Powerbook G4 still useful?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by whitedragon101, Nov 20, 2009.

  1. whitedragon101 macrumors 65816

    Sep 11, 2008
    My brother has been offered a:

    powerbook g4 15" 1500mhz, 2gb RAM, 160gb hd, Tiger 10.4 OS
    for £230.

    He asked me should he buy it. I thought there were a couple of issues, and I was hoping you guys more experienced with Macs could give me a second opinion on.

    1) Is a powerbook of this age within a cough and a splutter from dying?

    2) Are there any compatibility problems now that software seems to be designed for Intel processors. For example can Leopard or Snow Leopard be installed?

    3) Would you buy it?
  2. splitpea macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2009
    Among the starlings
    1) I'll leave that question for someone else to answer, but Mac hardware is known for its longevity.

    2) Leopard can be installed on that machine, but SL is Intel-only; you'll probably get better performance out of Tiger than Leopard, though. New software these days is about 50-50 for PPC compatibility -- Mac-only stuff is more often than not compatible; cross-platform stuff leans more and more towards Intel-only.

    3) Not sure about the price, especially in UK currency, but I might consider that laptop at $200-250 if I needed something inexpensive and portable that runs OS X; on the other hand, you might be able to get a first-run Intel Macbook for not much more.

    The laptop should still be very useful for web surfing, email, word processing / spreadsheets, light photo editing, and even light video editing (iMovie, standard definition, no Final Cut or HD unless you want to spend a bunch of time waiting for the computer). You might want to stick with older software, as it will run better on the older hardware.
  3. Eddyisgreat macrumors 601

    Oct 24, 2007
    Forget that. You should be able to find a decent intel box for a little more than that (i.e. first gen/Rev A MBP). Considering that the next gen Macbook would run circles around that and PPC is officially considered a dead platform (from Apple's standpoint) i'd be very leary. That machine is slow as heck anyway.

    If you can haggle em' down to $150 then maybe it'd be a buy, depending on condition, but that's too much for a dated PPC box in this day and age.
  4. Wehrwolf macrumors 6502


    May 21, 2009
    Depends on what he plans on using it for. *Very* light work such as word processing, iTunes, or web browsing would run acceptably on it.
    No one can say for sure. If the hard disk is the factory original, it might be more prone to fail now due to its age. Bottom line is that things wear out as they get old. If something were to fail, you'd have no warranty coverage and would have to pay for repairs out of pocket.
    Already answered.
    For nearly $400 USD? If it were going to be something I planned to use daily for work/school, then no. It might make a great backup computer or guest machine if you tend to have visitors over often (if it were cheaper), but for an everyday use machine I'd try to find a used Intel based Mac.
  5. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    1. If it's been well cared for and is on good shape, no, it more than likely has a good number of useful years ahead of it.

    2. Leopard is a go, and it will run quite well, but new, latest-and-greatest software is getting a bit thin on the ground. There's still plenty out there, but not quite as much as one would like.

    3. I would probably pass, seeing as how it's a 15". If you get a 15" PowerBook G4, get the 1.67GHz version, the final revision.
  6. Heb1228 macrumors 68020


    Feb 3, 2004
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Right, that extra 0.17 GHz will really blow you away.

    I think that's a great deal, especially if its been well taken care of. It'll do fine for most internet stuff. Won't play HD video well, but overall its still a pretty capable machine.
  7. mahoneyjoe macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2007
    Ram upgraded (newer) from 512mb and hard drive also as I don't think 160GB was available originally.
  8. mrsir2009 macrumors 604


    Sep 17, 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    I don't think it'll die too soon. I have a Mac that is 20 years old and still going strong lol...

    Leopard can be installed, but SL can't. It would run best with Tiger though...

    And yes, I would buy it if it was relatively cheap, but I have already planned on buying a new 15" MBP, so I wouldn't right now.
  9. EndlessMac macrumors 6502

    Aug 20, 2009
    I still have my 1GHz 512Gb RAM Titanium PowerBook G4 but only use it as a backup to my MBP. It really depends on what your brother is trying to use the computer for. If he is only using it for light tasks like surfing the internet, checking email, word processing, etc. then it will be acceptable. He might have problems with some Flash video websites like YouTube though.

    He can install Leopard if he wants. Leopard runs decently on my PowerBook but I don't remember if Tiger or Leopard was faster on it. Snow Leopard is Intel computers only.

    A lot of software are still providing universal binaries which means they work on both PPC and Intel but the trend is moving to Intel only. You might want to check now about the applications he must have. The computer will work for now but if he does anything that requires more performance then this PowerBook will probably fall short.

    For what I use my computer for it wouldn't work for me which is why I bought my MBP instead of staying with my PowerBook but if your brother doesn't need a fast computer then it might work for him. The price isn't that bad for a computer of this spec. If he is not wiling to spend that much money then I don't know if he'll find it cheaper elsewhere.
  10. MultiFinder17 macrumors 68000


    Jan 8, 2008
    Tampa, Florida
    Not so much the extra speed, but the final revision included such niceties as Bluetooth 2.0, a higher resolution screen, and the scrolling trackpad :)
  11. MarcBook macrumors 6502a


    Jul 13, 2008
    United Kingdom
    A friend of mine has that exact model PowerBook. Personally, I think it's a pretty good machine for that sort of money. It's still a gorgeous computer and is more than capable of running most day-to-day processes (Safari 4, iTunes, iWork etc.).

    As long as that 'couple of issues' aren't serious (i.e. don't affect functionality), I'd be happy with it.

    Couple of things to be weary of, however:

    - Backlight fade: PowerBooks (obviously) have the older CCFL backlights; all of the PBs I've seen these days have pretty dim displays, especially compared to modern MacBook Pro LED backlights. The machine's backlight could be nearing the end of its life.
    - It's worth upgrading to Leopard: it's going to be quite a while before Mac software becomes Snow Leopard only, but already a lot of stuff doesn't work on Tiger. This particular PowerBook will handle Leopard pretty well (my friend's one does) and it's going to be a long time before Leopard is left in the dark in terms of compatibility. Apple knows that there's still a big user base running PowerPC Macs and Leopard is obviously the last version of OS X they can run. Leopard introduced so many big chances, hence the dropping of Tiger support for most apps. Not so with Snow Leopard, since it's more of a refinement of Leopard.
  12. autumn macrumors member

    Sep 8, 2006
    I just bought a good conditioned 1Ghz powerbook G4 12inch for $135 a couple of weeks ago. I upgraded the RAM to 1.25GB(the limit for this 12inch) and installed Leopard on it.

    For mostly of the stuff I do on this laptop, it's been fantastic. Safari, iTune, iPhoto......all run pretty good on this thing. Like someone mentioned though, G4s can't really do flash video too good on the websites. Like youtube, even Standard definition video looks bad and chopping even if you have high speed internet connection.

    So as long as you don't do heavy video editing, heavy photoshop and etc. The G4 will be just fine if you can find a bargain price deal. The price you listed sounds about right around the ebay prices. You might be able to find better pricing under private sales.

    Personally, I need a small cheap portable thing to last me til I can get a quad-core MBP with good video card. So this 12inch G4 is perfect for its pricing and I prefer the built quality on powerbook G4 than plastic Macbook.

    Also remember maxing out the RAM on those old laptops is the first thing you should do.
  13. zea mays macrumors 6502a

    zea mays

    Feb 10, 2007
    We just bought a G4 12 inch 1.5gHz with 1.25gb ram for $275.00 (US) on Craiglist. We run Tiger on it and it's a great little web surfing computer. Dh travels for work so we wanted something small for him to be able to email, chat and surf. This is perfect! We have run video on it too, without too much problem. The only bummer was Netflix watch instantly won't play with PPC. Otherwise, we've been incredibly happy with it!
  14. stonemann macrumors regular

    Mar 3, 2009
    Am running a mint-condition Powerbook 12" G4 1.33 ghz with 1.25 gb RAM. Recently had a new hard-drive installed. Runs very smoothly after a Leopard update. A big improvement over Tiger. A very capable, slick machine. No problems with Office 2008, web-browsing, watching videos. I even rip and encode movies with it, no problem. These are very well-made machines.

    There's no way of knowing how close a computer this age might be to dying. My hard-drive failed after five years and I thought it worth repairing. Never had any other issues. Hope to get a couple more years out of it. Yes it's limited. You can't run Intel software or do high-end work. But it's a nice solid workhorse and if you know its limitations can be a satisfying computer to own.
  15. iHateMacs macrumors 6502a


    Aug 13, 2008
    Coventry, UK
    They are still very useful machines, but not being Intel will bite you in the bum sooner rather than later.

    I bought a PB G4 from ebay last year but soon after bought a used MBP because I needed the Intel processor. While the PB is still a nice machine to look at, it does feel like yesterdays technology compared to the MBP.
  16. Andre1980 macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2008

    I use that particular PB for more than 4 years as my only computer now, and it is still very stable and very useful. Install Leopard. I also upgraded the HD to 250 GB. To help you with your decision it's extremely dependent on what software and hardware you want to use. Oh, and don't listen to people who's first Mac was a newer Intel and who never actually used a G4/5. They don't know how capable the G4 is.

    I tell you what I use it for and then you might an idea of its "power".
    I use it for work (I'm a cell biologist) and at home for
    - mail, web, Apple/MS office (sophisticated and animated Keynote 09 presentations of 100 MB work smoothly), iphoto, iMovie 6 HD/iDVD video editing (!), you tube (!), watch movies (DVD and avi), transcode using handbrake and iSquint, Skype, photoshop. I have usually 10 to 20 windows open (Pages, Keynote, Preview, Mail, Safari, Papers, iCal, Adressbook, iTunes, some other software) while I work.

    The hardware is great, but I needed to upgrade (DIY) the HDD and RAM. I use Bluetooth a lot.
    What I miss is the iSight for skype ( I use my video camera via firewire) and the Apple remote for presentations.
    And by the way, the trackpad is scrolling!

    So I love my PB G4. But I would by an Intel next time, maybe an Air :)

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