Another Possible Switcher Looking for Laptop Advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by stevietheb, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. stevietheb macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #1
    Howdy all,
    So, I've been browsing through this forum for several hours, and after collecting a bunch of info, I've decided to go ahead and just post my questions and concerns and see what sort of advice I can get tailored for me.

    First off, I'm hopefully typing this on my last Windows machine. It's been a good machine that has lasted me 4 years now and still rams right through Photoshop and many of the other Adobe products (no After Effects though). However, it appears to me that Macs really have Windows machines licked when it comes to nifty applications. iLife alone seems like a good reason to make the switch, but it doesn't stop there.

    So why do I want a laptop (I've never owned one before)? I'm currently a student working on my BA thesis, and unless the ship sinks in the next few months, I'll be moving on to grad school--masters and then a phd in the fields of religion, classics, and philology. I'd like to, if at all possible, buy a laptop now that will last me a good deal of time. I'd rather not have to buy another laptop before I land that teaching gig that I'm ultimately seeking 4 or 5 years from now. The portability of a laptop is enticing, especially as I can sit in the library actually working on the thesis (not just taking notes) and be connected to the wireless network. All of this sounds too wonderful to be true. As I'm looking at these laptops I'm continually pinching myself to be sure I'm awake.

    At any rate, being married and in college creates serious budget constraints. I've told myself that I can spend no more than $2,000, and that's really pushing it. I'd like to do the following with the laptop:

    1) Typical websurfing and email, as well as Microsoft Office products, and Keynote looks intriguing.

    2) I'm an amateur musician (isn't everyone in Austin?) and Garage Band looks really intriguing, so I'd like to be able to play with that...and perhaps move up to some other more high end audio programs.

    3) I currently pay the rent by editing video (I do the rough cut for cheap and then they bring in the big boys to use Shake and programs like that to really make the presentation hum). However, I've never owned my own editing software because anything that I can afford on Windows sucks...especially compared to the machines I'm using which typically are Avid, Media 100, or Final Cut. So, I'm definitely going to want to be getting Final Cut Express (can't afford the Pro version...even at $499 with the student discount). Being able to cut on the run or at home would be a major bonus in terms of productivity and may create more cash flow. Hopefully, I'll be able to use Garage Band in lieu of Soundtrack for music purposes. Being able to burn DVD is a major preference, though not a must. I would like to continue using my Windows machine for Photoshop and Illustrator because I got all of that stuff for free from an old employer, and I don't want to drop the cash to get mac versions. So, nothing more than iPhoto will be required in terms of digital photography.

    So, based on all of this, I've narrowed my decision down to the 12" PB. Why 12"? Ultimate portability is a must, but it doesn't appear that the iBook has a SuperDrive option, nor the kind of RAM I'm eventually going to want for Final Cut and Garage Band (or more semipro audio applications I may look at in the future).

    My first question is this: I keep hearing about PB G5s on the horizon. Is there any reliable info on this? I think even if the PB G5s come out soon, I'll want a PB G4 for the sake of my budget. If G5s are announced, will they immediately start discounting the G4s? What is the general opinion on how quickly a mac becomes a dinosaur? Considering I'm still running a 600mHz P2, I'm not terribly concerned. But, due to the differences in terminology between Mac and PC, I'm a little lost. For example, in Pentium-land 100 mhz difference in clock speed is nothing. How different is 100 mhz in Apple-world?

    Second, I've found the following deals on 12" PBs:

    12" PB G4 867 mHz (refurb)
    256MB RAM
    40 GB
    SuperDrive
    adding an Airport Extreme Card, iLife 04, and Final Cut Express
    $1,656

    12" PB G4 1GHz
    256MB RAM
    60 GB
    SuperDrive
    adding Airport Extreme Card, and Final Cut Express
    $1,872

    In both cases I intend to purchase a 512MB RAM from Crucial.

    -Is the 867mhz machine going to have that 128 MB RAM built-in? I really don't think I like that.

    -It seems like 40GB is going to be smallish for DV editing. Does anyone have any idea how much storage space I'll have after the drive is formatted and I've installed iLife, Final Cut, Office, etc?

    -While the new machine has a bigger HD and more power, is it worth the extra $200?

    -Will both of these machines run Final Cut just fine (remember I'm upgrading the RAM)?

    -Will both machines last me the 4 or 5 years that I need out of them?

    OR

    Should I consider going with an iBook for $1300, with the following specs:
    12" iBook 800 mhz
    256MB RAM (128 built-in...drat)
    Combo Drive
    60 GB Hard Drive
    add Final Cut and Airport Extreme Card

    and then look elsewhere for a DVD burning solution...perhaps an external burner. At the moment I have access to a DVD burner on a G4 on campus (I have no idea what kind of burner or what software it's running)...would I be able to create in iDVD and then switch it over to that machine to do the actual burning? OR is iDVD (since it is low-end) limited in this regard.

    OK, that's a lot of info to digest...I thank everyone who wades through it and replies.
     
  2. redAPPLE macrumors 68030

    redAPPLE

    Joined:
    May 7, 2002
    Location:
    2 Much Infinite Loops
    #2
    ha ha. that was a long post. imo, a 12" pb might not be "enough" for video-editing.

    that is a really small screen. there has been rumors that pb revisions will be coming up sometime end of march. well, it is a rumor.

    see if you could get a refurbished 15" somewhere. it might work better for you.
     
  3. stevietheb thread starter macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #3
    Having looked at them, I really like the overall 12" size better. I know it'll be interesting to crunch everything on that screen (I'm used to working on dual displays...haha).

    BUT, when you say it's "not enough," do you mean simply because of the screen size? Or is there a computing power issue? I really only plan on running Final Cut, not gonna do anything too crazy CG-wise.

    Any ideas where I can look for refurbs other than apple.com?

    Thanks!
     
  4. stevietheb thread starter macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #4
    Having looked at them, I really like the overall 12" size better. I know it'll be interesting to crunch everything on that screen (I'm used to working on dual displays...haha).

    BUT, when you say it's "not enough," do you mean simply because of the screen size? Or is there a computing power issue? I really only plan on running Final Cut, not gonna do anything too crazy CG-wise.

    Any ideas where I can look for refurbs other than apple.com?

    Thanks!
     
  5. bubbamac macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2003
    #5
    I'm sure someone will correct me if this is incorrect, but I believe that the 12"PB's were not as capable as the 15" PB's, due to some hardware issues. Unfortunately, I don't remember what it was, but I think it had to do with the VRAM, or Bus Speeds. Size of the unit was the factor that led to the change.

    You can find refurbs at www.MacMall.com sometimes (search for "powerbook"), or www.smalldog.com .

    I've got a 15," and I'll never go back to anything smaller - and I don't do that much with it. Occasional picture editing, I've played with iMovie. But for having two things going at once, the real estate is priceless.

    Going to be tough for $2000 to get what you want in a laptop.
     
  6. Les Kern macrumors 68040

    Les Kern

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2002
    Location:
    Alabama
    #6
    I have the 15 and actually have never even seen a 12, so maybe my opinion isn't worth as much.
    Small screen is an issue, but not a huge one. I have a 12 iBook and it's manageable. If that's no problem to you, the main differences between the 15 and 12 is 32 to 64 VRAM, bigger hard drive, GB ethernet and V connections. In your case though, since "video feeds you", I'd get the 15. Actually, if video feeds you, I might not get a laptop at all, but rather a G5. As for G5 laptops, who knows. I think not in the very near future due to heating problems. They ssure can't make them using the chip they have in the tower.
     
  7. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #7
    Get the biggest hard drive you can now--you can get up to 80 gigs in a powerbook now, so go for it. Personally I think the monitor for the 12-incher is a bit small for video editing, but I know people do it. You could also connect one of your old PC monitors to it for extra monitor real estate--you need a mini-DVI to VGA adapter. Things missing from the small AlBook that a video editor might want: S-video out, a more powerful 64 meg video card. This setup should have no problems running all the apps you want, but the 15-incher has better video capabilities, and of course a larger screen.

    I'm running on a three-year-old TiBook now (though I've replaced the battery and upgraded the hard drive, it's worn well), and I expect to get at least another year out of it--a new Mac laptop should serve you well for four years.
     
  8. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #8
    12" would probably be fine...

    I have a 12" 1GHz (revB AluBook), and think it'll last me for a while. Apple will still be supporting G4s for a few years to come, I don't see the entire product matrix jumping to G5s within the next year. (/opinion)

    The revB AluBook does come with the miniDVI to VGA adapter in the box, and you can order the miniDVI to S-Video / composite adapter from the Apple store for ~$20. I would think it should do everything you've stated you want it to do. I agree with other posters that you'd want to get the biggest harddrive you can afford since you will be working with video. It has a Firewire 400 port, so an external would help too. (Get a 7200 RPM drive in an external enclosure and use that as your scratch disk. Improved performance.)

    I am also assuming your prices are including the student discount?
     
  9. stevietheb thread starter macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #9
    Yes, those prices include my student discount (which is an awesome program).

    One thing I hadn't considered is the fact that when I'm at home I can use this big 19" monitor I'm staring at right now. I assume I can still only go 1024x768 on it though...but things would certainly be easy on the eyes. I run it at 1280x960 right now. Would it be possible to rig them so that I'd have a dual desktop situation -- one on tiny pb and then my nice big 19" providing a majority of the workspace?

    Also, any editing that I do on this machine will not be a final product that I deliver to a customer. Typically, I'm hired in to use someone else's equipment (which is handy, because I've had to use lots of different software), but sometimes I get an idea in the middle of the night and I'd like to take a look at it.

    As for storage, rather than spending the $113 apple wants for the 80gb hard drive, I was thinking I would take that money and put it toward something really substantial later, like a 120gb firewire external drive...that may be a Christmas/Birthday present later on this year.

    Again, thanks to all those who are responding, the more input the better!
     
  10. rlhubley macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2003
    Location:
    Austin
    #10
    My opinion will get bashed, but I am a married guy starting back college this semester at TX State(just down the street), with a car payment, and a house payment. My wife is an elementary music teacher, so money is not exactly growing on a tree in my backyard! So, here is my suggestion.

    You say you have about $2K to work with. Get a maxxed out iBook 12" and keep your current monitor. A 12" G4 iBook w/60 GB hard disk, 640 mb of ram(apparantly you can go higher later with a 1 gig ram chip), airport extreme, and blue tooth. I think this machine will cost around $1300 with your education discount. Then buy your software. BTW, check with your university bookstore, sometimes there prices are even cheaper than Apple's ed prices for software as well as programs.

    I am not exactly sure how much dough you want to drop on software, but I'll toss out $200. This brings your total to around $500. Save the $500 in an interest bearing account and put extra cash in there as often as possible, or use it pay off cc debt(you know you have it!). If you can save this money, then maybe in a year or two you can afford that sweet G5.

    BTW, i have this ibook i described, and it is VERY impressive, especially at that price level and configured the way i described.
     
  11. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #11
    spanning

    Actually, the powerbook does spanning normally (as opposed to using a "hack" on the iBooks which out of the box do only mirroring at the same resolution) and supports higher resolutions on the external monitor. (I have one on my desk and it's wonderful :)
     
  12. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #12
    rlhubley: I think stevietheb would benefit from the increased VRAM, and he stated that one of his requirements was the superdrive.

    Granted, he could probably get an external DVD-R/RW/whatever, but that's one more external thing. With FCE he isn't limited to having a "built in superdrive" to burn DVDs as he would be with iDVD.
     
  13. rfenik macrumors regular

    rfenik

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2003
    #13
    My 12" alum powerbook is awesome. You need to get one.
     
  14. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #14
    I'm pretty sure you should be able to go at least 1280 X 960 on your external monitor with the 12 inch AlBook. I haven't tried it myself, though, but 32 megs of VRAM is still plenty for that resolution--heck I've only got 8 megs and I'm running 1152 X 768 right now, with room leftover for a non-mirrored external monitor. As you go up in pixels, you go down in graphics performance, but again I'm not sure how that curve breaks down.
     
  15. stevietheb thread starter macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #15
    superdrive

    External superdrive wouldn't be too bad for me, especially since I have access to one so long as I'm in Austin. (By the way, rlhubley, how are things down in San Marcos? I still get weirded out by the name change to "Texas State"...I still call it Southwest).

    One question I have: why does iDVD not work with externals? Is it some marketing ploy to get me to buy DVD Pro? Or is it something that they plan on changing in the future? I've never used any DVD software, so I don't know what's what in that area....I just know I don't want to spend $200 on the software.

    rlhubley: I checked with the UT store, it appears that the only software that is actually cheaper there (though I'm gonna go double check this in person rather than trusting their website, which is suprisingly poor) is MS Office...which is only $7...that's nice. That's even cheaper than the Windows version of Office I bought a few years back from the same store.
     
  16. rlhubley macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2003
    Location:
    Austin
    #16
    true, he Stevie would benefit from the extra vram. As he stated he does have access to an external superdrive at no cost. Let's also keep in mind that his current machine is a 4 year old wintel, so I am guessing it is probably a PII, maybe a PIII and somewhere around 700-900 mhz. Any new mac will be a huge improvement for him, I'm sure.

    I think it comes down to your financial situation. For me, it was an obvious choice for the ibook, but I don't need a superdrive. I also don't think that the difference between the 12" PB vs. 12" iBook is significant enough for the price difference, but that's MY opinion based on my budget and needs. I mean, you can get a 12" PB w/superdrive for about $1400 w/ed discount. But you will stlill need more ram and hd space. Not a bad buy at all, but if money is tight, i still say max out the iBook.

    Stevie, I actually am just about to start school at Tx State next week, so hopefully it will go well. Does your bookstore give discounts on actual computers? Check out this link for a price at Tx State's book store?
     
  17. joker2 macrumors 6502a

    joker2

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2003
    Location:
    DC area
    #17
    You're right. iDVD not working with externals is a marketing ploy. :) If you look around the net, there are some people who have made modifications in order to get it to work with externals, but of course this isn't supported or encouraged by Apple.
     
  18. newbie17 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    #18
    Try the 12-inch

    I have the latest 12inch PB, and its great for grad school. The smallest ibook would be good too, but I enjoy the monitor spanning and audio in. I use a 19inch CRT at 1280x960 and shift to a lower res if I'm reading a lot (poor eyes). The PB does great at higher resolutions too.

    Anyway, the smallest one is great for taking to and from campus and the library, and the battery life (I get a bit over 3 hours with Airport) is about as long as I need to work without plugging in. Think about the price though-- more RAM is good, apple care, and you'll want Microsoft Office when your professors can't open your attatchments.

    I switched from a PC laptop this year, and I'm very glad I did. Much less trouble than my Dell.

    The 12inch may be good enough for video editing, too, if you don't do too much of it (and in grad school, you're going to be very busy).

    --It rocks that you're doing philology--
     
  19. Engagebot macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2003
    Location:
    LSU - Baton Rouge
    #19
    even cheaper

    look into the Student Developer program. i got my 15' al powerbook a month ago for 1599. You have to pay 99 to get in, and prove youre a student, but it might be worth it.

    also for refurbished powerbooks, you cant beat www.powermax.com . they have 12' pb's for 1349 a lot of the time.

    and by the way, skip the 867 powerbooks. the 1ghz is not just a clock speed step. the cache and bus speeds are way different. its most definitely worth you're while to get a newer one. i use my 15' for video editing, and believe me, you're gonna need this much horsepower or more. i'm a mac fanboy to the core, but my athlon xp 2400 machine can Adobe Premiere circles around this thing...
     
  20. TheBunnellFarm macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2003
    Location:
    DETROIT LAKES, MINNESOTA
    #20
    The G5 powerbook is a long way off,

    Do not even consider anything but the 1.25 15.2 inch Powerbook Superdrive $2299 plus tax ( student )

    Shop hard and only buy new or refurbished.

    Don`t even think of anything else, period.

    Stretch those last few dollars and you will be more than glad you did, you are at a critical stage in your development, you need the real thing.

    Tom
     
  21. vitrector macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2002
    #21
    I just went through the decision process myself and ended up ordering a 15 inch PB with superdrive the other day. Thus, I would recommend the 15 inch, even without the superdrive, the one with superdrive is even better!
    VRAM (to support external high resolutions with good performance**), and sheer screen size of the PB make the 12 inch not a great choice if you are video editing! BTW, the screen resolution for the iBook 12, 14 and PB12 are all the sam at 1024X768 pixels. That is just not that great if you are trying to use multiple programs at once, or even just two (though expose helps A LOT).

    I have nothing against the 12 iBook, I actually LOVE it. Just from what you describe, and considering how long and for what you want to use it for, I think you will be happier in the long run with a little more screen real estate!

    my 2 cents

    ** Both the 12 and 15 inch powerbook support high res displays as external displays, both up to 2048X1536, but the 15 inch has 2X the VRAM (64 vs 32MB)
     
  22. Sheebahawk macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2003
    Location:
    Long Beach California
    #22
    I would wait

    If you can hold out, I would wait till august at least. Theres a big difference in video performance between the 12"pb and a 15"pb, but I'm thinking that will change in the next revision/upgrade. Theres also all the rumors of gobi g3's and 65nm g5's, so if you want a guarentee of err lastability, I would wait a while before you take the bite. While the powerbooks out now are the best machines around, (IF you needed one now,I'd get the 1ghz 12"pb that you listed) they have some catching up to do performance wise. So I'd wait and save, cause I think there may be some major overhauls soon.
     
  23. pdrayton macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #23
    You already have an idea of the type of applications you will be using, and those apps work best on a PowerBook. Plus, you prefer the 12" screen for portability.

    You're also smart to buy your additional RAM from Crucial and not from Apple... you're saving a lot of money there.

    So, my list of do's and don'ts, based on your needs and preferences is:

    Don't get an iBook... it would do less and not last you as long as a PowerBook.

    Don't wait to buy (well, don't wait long)! Your notebook is 4 years old. A 12" PB may be "eclipsed" by an upgrade this Spring, but the current 12" PB's will only be nominally behind... and you're gonna see, pretty quickly, revisions to whatever you buy no matter how long you wait.

    DO get a SuperDrive. Using an external DVD drive for video-editing will mean constantly using workarounds rather than being able to take advantage of seamless use of iLife04 capabilities. And, sizing down to a 12" PB doesn't make sense if you're then going to carry around a DVD drive! 12" PB's are meant to go EVERYWHERE... take advantage of that!

    DO wait long enough so iLife04 comes loaded on the PowerBook. Will save you about $20. And, your work on the side will do very well with iLife04 enhancements.

    DO get Airport Extreme card... being on campus you'll most likely have a wireless campus network to tap into, plus you can use other WiFi hotspots popping up all over the place.

    Do get lots of RAM and Hard drive. Not sure if a 1GB RAM is a good buy, but definitely get an 80GB harddrive.

    Having downsized from a 15" PC to a 12" Mac I can tell you that screen size isn't a problem at all on the 12". I think I would have recommended a 15" PB for you if you hadn't mentioned that you really liked the 12" size and portability.

    DO see if refurbished PowerBooks offer a better deal than your education discount. It's possible you might do better getting a refurbished 15" than an ed discount on a 12". Doubt it, but give it a try. Stick with your gut feeling and aim for a 12", leaving open a refurbished 15" as an option.

    Most of all, enjoy your soon to arrive PowerBook!
     
  24. stevietheb thread starter macrumors 6502a

    stevietheb

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Houston
    #24
    Another Option

    A friend of mine pointed this option out to me: iBook + eMac

    This would come out to be about the same as buying a 15" PB with superdrive.

    I'd get the portability of the 12", and I could get the superdrive on the affordable eMac, as well as a nice big 160gb hard drive.

    Just another option to bounce around...after buying software and maxin' out RAM, this would bring me to $2400-2500
     
  25. pdrayton macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2004
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #25
    Hmmm.... could work. Could be clumsy, too. Then you'd have 3 computers... 1 Windows and 2 Macs.

    Why not shave a tad off the RAM and only buy 512MB (that would give you a total 768MB). You'd save you about $350 right there. I don't think that would put you back too much in processing speed.

    What software programs will you have to buy that iLife04 won't be able to do for you? Maybe take iLife04 for a spin on your SuperDrive and see if you really need to buy more apps.

    Also, to get additional work on the side in video editing, etc., a PowerBook will convey an image that an iBook won't. Silly, I know, but it's true. Make a big impression with your potential clients by having a PowerBook. The incremental business could pay off big.
     

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