View Full Version : The dreaded PowerBook vs. iBook question

04-27-2005, 07:26 PM
Yes, I was in love with the iBook and had every intention of buying one. But then the revised PowerBooks came along and they seemed reasonably priced so I took a look. With the added RAM and bigger (and faster) hard drive standard, I then started to realize that the PowerBook was now a serious contender. After reviewing the tech specs and reading the fine print, I noticed that there were more subtle differences between the two computers; the PowerBook has the faster processor, bus, RAM, and it has more video RAM. But whatís a couple of MHz here or there?

The problem is that whichever notebook I buy will be my computer for at least the next four years while attending college. I may be able to afford a PowerBook now but could not afford to buy an iBook and then later decide that a PowerBook is necessary.

As far as my personal needs are concerned, I mainly only use my current computer for word processing, email, internet, etc. However, once in college, Iím assuming that Iíll be using my computer for a lot more, especially with biomedical physics as my intended major. Iíd imagine that Iíll be working with graphic- and/or math-intensive software, in which case the PowerBook may have an advantage. But then again, I could be wrong? The truth is, I really don't know but I figure better safe than sorry?

If anyone has any insight, Iíd love to hear what you think. Right now, I really am stuck in the middle, with a slight lean towards the PowerBook because to be honest, it seems more technologically up-to-date than the iBook. Also, I would be able to afford the 15Ē 1.5GHz Combo-drive model if I opted for the PowerBook.


04-27-2005, 07:44 PM
I'd probably favor a -soon to be updated- iBook, max it out to 1,25 GB RAM, eventually add a real phat internal HD -both to be added later at fair prices- and still save money.

The PowerBooks Gigabit Ethernet, FW 800 and up-to 2 GB RAM are probably not worth the price difference and on portables the reduced HD-speed often mitigates processor speed when considering overall speed.

Then again, if you really want the illuminated keyboard badly, just be honest about it and go for it :D .

04-27-2005, 08:29 PM
This question has been discussed several times before on these forums - so a search would be helpful in getting more opinions.

Basically, everything on the PowerBook is 30% better (just to pull a number out of a hat) - the graphics card is better, the screen is better (not just bigger), the cache is better, expansion capabilities are better, etc - not just the items that voldenuit mentioned. Whether these improvements are worth the price is something only you can decide. Consider also the possibility that you might be able to buy an iBook now and then trade it in after 2 years for the next model for the same overall price as a PowerBook. But you would not have the advantages of a PB.

04-27-2005, 11:38 PM
The iBook G4 is pretty nice. I have a PowerBook, but it wasn't performance that convinced me. It was all the expandability extras, and to me that is the true difference between the product lines. I actually use FireWire 800, the external monitor port for making my desktop bigger, the PC card slot, and the extra screen real estate on the 15". And I have memory on order to get me up to 2GB, which the iBook cannot reach. If none of that is going to come into play for you, the iBook could save you a lot of money.

04-28-2005, 10:40 AM
I recently went through this with a friend who was switching from Windows. I couldn't answer his questions on why the PB was better, since honestly I had never looked at the iBooks at all. So he bought the iBook. Then came the questions which could only be answered with, "if you had bought the PowerBook..."

What's the easiest way to get photos off a camera card while mobile? With the iBook, you have to carry a USB card reader. I leave a card adapter inside the PCMCIA slot in my PB, so I can just slip in the memory cards from my camera and Pocket PC.

They use the iBook in dim rooms, wanted to know if they could use a "PC compatible" USB light. That lighted keyboard would be nice right about now... Same with the auto-brightness for the screen, as they move from one place to another with different lighting.

The lighted keyboard seems like fluff to some people, but I find it valuable. From the living room at night, to airplanes, to darkened meeting rooms during presentations with a projector. Same with the auto screen brightness. I really appreciate that a lot.

They asked about an extended desktop with an external monitor, or the TV. Apparently the iBook doesn't do that, or can only do it with add-ons. I use the PB with a dual monitor whenever I'm at one of my desks, and with the TV.

There were a couple of other things that I can't remember. These are consumers, non-techie, but they do lead a mobile life and want to get everything they can from a computer. They should have bought a PowerBook.

04-28-2005, 01:09 PM
I have both an ibook and a powerbook, and I am squarely on the side of the PB. It is not just faster, it has more ports, better screen, etc. I think if you are planning on having a notebook for 4 years you should buy the best PB you can afford. It will allow for more upgrades/flexibility further into the future than an ibook. The ibook is designed for the entry level consumer, the PB is designed for the power user professional. I just think that you will be happier with the PB 4 years from now than you would be with an ibook 4 years form now (not that you woldn't be happy with an ibook).

04-28-2005, 01:55 PM
If you go to an Apple store and set an iBook and a PowerBook side by side the difference in screen quality alone will probably motivate you to go with the PowerBook.

It depends on how much you work on the computer. I have stare at my screen 8 to 14 hours every single day.

I could never compromise price on something I'm forced to look at that much.

04-28-2005, 03:33 PM
My 17" PowerBook is actually the first new computer Iíve ever purchased. I bought it two years ago, and there has not been a moment when I regretted any of the 32 000 dimes spent on it. :)

This year at MacWorld, my 17 year old daughter bought a 12" PowerBook. She loves it! And for her the portability is great.

My advice is this: Go for the PowerBook. Consider buying the 12", which wonít burden your back as you rush from lecture to lecture. But if you can, take plenty of time to look for a good deal on an Apple-refurbished model. Check out the red button on their Web store. You should be able to save 20 % or so, maybe more.

Best of luck!

04-28-2005, 04:03 PM
Well I'd have to say, if I did buy a PowerBook, it would almost definately be the 15" 1.5GHz Combo drive model. I personally feel that the 12" monitor would simply be too small for me to stare at as much as I anticipate and I most likely will never burn a DVD (I hardly burn CDs!).

But besides that, many of you bring up good points which I agree with. The only reason why I'm still on the edge about it is because while yes, I can afford it, it is a lot of money and most of that money is coming from my parents so in a way, I feel guilty. I don't want to take more of their money without being able to justify it in my conscience. While they have told me to buy whatever I want because it is such an important investment, I would still like to be able to have solid reasons for purchasing the PB over the iBook.

But another interesting aspect I thought of the other day was security. Obviously the PowerBook is a sweet computer and I'm sure that anyone who knows anything about Apples would be just as excited by one as myself. So now my concern is that if I do spend the extra money on the computer, how do I keep it from being stolen?? I am most definately going to buy one of those security latches from Kensington but is there anything else I could do?

Security aside, I think I will go with the PowerBook. Keep the comments coming; I love to read what others think about both machines. All of the comments have been a great help! As one post said, four years down the line, I probably will be happier with a PowerBook, as I have a tendency to sometimes be a power-user :) And hey, the illuminating keyboard is pretty cool :p

Thanks as always and if anyone has anything else to add, I'd love to read it!

04-28-2005, 04:37 PM
how do I keep it from being stolen?? I am most definately going to buy one of those security latches from Kensington but is there anything else I could do?

Yes - make sure that you always use the Kensington (or whatever) security cable - even when you are "just going to be away a minute". Best if you get in the habit of only working where there is a good place to lock the cable to, and always locking it even if you (think) you won't be leaving it alone.

And carry it in a protective case inside a normal looking backpack so you will be less likely to be mugged for it.

04-28-2005, 06:39 PM
But another interesting aspect I thought of the other day was security. Obviously the PowerBook is a sweet computer and I'm sure that anyone who knows anything about Apples would be just as excited by one as myself. So now my concern is that if I do spend the extra money on the computer, how do I keep it from being stolen?? I am most definately going to buy one of those security latches from Kensington but is there anything else I could do?

People do a lot of dumb things out there. They have their laptop at the library sitting unsecured and they go around the corner to look for a book. Any time the laptop goes out of your sight, it's easy to steal. People go to the bathroom and leave their laptop on a table. Dumb dumb dumb.

Use the lock, but also, use common sense. Don't put it in your car trunk after you park, everybody can see you doing that and then walking away for who knows how long. Put it in there before you leave your previous location. Never, ever, ever leave it visible in a car, or visible through the windows of your home, especially in the summer when doors and windows are open. If you live in a dorm or work in an office, it's worth locking it down there too, with all the people moving through the building. I've just heard too many horror stories. Way too many. Laptops are very high value and very easy to carry...irresistable to thieves.

If it gets stolen anyway, protect your data. Do research on Open Firmware Password, the login password, the Lock Screen feature, and FileVault. Turn off auto-login.

05-01-2005, 10:26 PM
Well it's official... I'm in love with the PowerBook. Just went to the Apple store this weekend and played on a 15" powerbook with Tiger... absolutely amazing in so many ways. Also spent a good solid hour with a genius who talked to me about the computer, operating system, and other fun things about owning a laptop.

So I guess my only remaining question is when/how to buy. I can either buy through my school or the Apple store. Going through the school should give better discounts but after looking through a paper from last year, the prices seemed just like Apple's list education prices. Maybe this year will be cheaper or I can buy more as part of a package?

But if I do buy through Apple, I would love to buy it tomorrow but I know it's best to wait for deals and promotions. Any idea on when the "back to school" promotions begin?


05-01-2005, 11:40 PM
You don't need to go through school to get the standard education discount. The online store (under Education link) or Apple store can give you the education discount as long as you are accepted to a college. Schools usually do bundles in August, but do you really want to wait that long? Yes, you can probably save $50 on a cheap printer and "mobility accessories" you probably won't use. Is it worth it? Pay your parents back by getting good grades and trying to qualify for some academic scholarships ;-). The powerbook was just updated, so it is unlikely that they will change the model until next year.

05-01-2005, 11:59 PM
No new PowerBooks for the next 3 months...

There's a little known ADC-student membership including a hardware-discount. You also get a year of ADC goodies in exchange for a moderate fee that might overall be cheaper than the standard edu-discount, check it out.

05-01-2005, 11:59 PM
I switched to Mac 16 months ago and have had all the laptops mentioned above. The 12 inch was just too small for the amount of time I spend looking at it - between 6 and 10 hours a day.

Unfortunately, I then went out on a knee-jerk and bought the 17 incher, which was murder to cart about all the time - easy to bang it about getting on and off aircraft too.

An expensive learning curve (even though I got excellent prices for the 12 and 17" models that I sold) that ended up with me getting the 1.67 speedbump 15" PB. It has an excellent combo of screen size and portability and more ports than you can shake a hairy stick at. I think you would regret not buying the best available - you are actually making a sounder purchase with your parents' money, IMHO. Better long term value. Who knows what we will be doing with these machines in another 2 years? You will almost certainly appreciate the better specs then.

I bought my son an iBook and immmediately felt the inferior keyboard. OK, that is a relative comment but it is nowhere close to the PB build-quality and we do, after all, spend a long time smacking that bit with our wee pinkies, no? The screen is OK but not up to PB level at all.

The lack of ports became apparent quite quickly too. Also, unless you are able to spend time cosseting the iBook every time you have to close it up (I use mine on the fly - literally, sometimes) you will find that the very smart ivory casing scratches and becomes quite scruffy, quite quickly.

Just my 2 Baht.

05-02-2005, 08:27 PM
So I was at the Apple Store the other day when I began to look at accessories for my soon-to-be 15" PowerBook and something I had not really considered was a carrying case. Sure I knew I needed one but I didn't realize how many were out there and how expensive they can get! Anyone have any suggestions on that? Keep in mind, I will be in college so chances are the laptop will be carried around a bit (that's the reason I prefer a laptop) but is a $150 case really necessary? Also, I'd prefer one of those messenger bags...

Also, as far as a security lock goes, I guess I'm just asking this because I'm not actually in college yet, but what should my security-latching policy be? Obviously I'll have it bolted down in my room but what about at the library? Do i take the lock with me and bolt it down there as well? And if that is the case, should I consider buying one of those "portable" (cheaper!) Kensington locks? They are 2 ft shorter than the standard locks but retract into a nice, neat unit.

Thanks as always!

05-02-2005, 08:42 PM
You could use one of those thin foam-matresses normally used to isolate your sleeping bag from the cold, wet ground to transform the messenger bag of your liking into a shock-absorbing Powerbook-case with the added advantage of no visual clues for muggers-to-be.

And this


could be an interesting complement to your theft-prevention arsenal.

05-02-2005, 09:10 PM
Also, as far as a security lock goes, I guess I'm just asking this because I'm not actually in college yet, but what should my security-latching policy be? Obviously I'll have it bolted down in my room but what about at the library? Do i take the lock with me and bolt it down there as well?

You basically want to secure it whenever it is going to be out of your sight long enough for it to be slid into somebody else's bag. Which doesn't take any time at all.

05-03-2005, 10:22 AM
Check out cases at Best Buy, big selection and lower prices. The Apple stores carry only very expensive cases. As a student, maybe you want to check out backpack cases too.

Bolt down the machine at every opportunity. I carry a cable lock with combination when I travel, and use it a lot.

05-04-2005, 04:14 PM
Well while we're on the subject of notebook cases and whatnot, I just had another question which is something I've not thought of before.

While transporting the PowerBook, do you leave it on or turn it off? Sorry for sounding so naive but I've never owned a laptop before and again, I'm thinking that my PowerBook will be transported a lot around campus. So I am thinking that while being transported, if not off, the "sudden motion sensors" may kick in and may activate/deactivate the heads on the hard drive more than would be desirable. Or perhaps the answer is a blatant "OF COURSE YOU TURN OFF THE COMPUTER!" to avoid damaging the hard drive for the same reason?

And one other question, for anyone in college or who has recently gone through college with a laptop, did/do you bring your laptop with you to class?

Just curious, and thanks for the advice/comments as always!

05-04-2005, 04:51 PM
I've never turned off my PowerBook. Simply close it, make sure it goes to sleep, put it in the case, and go. It will resume from sleep in less than a second, so it's very useful to do something quick and store it again. If you have Wifi on your campus, it usually connects to a known AP within 2-3 seconds from waking.

The sleep and Wifi functionality alone was a big driver for me to switch from Windows, where it is less reliable and much slower.