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Apple 12-inch PowerBook G4 Review 55

Dave_B writes "Tony Smith of El Reg gives his verdict after a month with Apple's 12-inch Powerbook." His overall impression was good, but there are some words of caution in here regarding battery life and heat, so read before buying one ;)
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Apple 12-inch PowerBook G4 Review

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  • by TomSawyer ( 100674 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @12:42PM (#5638323) Homepage
    O'Reilly's Mac Dev Center also put out a review here. []
  • Heat Issues (Score:5, Informative)

    by xdfgf ( 460453 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @12:45PM (#5638362) Homepage Journal
    There is a thread [] on Ars where the author checked the temp of his 12in PB against a 12in iBook. The results are a little disapointing...

    PS. There is a large set of images in the thread that could bog down 56k'rs
  • by Red_Winestain ( 243346 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @01:10PM (#5638547)
    I've used both an iBook (500 MHz G3) and a TiBook (800 MHz G4) with various versions of Mac OS X 10.1.x and 10.2.x. I'm currently using the TiBook about 8 hours per day at work.

    The major preventable causes of battery drain are:

    • Airport card on when not necessary
    • Screen brightness high
    • Not adjusting energy saver properly
    • Modem off
    • OS 9 environment running
    I can routinely get 3.5-4 hours with relatively normal usage (compile, crash, debug, etc) if I do the above. If I don't do the above, then battery life drops substantially.

    I also used top to see which applications are big CPU cycle eaters.

    As for heat, I recommend any of the various stands that elevate the TiBook to an angle and allows air to flow more freely underneath.

  • by Schart ( 587279 ) <psiphi@m[ ]com ['ac.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @01:14PM (#5638574)
    ...CDRWs needs the Disk Utility app. What a joke! It should all be able to be done from within the Finder.
    Hmm, strange. I'm assuming you are implying that the Disk Utility is necessary to erase a CDRW. I don't re-write a lot of discs but I'm about 90% sure (can't verify right now, no burner here at work) that there is an "Erase Disc" contextual menu item if you Right/Control-click on a CDRW in the finder. I believe it shows up in the same place as the "Burn Disc" item would be if the disc has yet to be burned. Makes sense to me.

    I'll check this out when I go home for work if I can find a CDRW. I'll even admit to stupidity if I'm wrong!
  • Re:Buying one.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Steve Cowan ( 525271 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @01:26PM (#5638685) Journal
    A single-processor G4 machine gains little, if any speed by using DDR memory, so at present that should not be a deciding factor for you.

    The 15" Ti book does accomodate more memory and has a PC card slot, but it is getting a little long in the tooth now that the newer aluminum enclosures seem to be preferred by the mobile Mac community. (The 15" Titanium PB has a painted covering which tends to flake or chip off after a while).

    If you like the smaller footprint and can deal with the single RAM slot, go with the 12", it's a great laptop. If you need a bigger screen and don't want/can't afford the "lunch tray" 17-inch, you might do well to wait and see if the rumors are true: a revised 15" model is reported to be in the pipes, which will have a larger (15.4") display, an aluminum enclosure, DDR, and airport extreme. This is, of course, speculation.

    Personally I'm still jazzed with my virtually flawless 500 MHz iBook (G3), and will be for some time.
  • by TomorrowPlusX ( 571956 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @02:30PM (#5639267)
    I've had my AiBook for (about) 2 months now, and right now I'm going to say I love every single aspect of it. Absolutely. No waffling here. I'm a switcher, but from the linux/i386 world, and I've had no trouble porting over my servo control routines and all the other robotics related code I've written over the last couple years for linux.

    So basically, I'm happy as a clam. Happier even.

    But for one silly little thing: the metal drop-down catch which locks the lid shut when I close it. For some reason (most likely a mechanical defect) it doesn't pop back in when I open the lid. Trivial? Yes. All it takes is one tenth of a second to tap it with my finger when I open it and it pops back where it belongs.

    Nonetheless, as a fella raised in a machine shop (my father's a machinist/sculptor/etc/luddite) this kind of thing bothers me. I examined it closely and it's very simple -- the latch's "bearing" is nothing but a hole slightly larger than the axle, so you get minimal friction and maximum simplicity. But it seems to allow sideways motion and this (in my case) is causing binding. I'm not about to oil it, for obvious reasons, though if I can find a non-conductive graphite lube ( "Dry Slide" ) I might give it a shot.

    What concerns me is not so much the lack of it retracting, but that someday, if the binding gets too great, it might stop popping down when I close the lid.

    So, it's a cool feature and all but my old thinkpad, with its simpler trigger mechanism never had this problem.

    There's a lot to be said for simplicity. I kind of wish apple had forgone the cool and wow effect in this place for something a little more sturdy.
  • Re:Battery (Score:5, Informative)

    by Twirlip of the Mists ( 615030 ) <> on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @02:34PM (#5639294)
    It's called "PowerBook G4 and iBook: How to Calibrate a New Battery for Best Performance", search for it at

    Or just click here [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @02:55PM (#5639451)
    Very true. I have a 12" powerbook myself and I find the comments about it getting very hot after a few hours of work quite misleading. I've kept it up and running on AC for days without any noticable heat at all, as long as all i was doing was some light X windows work, web browsing, email and proteus type stuff.

    I find it can get quite hot if (and I'm really not sure why) I plug it into an external display and do some serious dev work. I'll put a 17" or 19" monitor just above my screen (since the PB can put the LCD to an insanely low angle) and I can get a great effect were I can tilt my head slightly downward and use the 12" screen for typing, and still use the built in keyboard. Weird thing, i'll get about 5 or 6 ssh terminals going between the 2 windows, and the computer will get so hot the fan actually turns on (a rare occurance) and won't turn off (because it isn't getting much cooler, not because the fan isn't working). I find if I close a few of the windows and just go back to light usage (even with the external display) it cools right down in a minute or three.

    Oh well, those are my experiences. Make of them what you will.
  • by edmundv ( 457386 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @04:06PM (#5640019)

    Znonymous Coward wrote:

    Maybe the PPC 970 will offer reduced heat output.

    Nope. The new IBM PowerPC 970 will actually produce more heat then the current G4 processor from Motorola.

    Luckily Motorola recently anounced a new low power version of the G4 at around 1 GHz. If this new chip ends up in the 12" PowerBook it will be a lot nicer machine.

  • by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmail.cTIGERom minus cat> on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @05:58PM (#5640770)
    The modem is a separate module attached to the logic board and even if it's not operating, it is supplied with power.

    The logic board shuts off the audio circuits and and the HD to preserve power, but not the modem.

    Presumably, disabling it in network prefs so it doesn't appear in the drop down list will shut it off.

    I would unmount any firewire drives or usb devices that were bus powered when I wasn't using them too.
  • Re:It's true. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Frodo2002 ( 595920 ) on Tuesday April 01, 2003 @06:19PM (#5640885) Homepage
    Sorry to say it, but RTFA. The heat is coming from the hard drive, not the CPU.

The next person to mention spaghetti stacks to me is going to have his head knocked off. -- Bill Conrad