The Webb Chronicles

Incredibly Smooth: Living with the High Resolution 15" PowerBook

- 2005.11.23

It had been less than a year since I'd sold my cumbersome Dell Inspiron 8200 notebook in favor of a 14" Apple iBook G4. Needless to say, I was more than happy with the iBook - light, silent, and powerful enough to do everything I wanted to do with it.

What more could I ask for?

It's said that all good things must end, and thus did my coveted little iBook go before its time.

One Sunday morning, I lingered over to my desk only to find that my iBook had frozen up right after coming out of sleep mode. I thought to myself, "Well, isn't that interesting. Maybe it wants to be just like the Windows machines on the network!"

I was forced to do a hard reset, and I was not welcomed by the familiar gray Apple logo but with the dreaded Finder/question mark folder icon.

Now this was a rarity indeed, and I quickly looked for my OS X Tiger installation CD so I could check hard drive status. After booting from that CD, I found that the machine wasn't even detecting my hard disk.

Rather than taking it apart myself, I decided to head out to the Apple Store where I had purchased the machine, since I was still under AppleCare warranty. When I finally was able to see a Mac Genius, I explained the situation, and they confirmed that hard drive was indeed dead.

I had two options, send the machine in for service or barter for a new PowerBook.

15" aluminum PowerBook G4I choose the latter.

I had to wait two-and-a-half weeks to receive my new 15" PowerBook, since everything had to go through AppleCare, but it finally came in and I promptly picked it up. It was everything I hoped it would be - except for one little thing, an occasional beeping noise emanating from middle of the machine.

I researched the problem and found no concrete answer, but I suspected it was an oscillator near the CPU. Regardless, I wasn't going to live with it, so I returned it for another machine. Another trip to the Apple Store, and I finally had my PowerBook - sans beeping.

This newest model from Apple, with its 1.67 GHz G4 processor, 15.2" screen at 1440 x 960 resolution, 128 MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9700, SuperDrive, and improved battery life, is nothing less than spectacular. I promptly replaced the 512 MB DDR2 SDRAM with the maximum 2 GB and started to restore the data I had backed up on my old iBook. All went according to plan.

The screen feels considerably bigger than 15" due to the higher resolution, although I have had problems getting this resolution to work with some games, most notably Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament 2004. However, Aspyr does offer suggestions for widescreen displays that I haven't had a chance to test.

Mac OS X 10.4.3 runs incredibly smooth, even with the stock 512 MB of memory, undoubtedly due to the improved processor and bus speed.

Another noteworthy feature is the digital sound port, which I've used a few times, and I can really notice the difference in sound quality, along with the improved integrated speakers (in comparison to the iBook).

The new trackpad, which allows me to use both fingers to scroll up, down, left, and right, takes some getting to used to, but after two weeks of using it's now invaluable and used every single day.

Needless to say, despite having gone through quite a bit to get a working machine, I'm very happy with my new PowerBook, and I'm sure it'll hold its own for the next few years, even when compared to the upcoming Intel Macs.

One thing is for sure, in a classroom full of noisy, thick, and heavy Dells and HPs, my PowerBook stands out as a stylish yet imposing presence which I proudly tote around campus. LEM

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