New 15" Powerbook - One Week's Impressions

Discussion in 'Product Recommendations/Reviews' started by Anticipat3, Jun 30, 2004.

  1. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2003
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin
    #1
    This thread was inspired by some of the other very helpful folks around these forums who have graciously reviewed and described their new Mac products.

    I just recently purchased a New 15" Powerbook, the 1.33Ghz model with 256 MB of RAM, plus another 512 Stick from Crucial. The machine was basically stock, except that I opted for the 5400 RPM 80GB Hard Drive.

    I have in the past owned a Rev A 12" Powerbook (867mhz) and a 15" 1Ghz iMac, and I use a 1.8Ghz G5 at work daily. I'll try to draw comparisons to these machines as appropriate.

    My first impression, pulling it out of the box, was wow - this thing is big. Not nearly as small as the little 12" guy that I has not too long ago. Then I unpacked it and fired it up. Yeah, big screen... I was worried I'd have regrets about the size of the machine, as I use it in at least 3 different places every day.

    Then I started using it, and I was impressed -- the Screen really is huge, and the extra resolution makes a HUGE difference in my general productivity in that I can open all of my Photoshop and Dreamweaver Pallettes, and I can open a web browser and only take up half of the screen, leaving the other half for my buddy list, finder windows, or widgets. The bigger speakers were also nice; they sound a good bit nicer than the ones on the 12".

    The general design of the machine is kind of a mixed bag. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that this machine runs MUCH, MUCH cooler than my Rev A powerbook, or any other modern laptop I've used lately outside of a G3 iBook. It never gets uncomfortably warm, and the palm rests rarely heat up at all (except when using the optical drive).

    I was and still am a little disappointed about how the ports are layed out on the laptop, however. I loved how the 12" had all of its ports on the left side, so that nothing got in the way of one's mousing, even when attached to an external display, a wired network, and an external Hard Drive. The 15" is a nightmare in this respect -- when I hook all these devices up to it I have a DVI port, a Network cable, and a Firewire cable all hanging out of the right side of the laptop, where my mouse is supposed to be. I've basically resorted to simply using another keyboard and mouse when I have the machine "Docked." It's probably for the best anyway, it's good to save the wear and tear on the keyboard, and I like my MX500 mouse better than the Apple Bluetooth mouse I carry with the laptop while I travel.

    Now on to performance. Given that I ordered the slower 15" configuration, I was a little worried that I would be wishing I had bought the faster configuration, but I'm glad now that I didn't waste the money. The machine is VERY fast with GUI operations, has plenty of video memory to drive the built-in display and an external 1280x1024 monitor (I might want the 128MB option if I was driving a 23" cinema display, however). The Mobility Radeon 9700 is MUCH faster than the GeForce4 Go and GeForce4MX chips that were in my other two Macs, and it really shows in games. The 12" really had no gaming capabilities at all -- Warcraft III was choppy and unsatisfactory on all but the lowest detail settings, and Medal of Honor and Ghost Recon were both pretty poor, as well. The iMac fared a little better, but It still wasn't good enough to play Warcraft without chopping at Medium detail settings, and its FPS performance was also mediocre at best. I have been very pleasantly surprised at how well the new laptop games. I've played several games of Warcraft III at the full 1280x854 resolution and high detail with no chop to speak of, I've played a lot of Multiplayer Call of Duty at > 90FPS at full detail and resolution, and I've even played Halo with all of the Pixel Shader effects with satisfactory results (Halo wasn't perfect at the very high resolutions, but still ran at > 20 FPS. Running at 800x600 it was silky smooth). I'm planning on playing World of Warcraft when it's released this fall, and while I still plan to do most of my playing on my 3ghz/Radeon 9800 Pro PC, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that my Powerbook will be a perfectly usable machine to play it on the road.

    In terms of general system performance, I'm also quite impressed. The 5400 RPM Hard drive really helps bootup and (more importantly) App launch times. Safari, Mail, iChat, iTunes, and System Prefs all open with one bounce, and between the fast HD and the Gigabit Ethernet I was able to copy a lot of files off of my PC very, very quickly. The machine certainly speeded up noticibly after I added the extra stick of memory, but it was surprisingly usable with only 256MB. I'm very pleased with how much Apple has managed to Trim down OSX so that it's now very usable with only 256MB of RAM, and makes me see the G4 iBook and eMac as even better bargains.

    A couple other lingering issues; first is the wireless reception. It's very comparable to my old powerbook, perhaps a little better. The battery life is still largely a question mark in my book. I haven't had it away from power for more than an hour or so, so I can't report back one way or another about the battery life with much accuracy. For what it's worth, the battery meter tells me I have about 2:30 when I unplug it and I've got the screen brightness on full, music playing in iTunes, and I'm browsing the 'net. This is about standard -- Not great, but not bad either. My 12" was very similar, it ran about 2:30 when blasting on it, and I could squeeze about 4:00 out of it if I ran the brightness on low, played no tunes, and turned the bluetooth off (maybe a little more yet if I turned the Airport off -- but I always use network).

    After using the machine for a week now, I can say I've gotten a lot more comfortable with the size, as well. It still fits fine in my backpack, and doesn't take up any more room than the 12" did, really, and doesn't weigh significantly more. I've come to find that I really, REALLY love having the big screen on the road, and the slightly larger size to be a pretty minor inconvenience given the benefits. It's certainly nowhere near as painful as dragging around a Dell Laptop, since it's so thin, light, and durable.

    All things said, I can recommend the 15" powerbook to users as a main machine with very few qualms, and even fewer qualms to people who don't plan to connect an external monitor. It's become my main machine very quickly, something my 12" powerbook never really did due to its small screen and poor performance driving an external display. It's fast, it's portable, and it's lap-friendly. I'd push power users considering the 12" as a main machine toward the 15".
     
  2. macrumors 68020

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    #2
    Very thourough and informative. Thank you very much!
     
  3. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2004
    #3
    Thanks for the input. I'm on the cusp of a new 15 inch powerbook and was trying to decide if it was worth getting the faster driver, and if there was much benefit to the faster processor. Your write-up has certainly helped move me closer to the 1.33 Mhz model.
     
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2001
    #4
    Thanks for info, I happen to get the same machine on friday!
    Well... except mine has 4200 rpm, I hope it wont be slow :(
     
  5. macrumors 6502

    micsaund

    Joined:
    May 31, 2004
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    #5
    Great write-up -- thanks! Your machine matches the one I just ordered 2 days ago (my first Mac) to a T(ee?) -- Crucial RAM, CPU, and all. I'm pleased that you've found gaming and general use to be so enjoyable on the "base" 1.33 model -- that makes me feel better about my upcoming toy :D
     
  6. thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2003
    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin
    #6
    I'm glad you guys have found my thoughts useful! It's always difficult to judge what one person's impressions of "fast" and "hot" and "long" are, and I found several posts similar to this to be very useful in deciding on the model I did, and thought it was only a little of my time to write this up, and it might very well help others.

    I hope you guys that just ordered enjoy them... post your thoughts here when you do!

    Oh, one other thing that I should mention here -- This powerbook (and others like it) WILL NOT BOOT from retail Panther CDs. I was very worried when it wouldn't, but a quick google shows this is normal -- you have to use the 10.3.4 DVD that came with the powerbook, or (in the future) something newer. Just thought I'd spare you guys the OMG NO factor when you tried it!

    Also (heh) be aware that the games were not good when I only had 256MB of RAM -- this was not enough!
     
  7. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2004
    Location:
    Tokyo
    #7
    I couldn't have described it better. Now we can finally just tell those who keep questioning about 'buying their first mac' and/or wanting either a pb 15" or 12" to just come to this thread.
     
  8. macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #8
    Many thanks for the review.

    Question on your impressions between the 1.33 PB and the 1.8 G5 (single processor I assume). Outside of gaming any impressions on real world differences between the two? XBench numbers don't seem to so great on a single G5 verses the G4 PB's. Have been waiting for the iMac G5, but am thinking that the G5 may not be that great of a deal.
     
  9. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2004
    Location:
    Colorado
    #9
    Nice job on the review. I just purchased a 12" PowerBook and I would agree that the 1.33 is plenty fast. I also purchased the Crucial RAM upgrade. One of the best places to spend money on a BTO upgrade is the hard drive. A 5400 RPM hard drive really does make a significant performance difference in my opinion and usage.

    I would also agree that if a PowerBook is going to be used as a primary computer get the 15". I got the 12" because I use mine with a 17" Samsung 171P LCD which makes up for the screen size when I'm using it at home.
     
  10. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2004
    #10
    This really isn't about the 15", but I've had this question for a while and haven't run across it much in the forums:

    How does the 12" PB do at driving an external display in say, 1280 x 1024? I have a G3 800Mhz iBook with the desktop spanning hack and expose is very jerky and things feel a bit slow when resizing at huge resolutions. Was your Rev A (how fast?) PB just as bad even though it was built to have desktop spanning? I was thinking about a 12" iBook as a cheap alternative to a 12" PB since I'm in college, but I'd be using it as my main system and have a monitor and keyboard hooked up, so I want to make sure it can drive the external display.

    Any comments anybody has about this issue would be appreciated

    Thanks.
     
  11. macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #11
    I have a PB 12" rev. B. I don't use Expose much, but it is a bit slower when spanned than when not. Otherwise I haven't notice much difference if any when spanning to my Mistu SB70.
     
  12. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2002
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #12
    hey, nice 'review'.
    I'm planning on buying a 1,5 GHz 15" PB with 128MB VRAM to replace my old Powermac G4 350MHz, but now since I read your story I'm wondering if the CPU-speed and VRAM-doubling is worth the cash..
    a 1,33GHz Powerbook with the same options as a 1,5GHz Powerbook will cost me only 65 euros less

    And of course, I'm not sure if I really need the Superdrive...
     
  13. macrumors G3

    Chip NoVaMac

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Northern Virginia
    #13
    I went through the same thoughts when i bought my PB 12" rev. B. Glad i ponied up for the SDD. It really is a great way of backing up and saving HDD space from underused stuff.
     
  14. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #14
    The 1.33 GHz bto option is a great choice

    Likewise - thanks again for the review, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    I too have had my new 15" 1.33 PB for about a week. It's almost identical to the above spec i.e. 5400 hard drive, additional 512 ram from crucial etc. Only difference is, I went for the backlit keyboard option. I don't know if the PB's with no backlit option have screens that adjust to different lighting conditions or if this is a by product of having the light sensors under the keyboard, either way it's great and I would definitely recommend spending the additional £50. I haven't had to adjust the screen brightness once as the auto setting does it perfectly. The backlit keys are just an absolute treat. I keep turning the lights off just to watch them fade on!

    On the performance front I was also concerned about going for the lesser 1.33 processor. I just couldn't justify the very significant difference in price for what seems like a small gain in performance. If I went for the 1.5 GHz option I would still of gone for the 5400 rpm hard drive and 512 memory from crucial making it a much pricier purchase. And all for less than 200 MHz and another 256 ram. I have to report that the performance I've experienced has been impressive. I've thrown a lot of hard work at my new PB over the last week due to a large photographic project deadline this Friday. Photoshop and Illustrator run like a dream and these are my main apps. I think my quicksilver powermac g4 933 will become redundant very quickly so if anyone is interested it’ll probably be on eBay in the next couple of weeks.

    I also went for the dvi to adc adapter so I can run my 17" apple display. This is absolutely superb with no difference in quality to running adc from my powermac. The only dilemma I have with this is that I run two displays from my powermac and would love to be able to do this from my powerbook i.e. laptop display plus two external displays - does anyone know of a work around for this?

    I figured another benefit in going for the 1.33 GHz option is that you get 256mb of ram over the 512 supplied with the 1.5 GHz option. I think the price of the 1.5ghz machine is bumped up further by paying apple prices for the additional ram. By going for the 1.33 GHz option with 256mb ram you only pay crucial prices for anything additional. Tie this in with a further upgrade 6 or 12 months down the line to a 1gb module and one of the existing memory modules will have to be sacrificed; I would much rather trade in 256mb over 512mb when making this move because I don’t think the resale will be good, especially if desirability of the 1gb goes up due to further drops in memory prices.
     
  15. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2002
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #15
    You're absolutely right, phonic pol.

    But there's still one problem, and that is that you'll have to live with knowing that your powerbook isn't the fastes one available. I don't know about you guys, but I always want the best (I know I can't ever fill up my 40 GB iPod, but having a 20GB iPod and knowing there's a 40 GB iPod is something that would give me insomnia ;) )
     
  16. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #16
    Akira, I guess you've got a point but I get much more satisfaction from not paying over the odds and getting the highest performance to £ ratio. I guess I'm your opposite because I get insomnia when I know I've just spent more than I could of because of some clever marketing!

    The other point I'd like to make is that the really important thing is what I can do with my powerbook. If I had the 1.5ghz instead of the 1.33 am I going to be any more creative with it? Well, I answered that before I made my purchase.

    I'm convinced the 15" 1.33 is one of the best buys avaliable from Apple.

    Cheers
     
  17. thread starter macrumors regular

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    Location:
    Madison, Wisconsin
    #17
    Flight16-

    First off, did you ever attend The Big Crap Shoot LAN Party? Your name is familiar.

    Second, I can't tell you how well the current 12"ers drive an external display, but I can tell you that when I had a Rev A 12" the performance was not satisfactory. Note, however, that the current models have 64 megs of Video memory and not 32 like the original -- this probably makes a difference. However, the Mobility Radeon 9700 is a MUCH more powerful graphics chip than the GeForce FX Go 5200, so the 12" may not yet be all that great with an external display. Some of the other users are doing this however, you might want to ask them.

    Chip Novamac-

    I was actually surprised to find that for GUI everyday things that the Powerbook is every bit as responsive as the 1.8 G5. I expected the powerbook to be noticibly less snappy, but it hasn't been so at all. The Powermac also has the Radeon 9600 card, not the crappy FX5200.

    phonic pol-

    I'm glad my thoughts were useful, and I'm glad you're in the same boat. I don't have the backlit keyboard, but I can touchtype... so I wouldn't find it real useful. I used a 17" at work for a while that had it, and I just didn't find it real useful. The keys are already lit up by the huge display in front of you unless you have the brightness all the way down, and rather than power the keyboard lights, I'd rather just use that juice on the display's brightness. Plus, I use Expose a lot, and I didn't much like how the keyboard brightness controls stole my f8, f9, and f10 keys (having to hit Fn+F9 to activate expose - bleh). The bling/glitz factor was, however, off the charts -- it looked sweet, and it may have been worth it just for that :)
     
  18. macrumors 6502

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    west sussex UK
    #18
    Do you think that the optional 128 MB graphics card that can be had on the 1.5 is not necessary?
     
  19. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #19
    I guess there are advantages both ways. I also touch type, I type faster than I can write so I guess the keyboard is really a bling thing but man is it sweet! The expose function keys aren't ideal; I use expose a lot to and I'm still getting used to having to hold the function key down but before long it'll be second nature.

    The feature I really like about the back lighting is the self adjusting screen which is so good I just don't notice the change. The screen brightness just always looks right.
     
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Grokgod

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2002
    Location:
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    #20
    Interesting review but~

    I am surprised to see nothing in your review about Heat!

    I have the 1.5 with 128 vram and this thign after about one hour of use gets so hot that the rear of the unit can burn and the pam rest are uncomfortable to use!

    what is your heat experience!

    Thanks for the interesting review :D
     
  21. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #21
    Can't say I've ever quoted myself on a forum before :).

    But yeah, the heat wasn't an issue at all on the 1.33, everything stays "warm" but nothing gets much more than that unless I'm playing games or ripping DVDs - then she gets toasty, but even then, it's not awful. My Rev A 12" got a lot hotter than this thing does, but at the same time, a G3 iBook stays a lot cooler.
     
  22. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #22
    I guess if you need 128mb video ram then the 1.5ghz option is the only way to go.

    It's the same graphics engine so should perform like for like until you start getting into high res high frame rates etc and even then the 64mb chip seems to do well in all the tests. If I remember correctly the 128mb version gives you a 12 to 15% performance boost on the top end. It's just a lot of money for a feature that will most likely rarely get used (in my case anyway!).

    I mainly deal with 2D still images/graphics and 3D modelling using Ashlar Xenon so I'm happy with 64mb on a decent graphics chip.

    I guess it just comes down to knowing what you're going to need it for.
     
  23. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    UK
    #23
    I haven't found heat to be a problem so far on my 1.33. I guess the 1.5 is going produce a bit more heat.

    Are you using it full throttle a lot?
     
  24. thread starter macrumors regular

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    #24
    I think the only reason to get the model with 128MB of VRAM is to drive a very large external display along with the powerbook display.

    Remember that even the G5s, except the Dual 2.5, have only 64MB of Video Memory, and they do just fine driving the 20 and 23" Cinema displays. If you were to drive one of those AND the PB display (as some folks do) I can see why you might want that extra video memory.

    Some games may benefit from the extra VRAM too, but IMO, any game that uses >64MB of Video memory is going to be too demanding to run on a G4 Powerbook anyway.

    That said, if it was a $50 option on both models, I'd have gotten it just for the resale value added, but it wasn't worth the jump to the model with other things I didn't need -- i.e. the backlit keyboard, the extra 160mhz, and the extra price =O.
     
  25. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2002
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #25
    Well I just placed an order at the Apple Store for the Powerbook 1,33GHz (with the Pimp-Daddy Backlit Keyboard, 5400rpm HD and Superdrive of course :cool: )

    I can hardly wait for it to arrive :D (which wil take up to 3 weeks :( )
     

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