View Full Version : I want to buy a new powerbook, but...

Mar 7, 2003, 06:25 AM
Already being an owner of an aging ibook, I was thinking of buying a new powerbook (either 17 or 15). I'd describe myself as a power(ish) user I suppose, in that I do a reasonable amount of movie and programming work, so I want a powerful machine. However I don't require the fastest machine on the planet, and I like the convenience of having a portable if only to able able to use it anywhere in the house.

However, I am really annoyed by the decision to put only 4200 rpm HD's in even the 17" powerbook. I don't know whether the decision was made due to power consumption or heat generation (or a bit of both), but to put such a slow HD in a top of the line power laptop seems silly to me. If the reason was entirely down to power comsumption, Apple should at least offer a faster alternative (say 5400) stating that it will lower the battery lifetime, so the buyer could decide which they'd prefer. This wouldn't worry me, since mine would never be far from a power point anyway...

Anyone else have any opinions? I'd contact Apple but I'm sure I wouldn't get a response. The speed of the HD is critical in my eyes, and it seems to have be glossed over, with people concentrating on the speed of the CPU or graphics systems.

Mar 7, 2003, 06:28 AM
i dont think you will be able to make the difference, if there is a faster hd in the powerbook or not. Certainly not for programming. For video stuff, you can certainly feel a slowing down. but heyx, it s a portable, not a workstation

Mar 7, 2003, 07:54 AM
if it bothers you that much (which is very understandable) you have a choice of two things that i can think of. take out the hd and sell it and buy one that fits your needs. or buy a new on and put your old drive in a fireware enclousure and use as a scratch or backup or whatever drive. I would go the 2nd way if you have the funds to do so.


Mar 7, 2003, 08:48 AM
Thanks for the advice, I was thinking these were my only options also...

On you first suggestion, swapping the HDs, does anyone know if this is possible? Its definitely not advisable I imagine, since it'll mean opening up the machine and voiding the warrenty.

The second option I was considering, since I'll need a decent amount of space for movie work I imagine... I take it firewire is fast enough to not be a bottleneck on a fast external HD. I forget how quick firewaire is now? Of course the OS will still be on the internal HD, so that will be a little slower than I'd like, plus I couldn't put important stuff onto the external otherwise I'd have to carry it around with me.

Mar 7, 2003, 09:38 AM
Take into consideration that you will want a different drive then your system drive to store video media anyway.
There are plenty of 7200 rpm firewire drives under $300. The down side is that most fast FW drives require a power source. But Lacie and Smartdisk both have 5400 rpm FW drives that are bus powered for excellent portability.
I have a friend who uses a Smartdisk Firelite and edits from it. He says it needs to think occasionally to catch up when scrubbing, but is usable as a portable solution. HTH.

Mar 7, 2003, 09:52 AM
The best replacement drive I've seen is a 40 GB (yeah yeah I know it's small) Toshiba 5400 RPM 16 MB cache. I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that the cache should speed up write times.

I might buy this when I get my powerbook. Anyone think that the Stock powerbook 40 GB would be faster than the 20 GB I have in my ibook 500. I've seen the xbench scores on the hard drives for the Ti's and they're much faster than what I have.

Mar 7, 2003, 10:27 AM
I was a bit concerned about this speed issue myself but with the previous revision of the Tibook they put a 4200 Ultra ATA/66 that runs a 298MB/sec raw data rate. That is not slow by any means. Also, if I remember correctly, the 800MHz TiBook had a 5400 Ultra ATA/66 but that was short lived when they put in the more efficient 4200 which also if I remember correctly had a higher raw data rate. Basically what I'm saying is that this has been addressed by apple and the new hard drive is there for a reason; it offers the best ratio of speed/efficiency that they can feasibly put in the flagship machine.

Mar 7, 2003, 11:01 AM
I'm not a HD guru by a long way, so forgive me if I talk nonense...

I can see how the 4200rpm hard disks can have decent raw data rate (read and/or write), since you have to factor in the density.. But surely this is only half the story? How do the drives compare to faster versions in terms of seek times for example? This can be equally as important in day to day operation.

Mar 7, 2003, 11:29 AM
I have the same concerns about the 4200 RPM drive I have in my TiBook 500, but after working with some friends with a PM500, and 667, both with 7200 rpm drives, I find the 4200 two work great. Outpacing the 7200 in data access and writing ability. However with the drop in prices reciently, I have thought about switching HDs. The Only concern I have in noise. My old TiBook HD was loud (When You opened the computer and it turned on, you could here it about 300 ft (~100m) away.) Apple replaced my due to the noise, and I'm satisfied with it. It works great for video and audio (And games). It has been my experience that the 5400 and 7200 RPM drives are loud (both the 3.5" and their 2.5" cousins) and I'd hate to see the beauty of my machine destroyed by a loud HD.

BTW: You can repair you computer yourself with out voiding the warranty (Why do you think they have user installable parts). Just be careful, if they think you caused the problem, they they may require you to pay for the repair.


Mar 7, 2003, 11:35 AM
(Sorry about the double Post, but I found this on Apple's Website and am confused (This is Topic Related))
Faster and larger hard drives
The PowerBook G4 uses the latest in portable hard drive technology, enabling video professionals to quickly transfer large video files in real time directly from a DV camcorder. Data is packed even more densely onto this new generation of hard drives, giving both the 4200RPM 40GB and 60GB hard drives fast raw transfers of up to 298Mbps (megabits per second).
Isn't the maximum data transfer on ATA, 133 Mbps? or is it MB/s?
The 15" has 66 & the 12" & 17" have 100.
So what's the Deal?
Thanks for the Clarifacation.


Sun Baked
Mar 7, 2003, 11:46 AM
Why do people keep equating RPMs to speed?

The only relation it has to speed is the MPH the outer rim of the drive spins at.

The performance however is another matter that requires reading the drive specs and figuring out the tradeoffs in data transfer rate, seek times, energy consumptions and heat generation (oh, and seek times.)

The performance specs are something you can't know about a drive when all you know about a drive is that it spins faster.

Mar 7, 2003, 12:11 PM
i swapped out the original hard drive of my new pismo with an ibm 40gb drive, 5400rpm, 8mb cache, and believe me it makes a big difference. i did a quick before/after test using hard disk speed tools, and my read/write speed jumped from around 13mb/sec to 50. the difference is notable mostly in startup times (booting into os 9 is a lot quicker now) and (obviously) in hard drive functions such as copying or deleting files. plus everything feels snappier now, from browsing files to starting programs, etc.

to be honest, if and when i do upgrade this computer, the second thing i would do (after putting in ram) would be to replace the drive. it's fairly easy to do (i've swapped drives in g3 and g4 powerbooks) and offers a big performance boost in many key areas. only problem is i think it voids applecare, but maybe you could bring it into apple and have them swap it for you under warranty?


Mar 7, 2003, 03:32 PM
Thanks for your response f-matic,

We recently changed HDDs for faster ones on our work machines, and as you found, the speed improvements were considerable, especially when compiling large programs.

I'm not sure if apple will swap the drive, does anyone else have any experience of this? Even if they will, it unfortunately means junking (or selling at a loss) the old HD and buying a new one.

Its a shame apple don't offer more configuration options when you buy it, I may try asking them, but I doubt I'll be able to get an answer

Mar 7, 2003, 07:11 PM
I swaped a 30 GB 4200 RPM drive for an IBM Travelstar 48 GB 5400 RPM drive in a PowerBook 800 last Fall.

I spoke to Apple customer care several times to make sure I was still O.K. on warranty. The word from a supervisor there is - it's O.K. He said they'd changed their policy since so many people were doing it anyway.

It's almost as easy as putting in an Airport card so it makes sense to me that it should'nt be a warranty issue.

My experience was that it made a big difference. Files copied much faster and the system felt like smoother and quicker.

I'd do it again but now I have a 1GHz PB with a 60 GB drive and I don't see anything to upgrade to.

The RPM alone isn't the only factor, the buffer size is perhaps even more important than speed. That said, the IBM 48 GB Travelstar rocked. It was also much quieter than the 30 GB drive (allso an IBM Travelstar I think). One caviat; IBM provides disk tuning software so you can dial in your preffered compromise between a quiet drive and a speedy drive - but this software isn't available for the Mac. My IBM replacement drive was very quiet but it made loud 'click' noises at times - this is normal but could possibly have been adjusted with the software.

I bought my HD from TransInt'l in CA. I got a great deal but I think they phased out the 48 GB HD's...


Mar 7, 2003, 07:14 PM
I like the IBM TravelStar's because they have fluid dynamic bearings and are supposed to be capable of withstanding greater shock.

IBM service is also very good.