PowerBook 12" Review


macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 18, 2004
This review is based on the PowerBook 12" 1.5Ghz SuperDrive model, which includes 512 MB RAM, 80 GB Harddrive, and built-in AirPort Extreme and BlueTooth 2.0. The retail price for this model is $1699, and the combo drive model of this is $1499 and comes with a 60 GB harddrive. All references to PowerBooks in this review are of the latest revision models.


Overall, the 12" has a great design. Everything is positioned nicely, nothing seems intrusive or out of place, and everything is very sturdy, especially the keyboard. Only 2 things about the design that were slightly negative to me at first (I got use to it pretty quickly): 1) the USB ports are on the left side (I'm right-handed), and 2) (this is coming from a long time Windows user) Apple did not implement the Home and End keys into the keyboard, like they did with the Delete key (I believe they could have easily been implemented as function-shift keys).

EDIT: Thanks to Jsmit for pointing this out. I didn't see it myself, but the PowerBook does have the Home and End keys. Just hold the Apple/Command and use the left (for Home) and right (for End) arrow keys.


Weight can be an issue for that heavy traveler. At 4.6 pounds, its a little heavy compared to ultra-light PC laptops. Unless you are use to an ultra-light, you should not find the weight to be an issue at all.


Though the screen is not as bright as other computers, it is quite vibrant compared to other comparable Windows laptops. I actually prefer the screen to be less bright because its easier on the eyes. As for screen real estate, it may be a little small for some people, but in my opinion, Expose more than makes up for it.

The graphics card should be more than enough for most users, and enough to get decent-to-good gaming, if you plan to play some high-end games i.e. Unreal Tournament 2004 (on low-to-medium settings).


The internal speakers are not very powerful at all. They have decent sound quality and will be enough if you're just spend a nice quiet evening alone at home. If you move around with it constantly, invest in headphones, and possibly some decent speakers for your home.


The performance on the PowerBook is excellent. I have rarely had a slowdown, and if I do, its because of lack of RAM. Though the 512MB of RAM is enough for most users, if you do intense work, you definitely want to upgrade the RAM. (I'm going to order a 1GB stick for $200 from Newegg).

AirPort Extreme/BlueTooth

The AirPort Extreme reception is very good on the PowerBook. Unless I'm a considerable distance from the router/AirPort, I get a consistent 3-4 bars. As for the BlueTooth, I have yet to test it on my PowerBook, but I have seen others use it with their PowerBooks and they had no problems (for the record, they were using the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Mouse).


The PowerBook 12" has a modem port, an Ethernet port, a FireWire 400 port, 2 USB ports, a Mini-DVI port, a line-in/microphone port, a headphone jack, and a security slot, all lined up on the left side. These ports cover all the bases for most people. If you have several USB peripherals at home, an investment in a USB hub would be good idea.

The track-pad scrolling is a nice little feature. It takes a while to get use to having it, but after a while it becomes second nature. Some people will want to slow down the scroll speed, because, in my opinion, the default is a little high. As for the Sudden Motion Sensor, I have not had an instance to test it, and I would prefer to keep it that way. :)


Heat is a very minor issue on the PowerBook 12". It will get a little warm depending on the usage but not to the point where it gets unbearably hot/hurt you.

Who should get one?

In my opinion, the new PowerBook 12" is a great buy. Any business travelers or college students who needs or wants the extra power over the iBook, and/or they have extra money to spend on it (and do not mind the screen real estate), should seriously consider investing in a PowerBook 12" especially with the Educational Discount, because the price of PowerBook 12" Super Drive model drops down $200 from $1699 to $1499. I had to decide whether to go with an iBook 14" SuperDrive or a PowerBook 12" SuperDrive for college (I start next fall), and I am very happy with my decision.

Excellent investment (especially with the Educational Discount), if you don't mind the screen real estate, the weight, or the sound quality from the internal speakers.

I have a post up about this on this forum. Here is the link:


A quick list of suggested extras:
- AppleCare for PowerBook (use student discount if possible)
- 1GB RAM Stick (shop around for this)
- Headphones/Speakers
- Screen/Keyboard Protectors
- A case (I have an Incase Sleeve, so I can slip it into my backpack when I need to)


macrumors 68020
Jan 21, 2005
Nice choice dude... :)

I shall be ordering a book very similar to yours in the near future (2 to 3 days). :) :)


macrumors regular
Sep 10, 2004
Nice review. You should find that the Apple key + up/down arrow function as home and end do in most cases. Glad to hear you enjoy your PowerBook.


macrumors member
Feb 25, 2005
good job on the review.... planning to get one too in 1 or 2 weeks
hows WoW performance on the 12" ?


macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 18, 2004
yuck said:
hows WoW performance on the 12" ?
I don't have WoW right now (I plan on getting it ASAP), but my friend has been using his one-year-old iBook for WoW and it ran fine, so I imagine that it would run just as well, probably better, on the PowerBook.


macrumors 6502a
Nov 3, 2004
Near London
Nice review mate, can you tell me what kind of battery life you get out of the 12" for just browsing/word processing/emailing with Airport on?
My biggest gripe with laptops is the lack of battery life, but i have found that Apple laptops have exceptional battery.

Tom Morello

macrumors newbie
Jun 12, 2004
I'm hoping on buying a Powerbook in the Summer, they've seem to have come down a bit in price, is this because they're being replaced with a G5 or something soon?
Also, I'd either be getting a 12'' or a 15'', does anyone know how the 15'' compares?
And also, is WoW online only or does it have an offline mode?


macrumors regular
Original poster
Dec 18, 2004

I generally get a little over 4 hours of battery life with around 3/4 brightness and sound muted for web surfing and word processing. If I had the brightness down, I could likely pull of close to the 5-hour mark that Apple claims.

Tom Morello,

In terms of value for money, the 15" is about as good a value as the 12" for its features and connectivity (ports and such). The higher cost of 15" is due to the added features, such as the FireWire 800, Gigabit Ethernet, Backlit Keyboard, etc. In terms of performance, the 15" is only slight better than the 12" unless you get the 1.67 and max out the RAM, though it will take away a bit of the battery life from what I have seen (Apple battery numbers are 5 hrs max for the 12" and 4.5 hrs for the 15"/17").

In my opinion, the performance and/or the screen real estate should not be the only reasons for getting the 15" over the 12" (unless you REALLY can't stand a small screen). You really need to consider all the extra features on the 15", which include:

- FW800 - most peripherals/devices, if they use FireWire, will likely be FW400, which the 12" has. (The iPod uses FireWire 400, for example, and its probably one of the most common devices out there.)
- Gigabit Ethernet - unless your on a corporate network, most networks out there are 100BaseT, so I doubt you'll use this to its fullest capacity.
- Backlit Keyboard - always nice to have and you'll appreciate it (it would be nice if the 12" had it but oh well :p )
- PC card slot - most people just use this for a wireless card in the PC world, and I've never heard of anyone making good use of this in the mac world (unless their jobs are very specific).
- S-video port - plug your PowerBook into a TV and watch a DVD, or do other stuff. (I really don't know how this could come in handy otherwise).
- more powerful CPU and GPU, and a higher RAM maximum - (unless your doing very intense work/gaming, the 1.5 and the NVidia card should be enough).
- Screen size - like I said for the Backlit Keyboard...

If you plan to use 2/3rds of those extra features often enough, then I say spend the extra money on the 15" (and try to get the edu. discount if you can); otherwise, the 12" should suit your needs just fine.

And WoW is strictly online. Sorry.

Demon Hunter

macrumors 68020
Mar 30, 2004
To add to what gamestriker has said...

S-video is essential if you're working with a camera that doesn't use the Powerbook's firewire port. Good quality for VCR, TVs, etc, but not as good as optical/digital.

FW800 really shines with new gen hard disks (250GB+). I've used my PB with the new LaCie drives and the transfer rates will blow you away.

As gamestriker already noted, most networks are 10/100 BaseT. But the larger networks (universities, institutions, corporate) are starting to use it. If you do find a place to use it, though, it's amazing.


macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2005
Just want to mention that I find that 512mB isn't enough for me.

When I have itunes, mozilla, ichat, and iphoto on, I often get the spinning beach ball. At least more so than I would hope. I guess it's time to upgrade the RAM for me!


macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
Location Location Location
Well I have an older 12" Powerbook 1GHz (rev B), and I love it. Its fast enough for what I do. The battery life is getting quite crap (2.5 hours on medium brightness, Automatic CPU setting), but its over 17 months old now, so it may be time for a new one!

I'm thinking of getting a 15" over a 12" next time because the 15" is widescreen, great for dealing with 2 documents at once. You just can't do it on a 12" PB with this resolution. If Apple makes a 13" widescreen, then I'd get one now!!!


macrumors 68020
Dec 24, 2004
Finally I have arrived.....
PB 12 & 15

I just bought a 12" PB SD and I like its portability. I travel quite often and I would like to take my Mac with me. My 15" is too large for carrying along all the time. So, this new 12" will fit the bil nicely for me. Specs are alsmost the same as my 15" Al PB. I like the new track pad's scrollng feature very much.


macrumors member
Mar 18, 2005
Problems with portable mice?

gamestriker said:
The PowerBook 12" has a modem port, an Ethernet port, a FireWire 400 port, 2 USB ports, a Mini-DVI port, a line-in/microphone port, a headphone jack, and a security slot, all lined up on the left side. These ports cover all the bases for most people. If you have several USB peripherals at home, an investment in a USB hub would be good idea.
Hmm, so being right handed, my beloved Logitech Notebook Optical Mouse Plus (with wrap-around cord) might have some trouble reaching around the back of the computer then, is that right? The cord's only about 2' long.

I imagine that could cause problems with all travel oriented mice (with short retractable cords) . . . well, if you're not a devil-spawned lefty that is. ;)

That's too bad if it's true, the portability (and lack of batteries) or those mice are great.
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