iBook - review & advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by wide, Aug 2, 2005.

  1. wide macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2004
    Hello, MacRumors!

    I’ve seen a few requests for a review of the new iBooks, so here’s mine! Before you read, take into account that I am no Mac whiz, just a student who really, really wanted a Mac. The computer I am reviewing is the current model iBook, stock configuration 12.1” screen.

    I ordered this computer last Thursday (July 28), and under 24 hours on Friday it was at my door. I was really surprised about this; especially because I am accustomed to Apple having somewhat lousy support/shipping services.

    This is not my first Mac. I’ve been using Macs in school for a long time and I was given a 500 MHz G3 Pismo (and old, old powerbook) about two years ago. Compared to the other Macs I have used, this thing screams! Spotlight works super fast, and dashboard usually does (though I have had a few slow experiences with it; probably glitches in the software though). The computer does not start up at fast as I would hope, but it is still quick (usually loads in under 30 seconds), especially compared to my old Pismo running Panther.

    The display is great!! I know, it doesn’t have the highest resolution for a 12-incher, but anything higher for such a small screen would be overkill for Mac OS X in my opinion. I had no dead pixels. No stuck pixels. Just 786,432 vibrant, sharp pixels. While widescreen would have been a nice feature, it really has not proved to be an issue.

    The computer’s build quality is fine. It is certainly better than my Dell 600m, but it is not on par with my PowerBook Pismo. I say this because the side of the computer can be pressed and make little squeaks, etc, and it is also a little nerve-wracking to see the computer’s display flop around a bit when you push in the magnetic latch.

    The programs that I use most are Microsoft Word, AOL instant messenger (I tried iChat; wasn’t for me), Safari, Mail, DVD player, and iTunes.

    Microsoft Word works very well. It is actually part of the Office 2004 suite. The iBook comes loaded with a 30-day free trial of iWork, and Pages was not slow as some have complained but it was in no way a viable alternative for Microsoft Word.

    Safari is very fast. No complaints here. The trackpad scrolling is a really nifty feature, but I usually use a mouse so I will probably not find much use for it.

    Mail, also, works well. I was very pleased at how easy it was to set up my Gmail account via POP. It is able to send attachments; the only problem is that I cannot find out how (or if) I can make labels.

    The computer’s built in DVD player plays the DVDs very crisply and with good sound, better than on my Pismo albeit the Pismo is five years old.

    I played around with GarageBand for a bit. It’s definitely useable, even with 512 MB RAM if no other applications are open.

    iTunes well too, it found all of the media files I loaded into the Music folder. It was a synch to set up.

    AirPort Express was able to find my wireless network and others around me, and all I had to do was type in the password and I was granted access.

    Bluetooth has also come in handy. I ordered a Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer Bluetooth, which is supposedly incompatible with Macs, but the Apple Bluetooth wizard detected it and now I am using it without any problems, no detectable lag, and the scrollwheel (up, down, left, right) works very well. The two buttons that are meant for going back/forward in a web browser are not yet completely functional, but I just need to configure them (I know the computer detects them because I can draw boxes on the desktop, but nothing else so far). If I am unable to fix those to buttons myself, then I’m sure USB Overdrive for Bluetooth will fix it. I bought the mouse on eBay and saved some money, PM me and I will tell you whom I bought it from – he has a lot for sale and the service was excellent.

    The keyboard is also very nice, not up to par with that of the PowerBooks but certainly good. Apple has fixed the flexy-keyboard problem it had with the much earlier iBooks. I ordered iSkin’s ProTouch PB, which is supposed to work with iBooks, and I warn potential buyers: this is NOT designed for the iBook’s keyboard. Not even the PowerBook G4’s. iSkin has messed up on this product. That said, it’s not really that bad, I’m just not so sure whether I will continue using it. Again, NOT worth the $20 it costs.

    Most of my complaints have been minor ones, but there are two more that I have forgotten to mention:

    1) The computer sometimes says the battery is charged 99%. Other times it says 100%, I am not sure what is wrong with this. Also, the light around the AC adapter plug in is always green. I thought it is supposed to turn blue when the computer is fully charged. Can anyone confirm this?

    2) The hard drive makes noise sometimes. It might be because of the Sudden Motion Sensor (or whatever it’s called). Whenever I access a large file, start up the computer, or do something moderately CPU-intensive, the hard drive makes a sound like it is…sort of…choking :rolleyes:. Anyone else have the same problem? I haven’t bothered to call Apple because I know they won’t take my computer back unless there is actually something wrong with it, which is not the case so far.

    Overall, I would give this computer a rating of 7.5/10. It is not a very high rating, but anything higher would seem unjustifiable. On a user-pleasure scale, it gets at least a 9/10.

    This is all that I could think to say about the computer, feel free to ask any question. Hope it helps :)!
  2. Vster macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2005
    Celina, TX
    I love this computer to death, but I also have a minor issue with the power supply light. It is supposed to be amber when charging and green when charged, but its always amber even at 100%. And when I unplug it and plug it back in, its green then turns back to amber.

    Other than that, its great!

    And congrats to wide on your new mac! :D
  3. vouder17 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 30, 2003
    Cool thanks for that review. I am gonna buy an iBook in september i think, or maybe august not sure yet. But i was not sure between the 12' or 14'. The 12' sounds good...and it is cheaper.
    How much RAM have you got installed?
    How big is your HD, do u have an External HD?

    Ok thanks again for the review, very helpful
  4. ITASOR macrumors 601


    Mar 20, 2005
    How is the iSkin not made for they keyboard? I think it fits PERFECT on it...

    If you're talking about the return key weird shape, that's so it fits both types of kb's.

    Could you explain about the iSkin a little more?
  5. wide thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2004
    i have the stock model, so a 40gb HD and 512 MB RAM in 1 slot (it's soldered onto the computer). i haven't had any problems relating either the HD or the RAM.

    ITASOR--about the iSkin

    my main complaints about the iskin is the return key, as you mentioned; the top row of keys (esx..f1-12) is not designed so well; and on the left side of the keyboard my iSkin isn't really set in well...

    I've actually only been using it for a few hours, maybe my opinion will change in time.
  6. dcv macrumors G3

    May 24, 2005
    nice review

    Hi wide, that was a very informative post and I'm sure it will come in useful to potential purchasers :)

    I have an iSkin for my PowerBook and I know what you mean about it not quite fitting the keyboard. It is designed to suit all international keyboard layouts which is why there are a couple of adjacent keys that are covered by the same piece of moulded silicone, e.g. the return/pipe keys and the left shift/tilde keys (on the UK keyboard anyway). Mine was a bit stretched out in one corner when i got it but after a little use it seemed to settle down and fit better, and is certainly preferable to having dust etc in between the keys!

    FYI the light ring around the AC adaptor should be amber whilst charging and green once charged (or close to fully charged). If you use the notebook on battery power for just a few minutes then plug it in again, it shouldn't charge unless the capacity has dropped below 95% - this is to prevent short charging cycles and helps to conserve battery life.

    To Vster - it doesn't sound right that yours is amber at 100%. Did you calibrate your battery correctly? More information about this can be found in the manual, or search for 'battery' on the Apple Support site, or even on this forum. IIRC you should charge it all the way up then disconnect AC power and let the battery drain until it puts itself to sleep. Then it should be properly calibrated.
  7. Dynamyk macrumors 6502a


    Jul 8, 2005
    My charger works fine, Amber when charing, green when full up. And my hard-drive makes no noise, but then again I haven't really done anything processor intensive, so I'll get back to you on that one.
  8. Lazyhound macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2005
    This means that it's swapping data in/out of virtual memory. Try throwing in a second 512MB stick and it should go away.
  9. chucknorris macrumors 6502a


    Jun 28, 2005
    Moscow, ID (No Kremlin here!)
    I didn't see this addressed in any other posts, but the light will NEVER turn blue. Green is the full-charge indicator. As for the switching from 99-100%, I've heard that once the battery is charged, the adapter ceases pumping power into the battery. As minutes/hours pass, the battery drains very slowly (not clear as to whether this is due to the computer drawing a slight amount of power for something or due to the battery leaking power while idle). When the battery reaches a certain point (99% sounds right), the ac adapter once again charges the battery to full.

    The cycle continues as long as the computer is plugged in. Once again, I am just reporting second-hand information.
  10. ReanimationLP macrumors 68030


    Jan 8, 2005
    On the moon.
  11. Bowser macrumors member

    Jun 24, 2005
    do you remember how much actual space you had on your HD when you pulled the iBook out of the box? mine had 25ish GBs, which seems like a lot of GBs taken up by preloaded stuff.
  12. martin1000 macrumors 6502

    Apr 16, 2005
    Washington, D.C.
    Just got my BTO 12" ibook with 80g hard drive yesterday. I am new to Mac's, but wanted to comment on a couple of things.

    It was so easy to set up my mail accounts, connect to my wireless Linksys router, and share files between my XP PC and new ibook. All set up under an hour. It probably would have taken days to set up an XP laptop with my PC. Kudos for the ease!

    My next steps will be to import my photos into iphoto and import my music into itunes. I'm guessing it will be just as easy.

    I will have to check on the green/amber light tonight, I didn't really pay attention to that.

    I didn't notice my hard drive making any noise, but I wasn't doing any labor intensive apps.

    I did notice that the left "palm rest" area was rather hot. I don't know if this is normal or not.

    The screen seemed awesome!!! The few pictures I did place on the laptop seemed clearer than when viewing from my 19" monitor connected to my PC.

    Next purchase is going to be an addition 512 of Ram.

    My 2 cents!
  13. drb6 macrumors regular

    Jul 22, 2005
    Boston, MA

    anyone have any issues with your ibook trackpad. mine stalls (basically freezing for about 8 seconds) quite a bit even when all i have open is safari or firefox.

    anyone, anyone?
  14. Hattig macrumors 65816

    Jan 3, 2003
    London, UK
    My power indicator is fine - green when charged, orange when charging.

    I had 24GB free on my laptop (40GB) after software update, but before installing any other applications.

    The keyboard is pretty nice to be honest, it has a nice feel to it. I'm not using an iSkin though, if it gets that bad I'll remove it, wash it and reinstall it.

    The scrolling trackpad is neat. I know that the functionality isn't new,but to have it as default is really nice.

    My 1.33GHz iBook rips at 160kbps AAC music between 7x and 12x speed. This is pretty good I think. I got all my 'Axxxx' albums done this afternoon. 25 more letters to go :S I think I underestimated the amount of HD space I needed.

    The screen is good. It is very bright (it is nearly midnight though and I only have one light on in this room).

    Today I also bought the Omni applications and I had ordered iWork with the laptop. I will happily pay for software that I enjoy using.

    Sadly my cheapo (£6) Quickcam Clicksmart 420 is not recognised by the computer or iPhoto. I'm going to try the software for another brand of Quickcam however, maybe that will work.

    As for screen protection, err, well the laptop came with a sheet of thin foamy stuff, that'll suffice! And for the outside I have a nice red Tucano Second Skin.

    One thing: Why doesn't Apple have a # symbol printed on their UK keyboards? Yeah, it is alt-3 for us, but why? Put it where the § is, what the hell is a § anyway? And what is the symbol that looks like a picnic table?–-–-–-?= Argh, alt-6 gives § as well. What is it? Apple, please move # to that key!
  15. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Thanks for the review! Two tips:

    1. To calibrate your battery meter, run the machine until it "dies" (harmless--your RAM is preserved), then shut the lid and plug it in to fully charge overnight. The light should be orange while charging, and then turn green when full.

    I think the machine won't charge at all (intentional) if you've used only a little power--so maybe that's why you see 99% sometimes. I just turn off the % display so I'm not sure.

    2. No need to start up at all :) Just shut the lid and the machine will sleep. Open it and it will wake. Even when unplugged the battery should last several days asleep. So travel at will without shutting down. I never shut my PowerBook down.
  16. Zman5225 macrumors 6502a

    May 15, 2005
    Tacoma WA
    Ive been playing with mine for the better part of the day so i'll give a quick run down of some of my impressions and what not....

    Battery...i did the recommended plugin to charge to full, then I stuck in a dvd and let it run and run and run until the computer automatically went into sleep mode. Mind you, you'll know when it's getting close because you'll get a popup that says you're getting close and that you should charge it up, ignore that. Once it went to sleep I shut the lid and let it charge till the light went from amber to green. Once green I started using it again, I did not use it for the calibration charge. As of right now the ac plug is still plugged in and my power percentage says 99% and the light is green, so I think this is normal operation.

    Keyboard...I initially was worried about the keyboard not being a full size keyboard. All my worries are gone. I really like the feel of the keyboard. It clicks just perfect and has a great feel to it. The # pad is built onto the right 3/4 of the keyboard and you use it buy holding the function key, so it's no biggie at all.

    Screen...this was another thing I was initially worried about. Two months ago when I went to the Apple store to check these out, the iBook seemed very dark and slow looking. We watched a quicktime demo of the Fantastic 4 movie at the apple store and it was in fact dark. Today when I was running the movies the screen was great! I turned it two notches down from full on the contrast and it looks stellar. Much much better then I thought it would be. I'm sure the better video card has something to do with the better looks of everything.

    Core image...yes it's there, and yes it's fun to keep dropping stuff on the screen :)

    I'm going to go and get me a wireless router now and try out the airport goods now.

    HD space...I ordered a 60gb version and it arrived with 44 free. Once I used the delocalizer software it freed up an additional 1.8gbs by removing all the languages.

    Setup...seamless, I just powered it up, registered, ran all the updates and bam I was up and running.

    The ONLY thing I had a problem with was that bug with the dvd player. The one that when you first pop in a movie it says invalid something or other. I had to reboot the computer and it worked fine. The patch was designed to fix this bug and it did after the reboot.

    I really enjoy this laptop, it's a great great laptop and it's design is fantastic. I've been having fun downloading widgets and playing with all sorts of stuff. It's whoo whoo fun :)


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