The 'Book Page

Buying a PowerBook G4

2001.01.18 - Dan Knight - Tip Jar

It's not quite perfect, but the PowerBook G4 is good enough. It will be the second new Mac I've ever purchased (the first was a Centris 610 in mid-1993).

Why am I buying a PowerBook G4 instead of a Cube or Power Mac G4? In a word: portability. WallStreet, Lombard, andPowerBook G4 Pismo were all attractive, but the screens were too small for the way I work (see Living Large). The titanium PowerBook is Apple's first with a large enough screen (1152 x 768) to replace the 19" (1152 x 768) I'm used to at home and nearly replace the 21" (1280 x 1024) I'm used to at work.

If Apple hadn't introduced a wide-screen PowerBook, I would have seriously considered the Cube. I'm tired of big, loud computers; I want something that simply works and works simply. Speed is not an issue - I've been happy ever since I reached the 300 MHz mark. Expandability is not an issue - I've had enough of adding PCI cards and drives.

Compromises

But Apple did introduce the PowerBook G4, which I believe is worth every cent of the $2,599 price for the 400 MHz model. Of course, there are some drawbacks compared with earlier models.

No expansion bays. That's fine. I've never owned a PowerBook, so I never became used to them. Besides, there are two USB ports and a FireWire port. Also, there's probably no way to put expansion bays in such a thin computer.

CD-RW. Yeah, that would have been nice, especially for backup in the field. For a lot of users, DVD isn't a big deal. I'm guessing there are no sufficiently slim slot-loading CD-RW drives. If there were, I suspect Apple would have made them available.

Only one battery. Again, it's something I'm not used to. The six-hour (rated) battery life on my wife's iBook is impressive; a bit less here shouldn't be a problem at all.

Choices

As I've said many times, it's not an issue of speed, so the 400 MHz model will be fine for me. It comes with a 10 GB hard drive and 128 MB of memory. Is it enough?

Enough memory? Definitely not. I'm checking ramseeker regularly for the best value, but I know I'll put in at least a 256 MB upgrade (currently as low as $117 shipped). The 512 MB are too expensive to consider these days, but 384 MB total RAM will be plenty of memory (I have "only" 208 MB at home and 320 MB at work).

Enough drive space? Ten gigabytes is luxurious! I have a 6 GB drive at work. My main partition has over 3 GB free. I have a 15.2 GB drive at home, the vast majority of which is free space (it was about the smallest available when I bought it - I certainly didn't need that much drive space).

I won't be buying memory from Apple. There are much better deals on the open market. I've looked into the 20 GB hard drive option, but for $200 extra it's almost as expensive as some 40 GB FireWire drives I've seen. If I end up needing more than 10 GB, I'll get an external FireWire drive.

I'll move my AirPort card from my wife's iBook, use the Contour MiniPro optical mouse I picked up at the Expo last week, and buy an AirPort hub, giving me the ability to work anywhere in the house or on the back deck.

Unless a better deal shows up by Friday (always check PowerBook Central's week's best PowerBook, iBook deals before buying), I'll be ordering from Outpost.com for the free overnight shipping.

Then it's just a matter of waiting for Apple to release the PowerBook G4.

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