (I can't afford it yet, too broke) and I was wondering about the sound quality. The powerbook suits all my processing power needs and then some, but one thing I really look for is good sound with external speakers. I used to have a PC desktop I bought 3 years ago (just sold it in a few weeks ago) with a fairly decent sound card in it, and I want to make sure that my getting a laptop instead won't mean sacrificing a whole lot of quality when using my speakers.
I've had a lot of trouble finding anything addressing this in all the forums/review centers I've checked so I wondered if you could give me any insight. What has your experience been re: the sound quality you're getting with external speakers? As good as most desktops with their bundled soundcards?
Any advice/help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!
Sorry to take a while to get back to you, I was in the middle of moving when you sent me this message.
I must say, this is an interesting question. I have no complaints about the quality of the sound when plugged into speakers. I haven't had a chance to listen to the same song on both my desktop and laptop through the same speakers, but I've never noticed a problem. I can say that, through speakers, the PB sounds better than both a ThinkPad A22m and Vaio Z505 that I own.
When I get a chance, I'll test with the PB and my AMD64 PC with on-board sound. I'll let you know what I find.
No problem at all; the last thing you should feel like you have to do is apologize to someone who takes your time away to answer their questions! Hope your move went well...
It is an unusual question judging from the absence of any similar queries I could find, which surprises me given how many people use their laptops for music. Anyways, like I said, I was just trying to get some kind of read on what they would sound like - I'm basically trying to get one computer to do everything for me, and it's quite possible I'll be making some sacrifices in doing so, I'd just like to know how much I'm giving up. Anyways, enough ranting from me. If you think of it sometime, let me know how it sounds, I'd be curious to hear.
Thanks for getting back to me!
Joe the Linux guy...
Joe wrote in to ask me about Linux compatibility and my thoughts on the 12" screen after a few months of use.
I found your site very interesting as a long time computer hobbiest, linux user and Apple owner wannabe.
In your G3 iBook review you have the 12" screen under "The Bad:" section, yet your new Powerbook is also a 12". Was the decision to go with the 12" PB a finical one or did the 12" grow on you?
I've been thinking about a 12" iBook and the screen size is my one uncertainty. My current laptop is a Toshiba Satellite with a 15" screen @ 1024x768. So, I'm thinking that if I make the fonts on the iBook the same size as on the Toshiba readability should remain the same there will just be less on the screen? Which is the price for a small and solid package. When I open the Toshiba I can feel the screen bezel moving and there is flex in various areas of the thin? plastic body when I pick it up (closed lid). I'm longing for a "solid" fell.
Anyway, thanks for an informative site and any tips.
Sorry to take a bit to get back to you, I've been in the process of moving.
Hmm.. sure, bring up the G3 Review... Well, you caught me. It turns out that the answer to your question is yes and yes. The 12" screen did grow on me - it makes the laptop extremely portable. It was also a financial decision.
In the end, I decided to go for the portability of the 12" over the extra screen real estate and cost of the 15". However, I did so knowing that, with the PowerBook line, I could plug in my external monitor and have up to 1600x1200 on a larger screen. This would not be the case with an iBook, as it is locked at 1024x768 or less, regardless of the external monitor's capabilities. Apple annoyingly limits the iBook in this way. (However, there are unsupported hacks to get around this.)
If you're considering an iBook, please take the following pieces of advice:
- The iBook has 32MB of video RAM and will not take advantage of CoreImage in 10.4
- The 12" iBook is the same size as my old G3 iBook, so larger than the PowerBook
- Don't cheap out on the HD or RAM. Get a bigger drive than you think you'll need, get at least 512MB of RAM
I recently helped a student who had just purchased a G4 12" iBook with the 30GB drive install Linux in addition to OSX, he was already running low on disk space.
As a Linux user you'd probably like to know that the iBook is better supported for Linux ATM. Apple's new scrolling track pad isn't well supported in Linux yet. Of course, Broadcom's stupid wifi chip is a problem. I bought a USB wifi thumb adapter for $30 to get around this. It's clunky, but it works. I think you might have better luck with 3D in Linux with the iBook too. It uses a Radeon 9200 which appears to have DRI support. The PB is an Nvidia 5200. Nvidia doesn't provide Linux PPC drivers.
I think that the iBook is a perfect first Mac. After 2.5 years my old iBook is still pretty solid However, the new PB is much nicer. Using the new iBook really hit home how much more I like the PB. The iBook with 512MB of RAM and a 60GB drive is about $400 less than the PB. If you can afford the extra money and are planning to mostly stick to OSX, I think you'll be happy that you'd spent it. However, both machines are great.
Mike from Ottawa
Mike was wondering about the suitability of the PB for a IT degree at Carleton. He also wanted to know about my thoughts on the MacTel announcement.
I read your 1.5GHz 12" Powerbook review. Great work, and thanks for your hard work! I was happy to read some of the comments and the e-mails you've answered.
As another student, I'm also interested in a good, reliable laptop for school. Coming from a 11" Compaq Armada m300, I know I want the 12" PB myself. But here's my quandry: after Steve's bombshell keynote speech about the new transition to Intel chips, I was wondering what I should do; should I buy a Power PC based G4 PB, or do you think that I should wait for the Intel PB's to hit the streets?
You see, I find that it's already hard enough to find current Apple software in Ottawa, especially since we do not have an Apple store, and our local B.Mac closed-up a while ago. I don't want to be left with a PowerBook with no software that I can install on it....
Any advice you can give me would be welcome.
If it helps, I'm taking Information Technology at Carleton. so I intend to use the PB for programming, shell scripting, router configs, and general schoolwork.
Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad that so many people are finding the PB review useful.
Now, on to your question: To be honest, this is a tough one. Everyone seems to be guessing that the Intel PBs will be among the first Mactels to be released. On the other hand, the G4 PowerBooks are excellent machines and are available today.
If you're worried that Apple will stop supporting the G4 PowerBook in a year or two, don't be. I can install Mac OSX 10.4 on my late-2002 model iBook and I'd guess that it will be supported for another few releases yet. Furthermore, the Mactels won't even ship for another year. Until that time, the PowerBook will still be the top-of-the-line laptop from Apple. Also, even after the first Mactels ship, most of the existing install-base will remain G3, G4 and G5 MacPPCs for several years. In this time, I'd expect software vendors to ship Universal Binaries for all of their software.
Mac OSX should make a great environment for the BIT program. Shell scripting/programming on Mac OSX is very similar to programming for Linux/Unix. Also, you can always install Linux on the PowerBook. Let me tell you, Apple laptops make better Linux laptops than most PC laptops. Power management and hardware support is generally better for Apple laptops than it is on Intel systems.
However, if you wait a year then you could conceivably be able to buy a PowerBook that will run Mac OSX and Windows. Plus, once Linux support is worked out, you'll get things like Flash, Wine and VMWare working on the PowerBook with Linux. Sounds pretty tempting to me. However, at the moment it's vaporware.
On the software availability front, I wouldn't worry too much. Beyond possibly buying MS Office, I can't see you needing boxed software at all for school. As for Office, I know it's available for Queen's students for about $100. If Carleton doesn't offer a similar program, you may want to take a trip down to Kingston. Check out the Adobe Creative Suite if you do come down here. Anyway, most of the Mac OSX software I've purchased has been on-line.
Of course, there won't suddenly be more or less software for Mac OSX once the Mactels are on the market. If anything, I'd expect the initial Intel PowerBooks to have less Mac software, as it will take some time to port over all applications. Rosetta sounds interesting, but it's not perfect. The talk on the developer lists for NeoOffice/J indicate that will take some time to port to Intel and that it will not run under Rosetta, as it is a strange hybrid of Java and C++ code relying on an old version of the Apple JDK that may or may not be ported to the first public release of Mac OSXi.
The BIT program looks interesting. I did my undergrad in Computer Science at Carleton, this program didn't exist then. I must be honest with you, when I went through I absolutely needed a Windows machine on occasion just for MS Office. This was really only the case for my business courses. One in particular required a Windows-only Excel plugin that shipped with the $200 textbook. Ouch!
However, a cheap PC can be had for $200. If I had the money and was starting a degree, I'd probably get a nice laptop like the PowerBook and a cheap PC for extra work that required it.
Personally, I'm glad I bought the PowerBook, the G4 is fast, the video card is great and Mac OSX runs brilliantly on it. Without hesitation, I would say that it is the best laptop I've used, and I'm certain that Apple's support will outlast my use of it. There's always something better around the corner. If you're looking at buying a PowerBook because of Mac OSX, they'll continue to be a very viable option. If you're looking to buy a laptop with Mac OSX as a secondary consideration, you may want to either hold out for another year or buy a PC.
Also, the iBooks once again look like a good option depending on your needs. They're certainly cheaper than the PowerBooks. You could consider buying an iBook for the next year and then sell it for a Mactel PowerBook when they show up. Yeah, like you need more options. ;-)
Good luck with your decision and with your studies. Sorry for the long reply.
I think you're right about the PBs being the first Macs to have Intel Inside... they are definately the notebooks most in need of a jump up from the G4, after all they are the flagship.
For school I completely agree with you. Shell scripting is a nice feature, and another "feature" is that I should not be able to play games in class on a Mac... always a good thing. I'm really looking forward to the prospect of being able to load up linux on a laptop and not have to wrestle with my WiFi / Ethernet NICs....
Again I agree with you on the software front because I have a friend that is going to give me just about all of the software I might want for my laptop so that is an advantage for PPC.
The only question I have left is whether or not I should buy the AppleCare protection plan. The plan offers support in case anything happens to the laptop, which is wonderful for a student, as it means I am guaranteed to have a laptop with no problems for three years. This is enough time for me to finish school with the computer under warranty the whole time. However, even at education prices, the plan is $364. This is quite expensive. Would you say that it is worthwhile to make this investment as well?
Thanks for your insights, you're giving me more confidence in my decision, especially since you don't carry on like a number of "Mac-heads" I know.
Thanks again Ben,