Now that Apple has released a 14-inch iBook, some folks are predicting the big screen consumer portable will encroach on sales of Apple’s high-end PowerBook line. To help determine which portable is right for you, MacCentral is doing a head-to-head comparison of the top-of-the-line PowerBook and the new iBook.
For several days, I used a Titanium PowerBook/667 full-time. Then I gave equal time to the 14-inch iBook. Here are some thoughts.
There’s no doubt that the PowerBook is the Mercedes, the BMW, the Porsche, the … well, you get the idea … of laptops. It’s simply a stunning achievement in both design and features. And one of the main criticisms of the PowerBook was addressed when Apple made slot-loading Combo (CD-RW/DVD-ROM) optical drives standard across the entire pro laptop line.
In fact, the latest ramps of the PowerBook are faster, more connectable and boast better graphics. The 667MHz processor model that I’m running zips along very nicely running just about all apps — and Mac OS X runs very fluidly. Not only do the latest PowerBooks have faster processors, the 667 version has a faster system bus running at 133Mhz.
But that’s not all the performance enhancements. The latest PowerBooks are equipped with the ATI Mobility Radeon. Its 4x AGP support and 1 MB of DDR RAM really pumps up video support and provides support for dual monitors and video mirroring at up to 1600 x 1200 pixels.
The high-end model also comes with an AirPort card included. That’s a good idea, since installing an AirPort into a PowerBook is a tedious, aggravating process. Finally, the PowerBook is the first portable to ever be fitted with gigabit networking, a boon for those needing to transfer big media files.
However, if you use your portable as a secondary computer or do mainly business applications, the iBook may be a better choice. Rugged as it is, the PowerBook doesn’t feel as durable as the iBook line. Press on the backside of the screen and you can see “indentations” on the front of the display. And the G4 processor runs hotter than the iBook’s G3, though, of course, the latter packs less performance.
When Apple unveiled a 14-inch iBook at Macworld San Francisco, I was a bit surprised. There were two things that I had assumed were hallmarks of the iBook: compactness and durability.
Despite what Apple says, the 12-inch iBook models are, for all practical purposes, sub-notebooks, without the drawbacks of sub-notebooks. Packing an incredible amount of features into a small form factor, the consumer laptops are also incredible rugged with their polycarbonate plastic casing, backed up by an interior protected by a magnesium frame and a hard drive that’s rubber-mounted.
Of course, the Catch 22 was that, while I loved the size of the iBook (perfect for carrying to meetings and typing notes directly into my word processor), the 12-inch screen could get a bit tough on the eyes after a week of on-the-road reporting. The 1024 x 768 resolution displays on both the smaller and bigger models is gorgeous. Plus, with the tighter resolution, the screen shadings are fine enough to make text relatively easy to read.
For a few hours, it’s not bad. And for young folks, it’s fine. But for middle-aged eyes like mine, two extra inches of display real estate can be mighty nice. It will be worth my while to adjust to the extra pound of weight and added size of the new iBook for such trips.
The latest iBooks are relatively fast with their 600MHz G3 processors (except for the low end model with runs at 500MHz). However, if you really feel the need for speed, you’ll want a PowerBook with its AltiVec-enhanced G4 chip, faster graphics card and bigger system bus.
The iBook comes equipped with ATI’s RAGE 128 Mobility chip, configured with 8MB of SDRAM video memory. That’s not bad, but doesn’t nearly match up with the ATI Mobility Radeon and 16MB of DDR RAM on the PowerBook.
The iBook offers RGB-video out, which lets you use a special monitor cable adapter to drive an external monitor — though the monitor has to “mirror” what’s on the iBook screen. Like its predecessors, the new iBook can output composite video through a different adapter cable.
The iBook also has no cover over the ports, unlike the PowerBook. Though some people don’t, I actually like the “no cover” design because it’s faster and easier to plug in peripherals than on the PowerBook.
The iBook also lacks a PC-card slot. I don’t find this a problem with the proliferation of FireWire and USB peripherals. But if expandability is a key need when you’re the road, you’ll need to take this into consideration.
The new 14-inch iBook, which has a physically larger battery than its smaller siblings, has the best battery life of any Mac portable (Apple claims up to six hours). Also, I like the fact that the iBook battery is secured by a screw (which you can turn with a coin or screwdriver), which seems more secure than the latch of the PowerBook.
Finally, the consumer model comes with a nice bundle of productivity and entertainment software that the PowerBook doesn’t offer. Mac OS X version 10.1.2 is pre-installed as the default OS, although Mac OS 9.2.2 is pre-installed as well (and can be made the default OS if you wish).
So iBook or PowerBook? A local vendor told me that the iBook would meet 90 percent of all his customers’ needs. If you’ll be using your laptop mainly for word processing, checking e-mail and Web surfing, the durable, inexpensive laptop will suit the bill just fine. Its price point makes it a marvelous secondary Mac for general use, education and business apps.
If you won’t be using it for hours on end or if you’re buying it for a youngster, go for the 12-inch version. It packs all the oomph of the 14-incher at a lower cost and is much easier to carry.
If you’re a Web page designer, artist, videographer, photographer or do any sort of intensive graphics or video work, the PowerBook is the must-have portable. If your laptop is your only computer or your main computer, this is for you. And hardcore gamers will prefer the PowerBook to the iBook because of the ATI Mobility Radeon.
If the PowerBook is a BMW, the iBook is the dependable family car — and they are priced accordingly. Pick the one that best suits your needs.
You can find specs and configurations for both the PowerBook and iBook on
Apple’s Web site.
By the way, if you’re interested in a new PowerBook,
AIS Computers and Services
is offering MacCentral readers a deal on one model in the latest PowerBook line from Apple.
Keith McDaniel, AIS corporate sales manager, said that any customer that stops by one of their Georgia locations or calls their toll free number (1-800-849-4949) and mentions they heard about us from MacCentral can get either (or both) of the following deals:
A G4 PowerBook 667 with DVD/512MB/30G/AirPort for US $2679 (while supplies last);
An Apple iPod for $379.