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January 16, 2003

Moving from wanting to having

So, through an elaborate combination of events, I think I'm in a position where it makes sense to buy a new computer. More importantly, I think I've talked my wife into it.

So the next step is figuring out what to buy and where to buy it.

I dropped by the Apple Store and CompUSA today; neither one has either of the new PowerBooks in stock, and Apple has a shaky history on meeting promised ship dates. I'm hesitant to buy a new model sight unseen, but my immediate preference is for a fully decked-out 12" PowerBook. Of course, if I want it NOW, I can go with the 12" iBook for around $500 less, or the 15" TiBook for about $500 or about $800 more.

One friend wants me to go with the TiBook, just like his, on the grounds that I need the extra power. Recent benchmarks show a noticeable gap between the PowerBooks, attributable to the Level 3 cache on the 15" models that's absent on the 12", and to differences in the video cards.

On the other hand, running the same test suite on my feeble Lombard suggests I'll be blown away by any of the above. Here's a table to compare the stats:

TestLombard12" PowerBook12" iBook15" GHz TiBook

The iBook looks like a pretty good deal here. Naturally, I would love it if the machine I like had the fastest scores on everything, but the economics of the subnotebook mean that you have to charge less for it, and it can't outperform its siblings. Still, in the worst test, it's 3 times the speed of my Lombard.

I also confirmed a report on Macintouch that the miniBook requires a different keyboard with the SuperDrive. Update: That may not be true. The part number is for the Keyboard and OS, so it might have a different part number so the SuperDrive machines get iDVD, which combo drive models don't.

January 16, 2003 in Apple - PowerBooks | Permalink


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I'm leaning toward the iBook myself. I'll probably be blown away by a 700 MHz G3.

At $799, it's tough to beat.

Posted by: paul at Jan 17, 2003 12:02:18 AM

I think I'm willing to pay for the G4 as an anti-future defense, and I see some (mostly also future) value in Bluetooth, 802.11g, and the SuperDrive. I can be persnickety about keyboards, and the miniBook also has a new keyboard.

I really want to see the aluminum case up close, because my only aesthetic issue with the iBook is the clear acrylic layer, which I think will smudge and scuff easier than the aluminum.

Of course, my old dealbreaker that kept me from ever buying an iBook is no more: You can now span monitors through an Open Firmware hack on iBooks with Mobility Radeon cards.

Posted by: Frank at Jan 17, 2003 12:32:46 AM

I vote for something with a G4 and a SuperDrive.

Paul, are you sure you wouldn't rather have at least a combo drive in that iBook for backups and such?

Bare aluminum forms a [thin] layer of black oxidation which can be pretty nasty, so aluminum objects are often clearcoated. But Apple is probably using some non-corrosive alloy.

Posted by: john at Jan 17, 2003 12:39:06 PM

I'm really happy with my iBook. Its compact and light vs the weight of the larger TiBooks. The 12" PowerBookG4 seems to split the difference nicely. If I were buying a new system, I'd go for the 12"Superdrive equipped PowerBook as that's in the target range of what I paid for my iBook over a year ago.

Just don't forget a good carry case and more ram. The carry case I use is from www.goincase.com. They've got several bags and shoulder satchels that work great.

Posted by: Ryan at Jan 17, 2003 2:24:22 PM

Nope, I have no need for a burner in a laptop. I have one at home. I can prolong instant gratification long enough to get to my house. And don't forget iDisk: it goes where I go, as long as I'm networked.

I want less weight and battery life. My ThinkPad battery has rotted down to about an hour: all but useless.

I'm not at all sure if 802.11g is worth anything yet: it looks like 802.11a might make more sense. The new building the law school is moving to is 802.11a . . . .

To paraphrase something Bill Gates never said, 10 MBits/sec wireless ought to be enough for anyone. 56 MBits isn't enough to watch video on a full screen: I think Negroponte said you'd need about 3 times that for a full TV-sized screen. I'd be afraid of a wireless DS-3 on my lap.

Posted by: paul beard at Jan 17, 2003 3:44:57 PM

I'll have to try xBench on my B&W G3 and see how it stacks up against the proposed iBook.

Posted by: paul beard at Jan 17, 2003 3:49:02 PM

I have a CD burner at home, but I also have a number of DVD readers, in computers and standalone players. I think the ability to turn what has been a Hollywood-only format into a family album format would be a Good Thing (tm), so I definitely want the SuperDrive -- also because I hate backing up to 5-10 CDs.

802.11a vs. g is a definite "we'll see" situation. I see Linksys has intro'ed a number of "Wireless G" products, so folks with new PowerBooks won't be the only ones outside the standard if 'a' wins out.

Apple is using anodized aluminum, which should resist oxidation and wear nicely. I believe MagLites are made of anodized aluminum, for instance.

Posted by: Frank at Jan 17, 2003 4:49:35 PM

I'd need to think about it and see how the money can be made to work out.

as far as backups go, why are you backing up 3-6Gb of data anyway?

Posted by: paul at Jan 17, 2003 7:33:22 PM

what's interesting about the b and g products is that there's very little price difference at Amazon. I may need another 802.11b PCI card for a new box that may be entering the stable real soon now, and the prices for the old school 10 Mbit cards are very close to the new 56 Mbit ones.

Posted by: paul beard at Jan 17, 2003 7:42:15 PM

Why I had to back up 6 Gbs last time: Because my Lombard required me to reformat my hard drive and partition it into a boot drive less than 7 gigs, and a storage drive.

I'm a pack rat by nature, and cheap storage means that continues on my computers. I can lay hands on data from my last 3 laptop drives on CD.

Posted by: Frank at Jan 17, 2003 10:41:06 PM

Hmm, the results are in and your Lombard toasts my B&W, so the iBook would be a clear win.

The summary score was 27.10 for the B&W vs 23.78 for the Lombard: in all but the disk tests, the little guy edged the big guy.


And I like the cheek of the author telling me to use Chimera instead of Safari: someone needs to tell him to update his UA sniffer.

On backups: I regularly pitch everything but the basics (a bad habit in some ways: there are lots of things I wish I hadn't lost). But I never seem to have enough space to keep it all, so out it goes. The steady of disks is full (thanks, Kirk McKusick), after all.

Posted by: paul at Jan 18, 2003 12:04:35 AM

The last time I needed to back up a large volume resulted in my writing this up.

True, I needed some place to put the disk image while i did everything else, but I didn't need to do anything tedious like flip media in and out.

This is really just mkisofs for OS X.

Ideally, you could script up a routine to find modified files, total up the space they take up, make a disk image, then write them to it with their paths intact, with the option of burning a CD or just parking the image somewhere.

I sent someone a floppy-sized image a while back since he couldn't manage Stuffit or other methods. Worked like a charm. (Please don't ask, I have no idea why).

Posted by: paul at Jan 18, 2003 12:22:53 AM

Anodized. Of course. Duh.

Paul, somehow I knew you'd think a DVD was overkill for doing backups. You're so practical! I mean that in the nicest possible way. Maybe "sensible" is a better word.

I know that 640K quote well. :-) 10Mbps ought to be enough for all you'll ever do with a contemporary laptop, especially a G3.

I'm with Frank on being a packrat and also on having backup device large enough to get everything on one piece of media.

Posted by: john at Jan 18, 2003 12:28:09 AM

Still, in the worst test, it's 3 times the speed of my Lombard.

Err, not exactly, but we get the idea.

How significant is the memory test? Big difference between G3 and G4 here.

Posted by: john at Jan 18, 2003 12:32:15 AM

Penurious comes before practical :-)

Thanks for the compliment.

Posted by: paul at Jan 18, 2003 1:10:24 PM

And you aren't even Scottish! Or maybe you've got Scotch blood that I'm unaware of.

Posted by: john at Jan 18, 2003 1:55:09 PM

Dunno about blood, but I do like to have some Scotch of a different sort in my veins. Not for nothing is it called "the water of life."

My, how we've digressed.

So where's the best price anyone's seen on a babyBook or an iBook?

Posted by: paul at Jan 18, 2003 6:06:11 PM

My, how we've digressed.

Whiskey will do that.

AFAIK, the only legal Apple discounts are the educational ones. If you've got to pay retail, the trick is to find the best free bonuses such as RAM upgrades.

Posted by: john at Jan 19, 2003 8:45:00 PM

Yup, the catalogs, et al, are usually w/in a penny or each other.

I just have to get a little income behind me, and perhaps I can take the plunge.

Posted by: paul at Jan 20, 2003 7:12:04 PM

On the notion of a DVD burner, what's wrong with an external one? That way you get to use it with any machine you have and still keep the weight (and cost) down.

The external ones are running about $200 on eBay, for example.

Posted by: paul at Jan 20, 2003 7:16:16 PM

The primary DISadvantage of an external is that you can't use it with iDVD, which is apparently some very nice software.

The other primary advantage is that the combo drive is much faster burning CDs than the SuperDrive.

Yet another advantage is that you can order the combo drive models anywhere, but the SuperDrive is a build-to-order, which means you have to go through Apple or a full-service retailer.

Posted by: Frank at Jan 20, 2003 8:08:19 PM