Need advice: 17' PowerBook or PowerMac??

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

  1. Whapcaplet macrumors newbie

    May 1, 2005
    Vancouver, BC
    Hi Everyone

    Firstly, I apologize if other people have already posted similar questions to mine but I'm new to the site (this is my first posting) so please bear with me.

    I currently own a G4 800Mhz iMac with a 15" flat panel screen and 512 MB RAM. It's okay for most of what I do (graphic design) but the screen is WAY to small and it can be a bit sluggish sometimes. I'm considering a major system upgrade to either:

    17" PowerBook with 30" screen


    G5 PowerMac with 30" screen

    I know the G5 PowerMac would leave my current iMac in the dust, but I don't know how much faster the PowerBook would be than my current iMac?? If the PowerBook offers a reasonable performance increase over my iMac I think I'd go for that, as I love the idea of having a portable system. However, I wouldn't want to invest almost $5,000 CDN (extra RAM, AppleCare, taxes, etc.) on a PowerBook that won’t offer a performance increae over my current system.

    I'd really appreciate any advice or recommendations that anyone may have.

    Many thanks

  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    PowerMac all the way unless portability is your topmost concern.

    The PowerBook will be a big step up from your current system but may not offer the best value over the longer term...

    30" screen? If it was me, I'd get the 23" and throw the saved money at RAM and other internal upgrades, peripherals, calibrators, upgrading software etc.

    I'm also a designer and sitting in front of one of those 30" really tests peripheral vision. If palettes & toolbars hog your workspace, then a less colour-critical 2nd monitor for all of that would work just as well.

    Well... if I had the money, that's what I would do. :)
  3. russed macrumors 68000


    Jan 16, 2004
    i second what blue has said above. unless you need the portability (and the 17" pb's are huge so not very portable anyway!) i would say go for the powermac with a 23" screen and get lots of ram!
  4. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    I recommend the PowerBook.

    The G5 tower will blow the PowerBook away for speed... but the PowerBook will blow away your iMac anyway.

    Top speed is great... but for me, portability is more important. I seldom NEED it, but I always appreciate it! Take whatever you're doing to any room, any trip, any cafe, and friend's house, without a second thought. Grab and go.

    It sounds like you're not demanding top performance, just better than you have.

    I have a slower PowerBook than you are talking about--a first-gen 1.25 Ghz 15" AlBook. And my parents have the same iMac you have. My PowerBook runs circles around the iMac.

    The tower's a good buy, but it sounds like portability will serve you well.

    That still leaves the question of WHICH PowerBook. The best balance in my view is a 12" PowerBook with a 23" display. I find even my slim 15" to be a little unwieldy for travel sometimes--but those 12"ers are tiny! Ultra-portable. Add bluetooth mouse and keyboard :)

    The 17" is the top performer, and I almost chose that size. Now I'm glad I went more portable. So if you're going to have an external screen anyway, I say go with a smaller 'Book for better portability. Either the 12" or the 15" (which has the lighted keys and is faster).

    EDIT: if you plan a lot of use on the go, check the brightness of the 12" before you buy. You may find it acceptable, but the 15" is FAR brighter and better. (It's actually a bit brighter than the 17".)
  5. Demon Hunter macrumors 68020

    Mar 30, 2004
    Nothin' is more beautiful than the 17" PowerBook. Except maybe a beautiful woman using a 17" PowerBook. Or a beautiful woman using a 17" PowerBook while eating ice cream.

    Yeah... that's all I have to say. ;)
  6. tizza macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2003
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yep I'd go the PB. I have a 15" PB which is pretty good most of the time in terms of screen size, but the 17" would be just fab! The downside in slightly less grunt is more than offset by the advantages in portability IMHO.
  7. weg macrumors 6502a


    Mar 29, 2004
    If you're going to buy a 30" display anyway, why don't you go for a smaller PB? (The 15" PB has the same processor). What's the point of having a notebook if it is too large to carry it around ;-) (ok, if you want to work with two displays, then the 17" has an advantage over the 15" PB).
  8. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
    Just a note to say that the 17" PB is very portable, mine goes across London every day in a brenthaven bag.

    OK, I'm not a small bloke, but we have 15" and 12" PB's at the Uni too, and I'm damn glad I held out for the 17" it's a beautiful machine on it own, never mind with a second display.

    I'd second BV's comments, get a 23" display and go to Disnleyland for a weekend on the change... ;) :D

    Oh yeah, or buy a FW800 drive and an iSight, iPod, iTrip, iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii......
  9. andrewfee macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2004
    It really depends on whether you need portability or not, but the Powerbook will be about twice as fast as your 800MHz G4 system.

    Personally I have no problems moving the 17" Powerbook around, and even if you've got a 30" Display at home, it's nice having the extra screen size when you're on the move.

    If you don't need portability (and don't think you will in future) go with the Powermac. While the Powerbooks are fast, the dual processor Powermac G5s are in a league of their own.
  10. Whapcaplet thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 1, 2005
    Vancouver, BC
    Wow! Thank you all so much for the great advice. There certainly seems to be pros and cons for each option. Do you really think the PowerBook will be twice as fast as my current system? If so, that may have sealed the deal for me.

    Interestingly, most of you seem to be advising me against getting the 30" display. Is this because you think its overpriced for what it is or because you don't think I'll ever need something that gargantuan? I guess I'm just so frustrated with my current 15" iMac (I sometimes spend more time moving palettes around than I do working) that I’m looking for a solution so I never have to worry again.

    I’d really love the raw power of a dual G5, but if you honestly think the PowerBook will be twice as fast as my current system then I’d be more than happy with that. Combined with the flexibility of having something portable I think it would be a great combination. The only thing left to decide is whether I buy the 30” or take your advice, buy the 23” and spend a week in Disneyland!

    Thank you all for your advice and recommendations . . . I really appreciate you taking the time to help me.


    PS. Is anyone currently using a 30" display? If so, would you seriously recommend it or advise me to stick with the 23"? I've heard some horror stories about the 23", which have scared me off that particular model.
  11. andrewfee macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2004
    The 23" Display is probably enough for most people - I would only recommend a 30" to someone who is editing full resolution HD video. (1920x1080)

    As for the "horror stories" - it's mostly people complaining about a slight pink tint to the screen, but with the money you're saving over a 30" ACD, buy a hardware calibration device such as a GretagMacBeth Eye-One.

    This will not only ensure you have accurate colour, but will also make sure you don't have a pink tint to the screen.

    I fully expect the Powebook to be twice as fast as your 800MHz machine (it's not a dual processor system is it?)

    Not only is it more than double the raw speed (800MHz vs 1670MHz) but the hardware will have been more refined, so may also have other performance increases on top of that. (faster memory perhaps)

    I moved to a maxed out 17" Powerbook G4 a couple of months ago (when the new ones came out) from a (nearly) maxed out 20" iMac G5, and in most/all applications I've used, the Powebook has been faster as the G4 chip, clock-for-clock, is faster than the G5. I believe video is the only thing the iMac would be faster at. (Photoshop is what I use most on the Powerbook) Of course the hard drive is a lot slower, but in real terms, it just means waiting a couple of seconds more for apps/big files to open.
  12. sun25 macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2004
    PM v PB

    I would go with a 2 ghz Power mac which would be significantly faster than the PB. It has a faster hd faster ram anda much faster front side bus. Overall it might be about twice the speed.
    The powermac would cost $2050 with the card the drive the 30 in display.

    Then if you needed portabulity you could pick up a 1.33 ghz ibook for $999.

    This way for $50 more you can get twce the power
  13. sun25 macrumors newbie

    Aug 23, 2004
    I use a 20 and a 17 in for web design and it works well. You might want to think about an apple 20 and a dell 17 for about $1000. This way you could speen two weeks in disneyland!
  14. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    This is subjective--I've never measured--but yes, I do think the PowerBook will be twice as fast. Faster GPU makes a difference in addition to the CPU. You might find some tests at, although it could be hard to compare apples to apples between an old desktop and new laptop.

    I love the 30"--having seen it in person, it's worth it if you can afford it. But it's true that even the 23" will be a huge step up for you. The only reason I said 23" is because I love the portability of the 12" PB--and it can't run the 30 screen. The top 17" can--and I think the top 15" can too.

    And remember, the 15" PowerBook has a 15.2" widescreen display, running 1280x854. Significantly more workspace than your iMac's 1024x768 (due to the smaller pixels that are common these days).

    The 17" isn't ALL that much bigger to lug around than the 15"--what people have said is true. It IS portable. But it's enough bigger to be noticeably more awkward in my opinion. So if you really want the biggest screen on the road, the 17" is worth the money. But the 15" is already bigger than your iMac screen, and I'm imagining your big screen at home will make the laptop screen less relevant. (But you can use the laptop screen AND the Cinema Display--gives you a nice place for palettes etc.)

    Taking everything into account, I'm inclined to recommend:

    * Top-end 15.2" PowerBook with 1 GB RAM or so.

    * 30" Display

    * Bluetooth mouse and keyboard

    Or get the 23" (or a non-Apple display) purely to save money. Not because the 30" isn't amazing :D

    Check the specs though, because there are certain features (digital optical audio?) that may be in the 17" only these days. I'm not certain.
  15. macbaseball macrumors 6502a


    Feb 27, 2005
    Northern California
    For graphic desgin your fine with the PB. It will be more than fast enough for that kind of stuff. If you were doing video editing then I would go with the Power Mac, but since your not go for the Powerbook. I don't know if you have seen this setup:

    Just copy and paste those addresses.

    Here is the originalthread. His situation is similar to yours except his is a 15 inch so I thought I'd post the link.
  16. SLCentral macrumors regular

    Jan 18, 2004
    Princeton, NJ/Ithaca, NY
    Actually, I just last week got a setup almost just like yours: a PowerBook G4 15" and a 30" Apple LCD. Let me tell you, the setup works great. While it is obviously no where near as fast as a Dual-G5, the portability, for me, is worth the loss in speed.

    Regarding the 30" display...while you may not need all 30" (I sure don't), it really does change the way I work. I do quite a bit of work in Maya, and while I could have gotten by with even just a 20" display, the extra space really makes it easier to get things done. I'm sure this will apply to virtually any design done on a Mac.

    If you have the money, I suggest getting the 30". It, most definitely, will not let you down, and it'll be hard-pressed to switch back to a smaller screen.
  17. Whapcaplet thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 1, 2005
    Vancouver, BC
    Again. . . some great advice from many people. Thank you all.

    Based on the recommendations, I think I'll go with the 15" PowerBook and the 30" screen. From what people have told me, the 15" will still be beefy enough to run my graphics applications (Illustrator, InDesign, PhotoShop, etc.) but I'll have the added convenience of being able to take my work on the road, down to the pub, to client meetings, down to the pub, to the park, down to the pub, etc., etc. The whole system will probably set me back about $8,000 CDN (plus tax) bit it will hopefully last me for a good few years. As someone who spends anywhere between 10 – 14 hours a day staring at a computer screen, I think this combination will drastically improve the quality of my life!


    Thank you all so much for your valuable feedback. It’s helped me a lot. I’ll be sure to let you all know how it works out.

    Thanks again
  18. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
  19. 8calavera8 macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2005
    :rolleyes: uups, old information edited out in time, hopefully...
  20. andrewfee macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2004
    Either the 17" Powerbook, or the 15" with the 128mb VRAM upgrade will run a 30" ACD without any problems. :)

    I'm glad you've decided to go with a PowerBook, but I would recommend going with the 17" if you said you were finding your 15" iMac too small - I'm pretty sure they use the exact same screens.
  21. andrewfee macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2004
    Edit: strange, I managed to double post and only clicked the button once.
  22. 8calavera8 macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2005
    argh, i was so hoping, that nobody saw what i wrote... :(

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