iBook for a graduate student?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by kneeslasher, Jun 25, 2004.

  1. kneeslasher macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004

    Allow me to introduce myself. I have just finished my Masters (Physics) and intend to go on to further study (either an MSc or a DPhil depending upon results in a week or two). Just like in the other thread, I am a Windows/x86 user who is quite certain he would wish to switch to an Apple laptop. The conversion came about when I saw a DPhil student living next to me using his laptop. The laptop itself looked good: but many do. What caught me was the OS: Mac OS X Panther seemed a perfect replacement to the slowly self-bloating Windows XP. I tried Linux which is indeed free for those who have time on their hands. A laptop sounds like a good idea especially if I go for the MSc which is in London.

    Since all the old PC architecture is changing anyway making a new PC folly at this time, and I also have no free time any more to play games, from the tasks left, I ask myself what is there that an Apple could not accomplish? I need a machine that just runs elegantly with capability for DVDs, music, LaTeX, Office, email/internet, eDonkey2000, instant messaging/video chat with foreign relatives and programming. Since all of these seem to be available cross-platform, I cannot see why I should not switch and wanted input from the learned members of this forum where I have been a lurker.

    As far as one can see, the 1Ghz iBook should suit me just fine with self bought and installed RAM and the extra care policy. A student discount would taker a slight edge off the price. But what recommendations are there? Would a pBook be more suited? What is Windows emulation like on an iBook should one wish to use it? Can a few of the older games (e.g. Total Annihilation) be played thus? How about music: what is the sound output like and what sorts of speaker sets can be connected? Since I have a huge lossless music collection, what external hard disk is recommended? Also, I was considering using an external mouse and keyboard when in accomodation. I already have an eye on a Microsoft Mouse, but why do Apple keyboards seem so expensive from the apple store, especially the wireless ones: are there any alternative prices? And what about if it is desired to connect the iBook to a VGA monitor or TV? Is any additional component needed?

    Many thanks for the consideration in reading this post.
  2. MacFan26 macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2003
    San Francisco, California
    Welcome to the platform :D. I would say an iBook would be great for the things that you want to do, but I think you might be happier with the performance boost in the PowerBooks. Either way though, they should both run all the things that you need. Windows emulation isn't always the greatest, but I've heard that should be improving when the new Virtual PC. There's also some open source projects for Windows emulation that should be fully released soon. The Apple keyboards are expensive, if you want to save some cash, definitely go with another brand. Hope that helps a little!
  3. Bruce Lee, PhD macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2004
    I don't know much about gaming, but the sound output should be equal to or better than any PC laptop. If you want more than stereo output, you'll need some additional hardware. For an external hard disk, I think whatever's big and cheap with a USB 2.0 or firewire interface should be fine for storing and listening to audio. If you're concerned about performance, there are a lot of comparisons online. I remember barefeats had some information about USB 2.0 being faster on PCs, so it may be difficult to get good info about performance for USB 2.0 drives on mac. However, I think cost per gig should be the biggest factor, given what you'll be doing. Also, most USB or bluetooth keyboards and mice should work fine with your laptop. You can probably search the forums here to get some recommendations.
  4. jimsowden macrumors 68000


    Sep 6, 2003
  5. tamara6 macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2004
    If you are an experimental physicist, then the iBook should be fine for you. If you are a theoretical physicist, then you should probably look at the Powerbook, or even get a G5 machine. Why? Speed. If you are going to be doing research on this computer, and you will be running a lot of long running C programs, then you will want a faster computer so that you can finish faster.

    If you will be only doing occasional programming, then probably the iBook will be just fine, at least in terms of processor power.

    Screen space is another issue. If you will be writing a lot with LaTeX, then you may want to consider the 15 inch powerbook. It has a wide screen, so you can fit two pages side by side. This comes in handy while TeXing things, since you can keep the source file on one side of the screen and see the output on the other. This is not a necessesity, but it is really nice. (probably the most popular TeX program on OS X is TeXShop - http://www.uoregon.edu/~koch/texshop/)

    The only other issue you might consider is using your computer for presentations. The iBook will only do video mirroring, the powerbook can either mirror or span. I find that people prefer either one method or the other, so you should just be aware of the difference, in case it makes a difference to you.
  6. Flight16 macrumors newbie

    Jun 8, 2004
    Don't forget the mad hackz

    It's worth noting there are firmware hacks to enable desktop spanning on (all?) new iBooks. I used it on my G3 800 in the days when it worked for some and it didn't work for others. It lets you run an external monitor at up to 85Hz on panther, and I'm easily driving a 1280x1024 external LCD with usb keyboard and mouse. Though expose does run a little jerky on the higher resolution.

    As for Total Annihilation, I have no idea but I just want to say that made me smile. I played that soooooo much back in the day. It was _the_ perfect RTS that blew all others away. Too bad StarCraft got more publicity. I'd also be interested to find out how well TA works on Virtual PC.

    Anyway, good luck with your decision!
  7. Studawg7 macrumors regular

    May 15, 2004
    Cville, VA
    An iBook is a good choice for what you have described. I am a mechanical engineering graduate student and I just purchased the 1GHz iBook 12in model. I love the size and can do most of what I need to do with it. I run math software, do a little programming, Office, chat etc. The only stuff I dont run on my iBook is Abaqus (finite element package) and solid modeling software like Pro/E and Inventor. But then again I wouldnt want to use those programs on a laptop anyways. So all in all I am quite happy switching to the iBook and I believe you would as well.

  8. mac_gal macrumors member

    Jun 23, 2004
    some good speakers

    I think you'd do fine with an iBook as well.

    For speakers, I'd recommend the Creative iTrigue i3350, in white:


    I have the iTrigue 3300 (same as the white ones, but with a steel look) and they look and sound great next to my Powerbook. The wired remote w/headphone jack is really useful, too.
  9. LeeTom macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2004
    One thing to seriously consider between the iBook and Powerbook:
    The Powerbook has a higher-quality keyboard and screen. If you are doing any serious amount of research or writing on it, I would recommend a Powerbook. At least go to an Apple store and check out the difference for yourself.

    Microsoft mice work great, you can hook your powerbook up to any VGA monitor, etc...

    Lee Tom
  10. abhishekit macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2003
    akron , ohio
    I have used an iBook, and now I have a pb. I have run MATLAB, played Medal of Honor, and wrote papers on Latex, on my iBook without any problem. And it was the previous generation, the newer ones should be even faster. I had connected the audio out to 5.1 sony receiver, with the mini audio-rca adapter. And unless I raised the volume from my iBook to maximum, I got a very good sound.
    I have used a Belkin bluetooth mouse since very long. And althogh it appeared a little bigger in the beginning, its very comfortable. And it has worked flawlessly well.
    To connect the iBook to the TV , you would need mini-dvi to video adaptor, sold separately by apple. By default iBook mirrors on external displays. But I was using a hack for monitor spanning, and it was working perfectly as well. A mini-dvi to VGA adaptor is included with the iBook.
    Hope it addresses some of your concerns,

  11. CubaTBird macrumors 68020

    Apr 18, 2004
    ibooks are good

    i have a 12 inch ibook, 768 ram... Must say, its an excellent machine. Games though, are "okay". I can get Jedi Academy running at 640x480 with details set to medium and its still playable. Battery life good too, I got 4 hours and 45 min which is quite good. ;)
  12. djfirth macrumors newbie

    Jun 25, 2004
    Columbus, OH
    The current iBook is a nice machine. I bought a 12-inch G3 dual-USB when I was working toward my MBA. It did well for most everything, and I used Virtual PC 5 for those things -- simulation software and linear programming tools -- for which there was no Mac equivalent or where the class required PC-specificity. There were more than a few times that my iBook came through in a pinch when the PCs in the campus labs and classrooms had "issues". If you want portability, the 12-inchers are fabulous.

    I upgraded to a 12-inch Powerbook G4 a few months ago and between the iBook and the Powerbook you will not notice major differences if you are a casual user. If, however, you end up having to use Virtual PC to run some applications that aren't available on the Mac then the Powerbook will do a bit better. I bought my RAM from a 3rd party (get Crucial brand SO-DIMM as not all SO-DIMMs that claim they work work reliably) and added Airport Extreme.

    Either way, you are on the right path to enlightenment, physics aside ;) If you run into a physics PhD candidate from Ohio named Ed, he's a friend of mine.
  13. kneeslasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004
    Many thanks for the numerous replies. The 12" iBook seems to be the option for me.

    This is a huge factor since LaTex will be heavily utilised. But surely there will be no difference in the 15 and 12 inche versions since the resolution is the same?
  14. MikeLaRiviere macrumors regular

    May 25, 2004

    Frankly, I know nothing of LaTeX. However, I can tell you that the screen resolutions among the notebooks differ. Whereas the iBook 12 inch and 14 inch models share 1024x768 resolution, the PowerBook 12 inch model sports 1024x768 resolution, and the Powerbook 15 inch boasts 1280x854 (wide aspect) resolution. Therefore, if you confine yourself to the iBook models, you will find no choice in resolution. However, if you look to the PowerBook line, you will find that resolution increases with screen size.

    For the past six months I have used an iBook, and I enjoyed it quite a bit at that. However, my college requires a faster processor; as a result, I have upgraded to the PowerBook 12 inch. I can tell you that the size is perfect; I do not find myself desiring a greater screen size. However, friends of mine who use 15 inch and 17 inch models greatly enjoy their respective screen sizes. I might add that the 1.33 GHz PowerBook is noticeably faster than the 800 MHz iBook. However, because you are considering a new iBook 12 inch, containing a 1 GHz processor, I doubt you will be seeking greater speed.

    Therefore, base your decision chiefly on screen size and resolution, and bear in mind that the PowerBook 15 inch boasts a higher resolution than the 12 inch models.

    Mike LaRiviere
  15. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    The 12" iBook is a great computer. Its similar enough to the 12" PB that there isn't much of a difference in terms of power. However, I say get the 12" PB.

    I'm doing a Masters in Medical Physics, and I don't really do a lot of Matlab, LaTeX (don't really know how ;) ). I don't really understand your school situation. You said you did your Masters in Physics, but now you want to do an M.Sc?? Isn't your Masters in Physics and an M.Sc the same thing? :confused:

    Sorry about my confusion, but I just want to know if its different terminology in different parts of the world.
  16. kneeslasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004
    Well here in England, I have a four year degree at Oxford which will give me something called an MPhys. To do a DPhil, I shall need a 2/1. If I get a 2/2, then I can still do a DPhil if I do an additional MSc first.

    The main reason I am trying to avoid the 15" pBook is additional cost. Apple products already carry a premium and a student is never rich...
  17. tamara6 macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2004
    I think the iBook will be fine for you, especially if money is tight. The main difference, as far as LaTeX is concerned, is screen space. The 15" has a wide screen, so you can fit two pages side by side. This is nice, but not really a necessity. In a 1024x768 monitor, your input window will overlap the output window. That means that you may need to uncover the output window after you TeX things, before you can see how it looks. But really, it is not a big deal. It means one extra click with the mouse.

    If you have limited money then the 12" iBook, an extra 512 MB of RAM, and a good mouse are the things to get. The 15" powerbook falls into the "nice to have if I had the money" category.

    I would recommend looking at the models in person before you buy, if you can. The difference between the 12" iBooks and the 14" iBooks is the physical size of the screen. They both use the same number of pixels. So text and stuff looks bigger on the 14". If you are young with no eye problems, then the 12" should be fine. If you do have trouble with your eyes, you might find the increased size of the 14" more comfortable. This is something only you can determine.
  18. kneeslasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004
    I do wear glasses but I am hoping it will not be a huge factor.

    What about keyboards? It has been raised that the keyboard on the 12" is slightly less comfortable. Is it still perfectly adequate for two hand typing and thin fingers?

    One of my main concerns is also the operation of Panther. Will it be perfectly smooth on the 12" iBook? Because a smoothly running OS X is the main attraction for me...
  19. tamara6 macrumors regular

    Apr 28, 2004
    The keyboard is fine - it is not really small or anything, and it is possible to touch type on it without a problem. I have a 15" powerbook, and the width of my keyboard is 27 cm (the height is 10.5 cm). I have absolutely no problem typing on it. Sometimes I do wish it had a separate number keypad, but you won't find that on any portable so it is not really an issue.

    And Panther will run great on any iBook or powerbook that you can buy. The big tip is to add as much ram as you can afford. OS X uses disk space as virtual ram, and that can slow the machine down. The more real ram you have, the faster the machine will be because it doesn't have to access the HD all the time.

    I believe that iBooks come with 256 MB of ram soldered onto the motherboard, and one empty slot for more ram. You should definitely add at least another 256 MB, 512 MB would be better. I don't think you would have any need to add a GB, and they are expensive anyway, so you don't need to do that. It is easy to add the ram yourself, so you should not get it from Apple, but instead order it from someplace local and install it yourself when it comes.

    So, I think this is what you need to be a happy user:
    an iBook
    256 MB of extra ram (giving you a total of 512)
    a two button usb mouse
    probably MS Office (available at a student discount)

    Extras, if you have the money:
    512 MB of extra ram, instead of the 256 listed above
    A larger HD (you have to order the iBook with it)
    the mouse could be a wireless mouse instead of a usb mouse
    a spare monitor to use when you are at home and feel like looking at a larger screen.

    You will probably also want a printer, unless you have easy access to printers at the university. If you do not get a printer then you will want a little usb drive to carry your documents to be printed elsewhere.
  20. kneeslasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004
    All useful advice: many thanks. I shall probably see what I can do about ordering from the UK Apple site within the next couple of weeks.

    Is it possible to buy the transparent wireless Apple keyboards from anywhere else where they do not cost £60? And I have heard recommendations for Crucial to supply the extra 512MB ram chip in the USA. What about for the UK? Anyone know of cheap good ram to place in the iBook?

    Specifically, what are the informed views on storage? Is it worth going for a huge hard disk within the iBook from the Apple store or is this another operation one can do using third party hardware? And how do the Apple branded external storage units (usb2 + firewire) compare to what is widely available from other manufacturers?
  21. blackfox macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    I am not sure you will find this advice useful, but FWIW...with relation to HD space, I would advocate a large (and fast) internal drive. As I understand it, Apples Drives are at the most 5400rpm...Toshiba makes a 7200rpm internal drive (60G), that I have in my old Pismo, and it has made a lot of difference in speed, but I was replacing a 4200rpm drive...@ $250, it is a decision to be thought about...as far as alternate ways of (portable storage), there is the use of a DVD-burner, either an external one at home, or a superdrive built in...which can be quite handy...there is also the (expensive) option of using an iPod as external storage...I attach my 20G to the back of my Pismo w/ Velcro, when using it as a HD, and then of course, you also have a sweet music player...other than small storage solutions, I cannot think of any others, so if you need to carry around a good deal of data, I would maximize your internal HD capacity. I am not sure what processing power you need, but in terms of cost, I might consider a refurbished older PB, with larger screen-size (if you will be writing a lot), I am a grad student in IR, and do a lot of writing on my Pismo 14" screen, and anything smaller, I think would make me blind...it is also nice to be able to access reference material side-by-side on a wide-screen PB, although it is only a guess...here is a link to Other World Computing, quite a nice mac resource, although I am not sure how much it will help you in the UK:
    http://eshop.macsales.com/Catalog_D...CD Drives&Template=HardDrives/hdgui2_cfm.html
  22. kneeslasher thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 6, 2004
    Anyhow, I bit the bullet and ordered an iBook 12". Then quickly got the order changed to a pBook 12" for about £200 more. Despatched on Monday, still waiting at the moment for my first Apple to arrive. Also went for 512MB from Crucial UK for an immediate upgrade.

    Are there any step by step guide for how to plug in the extra RAM? And just out of curiosity, should I wish to ever upgrade the hard disk, is this possible?
  23. blackfox macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    Congratulations on your purchase....

    As to your questions, with regards to the RAM, there were instructions that came with my PB (a Pismo, a long time ago), I would assume it is the same now. There are also on-line tutorials if you look around a bit...

    As to the HD, yes I believe it is possible, although the PB 12" is a small form-factor. Doing it yourself, will void your warranty however, so if you do it sometime soon pay the cash and have an Apple Certified tech. do it for you...
  24. blue&whiteman macrumors 65816


    Nov 30, 2003
    there seems to be a trend of people that think the ibook is not powerful at all. people think its a little toy or something. every system apple sells will run any mac app and do virtually everything all the other models do. come on people.. do you really think apple sells laptops that can't handle modern tasks?:rolleyes:
  25. nyprospect macrumors 6502

    May 3, 2004

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