12" vs. 15" and other Questions


macrumors 65816
Original poster
Nov 21, 2004
Washington, D.C.
Many times throughout history, a man has been confronted with big questions:

Is there a God?
Where did we come from?
What is the purpose of life?
Does size matter?

I'm currently focusing on that last one. I am planning on buying a Powerbook G4 in August and while I'm aware that the models might not be exactly the same at that time, I am trying to decide between the almost 6 pound Powerbook G4 15" and the 4.6 pound Powerbook G4 12". Please bare in mind that money doesn't really matter here, as my budget is somewhere around $1900 and with the education discount I can get the lower 15" plus a nice RAM upgrade from Crucial.

I am a student and I do not travel very often. At my school, people don't really bring laptops - it's not an accepted practice in HS. However, I really want a laptop so I have something I can sit in bed with until all hours of the night shopping online and browsing and instant messaging.

My needs:

Multiple Word windows open for school projects etc
Multiple Safari windows open for browsing
Multiple AIM windows open for meaningless crap
This computer can't become "outdated" until 2008 or so (3 yearsish +).

That's about all I REALLY do. Right now I have an iMac G4 with a 15" display (1024x768) and I occassionally complain that it's too small. From what I understand, if I were to buy the 15" Powerbook I would get the same size screen with a better resolution.

Here are the things I'm mulling over between the 12" and the 15". Please address any or all concerns that I have that you can help me with. I've numbered them to make that easier.

1. The 12" is ULTRA-compact and very light. However, the screen is TINY and I will either love it or it will drive me ballistic.

2. The 15" is on the bigger side, but it's not PAINFULLY large. The screen is fantastic and will fit my needs well, though.

3. I can't afford an external LCD on top of either computer, because I'd want to buy an Apple product.

4. The 12" only has FireWire 400, and I'd like to have FireWire 800, but I'm not really sure what for because I don't have any devices that require that.

5. The 12" does not have the gigabit ethernet, and the 15" does, but I'm not sure how much of a difference that would make.

6. The graphics cards on both are 64 MB and I'm afraid that will soon become outdated.

7. Something that I could really see bothering me is the fact that the 12" has the same thing my iMac has - it's got a 256 MB BUILT-IN/NON-REMOVABLE card, so I could only add another 512 (in my budget) for a total of 768, which I have now and find to be insufficient, especially for my multiple programs and windows, whereas the 15" has two slots that you can mess with, where I'd take the included 512 MB and do an $88 upgrade from Crucial for a grand total of 1GB.

8. I understand to some degree this "pitting" thing, but I don't get it fully... does it happen to all of them? Is it covered under Applecare? Has the problem been addressed? Can you do anything to prevent it?

9. Is the 15" portable enough to bring on an airplane?

10. Does one of the portables have a better battery life than the other?

11. How far away can I go for an AirPort Express to work? I have a rather large house and I'm afraid I'd need more than one base station.

12. Is the trackpad hard to get used to, or is it something I'd have very little/no problem with?

13. Is it true that a laptop when heated up can cause permanent damage to male genitalia? What steps can be taken to prevent this from occurring (without losing portability)? I've always had desktops and have never had to worry about this.

And now for the one that nobody will be able to answer for sure, but I haven't asked it for a few months and there might be more information:

14. What is next for the Powerbook? My Dad is making me wait for the new updates or August (whichever comes first) to get one - but I'm afraid August will come around and I won't see anything until December. I know we'll have a better idea after WWDC, but what looks reasonably fescible at this time? Are we looking at G4's, G4 dual cores, or G5's? Are the prices probably going to go up, go down, or stay the same? Is it a HUGE mistake to buy a Rev. A G5? Are there any expected release dates or new processors in the works that might indicate an expected release date? When do you think we'll have a better idea? How long after the announcement will these things take to come out?

Thank you guys all SO much for your time. I know this was an excrutiatingly long post, but I had to clear my mind and start thinking ahead to August and then through the first half of college. :)


macrumors member
Dec 14, 2004
Without actually responding to every one of your points: No, you probably won't have a cause to care about gigabit; yes, 15" is still pretty portable even though the 12" is mega-compact; 64 megs will be enough unless you're gaming; the next upgrade is anyone's guess. (Personally, I suspect we may not see another upgrade for a while, and that the current PB set is the final one before The Big Upgrade, to either dual-core or G5.)

Okay, looks like I'm covering yet more points... anyway, the 12" has better battery life than the 15"; 5 as opposed to 4.5 or so. It's enough for me, but if you *really* want battery life, you want an iBook.

All told, I think the 15" is probably your best move, especially if it's your only computer.


macrumors 601
Jan 10, 2005
Get 15 inch. As you said you didnt like 1024x768 resolution of your iMac.
But I'm sure you will love 1280x864 in 15 inch PB. Especially that it's widescreen ;)

If you dont game 64 MB will be enough for 5+ years :)


macrumors 601
Jan 10, 2005
Oh and if its going to be your only computer and you connot afford an external monitor, 12" screen is VERY small


macrumors regular
Sep 14, 2003
It sounds like you really want a new computer, but you don't *need* a new computer. So I think waiting wouldn't be so horrible.

Also, it doesn't sound like it's going very far, very often. For the few times you would travel with it, then yes, the 15" will be small enough. I still take my 10lb Dell 15" on trips (until I get an ibook). The track pad isn't bad...but I usually use a mouse with my laptop, when convenient. So if you want just one computer, the 15" is the way to go.

What I would do is spend a little money on a used iBook for chatting and surfing on your bed (sounds like what I do at home). Then maybe save up for a new desktop. At the moment, you can get a faster (1ghz) combo iBook refurb for $800. You could even sell your iMac if you want (one with your specs seem to go for $600 and up).

That means you have about $1700 left of your $1900. And you will have small when you need it, and power when you need it.

I'm doing the very same thing, except backwards, because I came from a laptop. Bought a desktop (pc), and hopefully by the end of summer will have an iBook.

Just something to think about.
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