Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Comparing light weight Apple notebooks

Friend and former colleague Paul Walk has suggested another possibility vis-a-vis my buying a Mac. He was in more or less the same buying situation as me and thought a 12" iBook was better value for money than the equivalent PowerBook. He waxed pretty lyrical about it today and certainly it looked very nice. When he told me he hadn't shut it down in 6 months (he can just open & close the lid as necessary) I was pretty impressed. Hibernate has never worked under Windows XP for me.

It's true that the benefits of the PowerBook seem more pronounced in the 15" and 17" models. My plan was originally to get a 15" PB but I have been seduced by the idea of carrying a super-small, super-light, Mac with me where-ever I go.

The iBook is cheaper and that money could go towards getting a new PowerBook when the second generation of Intel variants start arriving in 18 months time.

So, to compare:

12" iBook
CPU1.2GHz G4
L2 Cache512K
FSB133MHz
GPUATI Radeon Mobility 9200 32MB DDR
RAM768MB PC2100 266MHz
HD60GB 4200RPM
WirelessWi-Fi + BlueTooth
Dimensions3.42cm high x 28.5cm wide x 23.0cm deep (2241.8cm3)
Weight2.2kg
Battery6hr
Price£874

12" PowerBook
CPU1.5GHz G4
L2 Cache512K
FSB167MHz
GPUNVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200 64MB DDR
RAM768MB PC2700 333MHz
HD60GB 5400RPM
WirelessWi-Fi + BlueTooth
Dimensions2.8cm high x 27.7cm wide x 21.9cm deep (1698.9cm3)
Weight2.1kg
Battery5hrs
Price£1099

The PowerBook should be a better performer. The CPU, RAM, FSB, GPU and disk are all faster components. But, really, how much of a performance difference will be noticable? The only online comparisons I could find of iBook vs Powerbook performance seemed pretty old.

The iBook is cheaper by £200. This isn't as big a margin as I'd imagined but it does put the iBook under the magic £1000 barrier. Apple RAM seems to be extortionate even by their pricing standards. Am I safe buying memory from Crucial or Kingston? A 1GB stick for the iBook costs £88 from Crucial and £340 from Apple!?! (That would reduce the price a fraction to £862 at the same time giving me 1.25GB RAM instead of 768MB and probably a small performance gain into the bargain.) I guess I should also ask how many people buy AppleCare too?

A concern I have about the iBook is that it can't drive a second screen. I see mention of mirroring and a suggestion that this means you just see what's on the LCD on the external screen. That would be a big minus. On the other hand it seems like you get an extra hour of battery life which is a plus. But, then again, the PB is 25% smaller (by volume) than the iBook.

Now I'm not so sure Paul's made my life any simpler :-) And then, of course, Apple may confuse(please?) me even more if they rev the iBook/PB line at MWE next month.

I've come up with some more information to muddy the waters still further.

  • Because of it's graphics card the iBook does not support the new CoreImage feature of Tiger. It's not clear to me whether this is relevant to someone who doesn't do a lot of graphics heavy work. Will it affect the general OS X experience much?
  • There is some kind of ongoing problem with the scrolling and the trackpad on powerbooks although I'm not clear what the problem is or how serious.
  • Apple Insider have a report which suggests that either iBooks or PowerBooks might get a faster CPU in the October time frame. It's not clear which line or what the details are but 2.0GHz with a 200MHz FSB is not out of the question. This is only a marginal improvement but might be worth holding out another 3 months for.

21/06/2005 23:23 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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