Should I get a PC Laptop?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by jamdr, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. jamdr macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    I haven't really thought all of the details out yet, but I'd thought I'd get your guys' opinions on this. As some of you know, I currently have a 1 GHz 12" PowerBook G4. Well, to be honest, I haven't been very happy with it.

    When I set out to buy a laptop about three months ago, I talked to an Apple salesperson at the Apple store at length about my needs. I said that my main concern was speed because the reason I was buying a new computer was to crunch some data for a new project I would begin soon. I told him that I would need to keep the computer on for extended periods of time using virtually 100% of the processing capabilities. Obviously, he recommended the G5, but I also wanted something extremely portable. In the end, he told me that the 12" PowerBook was my best option because it combined both power and ultra portability.

    But this computer is far from being powerful. My project is being distributed among several computers (all laptops) and the PCs are kicking my butt. Plus, it gets extremely hot after being on for about a day, so much so that I feel I need to shut it off to give it a rest and cool down. Not good for my business.

    Recently, I was using a PC laptop with Windows XP, and it's actually not that bad. I had never used XP before, but once I did I realized how far Windows had come since 98, which is what I had the most experience with. So, should I ditch this awful machine and get a laptop with windows? If so, what brand/model is recommended? I still want a small portable with a good amount of power...

    Thanks for your input.
  2. abhishekit macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2003
    akron , ohio
    well...wats the ram of your pb? is it i gig..?
    i seriously doubt that a 1 gig pb can lag ...and your problems would be solved with a windowz machine...and the price of the additional ram would always be lower than the new machine...
    and seriously sucks roommates have xp...infact one of them has centrino...and my humble g4 ibook kicks its ass so much that he hates his machine :D
    so i would suggest just max out the ram...but again..i am totally ignorant of the 'project' you are i may be wrong..but thats my honest opinion...
    and if you really wanna get that..i would say go for ibm thinkpads...but really think again :)
  3. Apple //e macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2003
    Re: Should I get a PC Laptop?

    get an ibm thinkpad t-series with pentium m. do not get a p4 mobile.
  4. Balin64 macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    In a Mauve Dream
    YES! Get a PC Laptop. That G4 PowerBook Sucks

    I will kindly and reluctantly take it off your hands. E-mail me and I will give you my address... Tell you what, feeling your pain, I will pay for FedEx shipping. It's the least I can do... I will make sure that "awful" laptop gets what it's got coming.
  5. abhishekit macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2003
    akron , ohio
    Re: YES! Get a PC Laptop. That G4 PowerBook Sucks

    :D :D :D :D i am rolling on floor man...
  6. MoparShaha macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2003
    San Francisco
    Honestly, you should have gone with the 15" 1.25 GHz PB. I have the 12" and I know what you mean. Can't you just sell the 12" and buy a 15"? There are rumors the 15" will be either updated or price dropped in the next few days....
  7. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Wait--and keep the G5 in mind

    Excatly. XP is "not that bad." That's not good enough for me--and the FUTURE of OS X vs. Windows is even more in OS X's favor. (Longhorn 2008 vs. Mac OS X version 8?) And I wouldn't touch Windows with a 10 foot pole after all the horror stories of virus attacks (lost data, lost privacy) among people I know using that swiss cheese OS. Even the latest versions.

    Then again... if you stay off the Internet, my biggest reason not to touch Windows is gone. And if you don't really use it personally, but simply let it run data on its own, that removes my second reason :) A PC laptop, maybe running Linux if you don't demand Apple simplicity, might be a fine number cruncher, with occasional secondary use as a portable. A bottom-end PowerBook like yours is not the top number-cruncher in the laptop field, if that's your number one priority.

    My best advice though, is wait for a G5 PowerBook (September? who knows). You have a laptop that does the job now, and buying right away will get you less speed than waiting. And Windows can't equal OS X. It's OK--no more than OK--when it's working. But Windows downtime and troubleshooting is someplace you don't want to go :) Likewise Window security... Windows privacy... and Microsoft's fingers in your life.

    Plus, by waiting, you'll feel like you got more life from your PB purchase :)


    1) Set your PowerBook's processor to Highest (not Automatic) in Energy Saver Prefs.

    2) Load up the RAM.

    3) Don't run a bunch of other stuff--like a fancy screen saver (Computer Name is fine)--while your Mac crunches.

    4) Run Panther--for speed AND features--if you aren't already.

    5) Don't let the computer auto-sleep (except for screen and HD) and don't shut it down when it gets hot. It can take it--or if it can't, you've got a defective one and need service! Just set it on a hard surface for ventilation and let it crunch. Thin and aluminum = portable and durable. BUT it does conduct heat. (And don't think that PC laptops don't get hot!)

    6) Don't judge your 'Book by a single app. (But if it's THE main app you need speed from, that's a legitimate issue.) Apple's laptops are the best on the planet and have many bragging rights--but in raw speed alone they are not currently the top. Nor are they slow--but your model is the low end. (I love my 1.25 15" AlBook. Definitely exceeded my expectations.)

    Do NOT buy a cheap PC laptop like an eMachines or low-end Dell. They are cheap for a reason. I (and many others) have been burned--my eMachines tower died three times--and the third time was right after warranty expired. Dell laptops have a massive failure rate (the cheap line, anyway). Apple on the other hand has the lowest failure rate in the industry (despite human nature, which makes people only post if there's a problem). That fact (and Apple having the most effective service) comes from a large Consumer Reports study of computer makers.

    And when comparing other laptops to Apple, note all the features they are MISSING. Gigabit ethernet? Bluetooth? Nice 3D board? Look at the details. (They may, of course, not be as important to you as raw CPU speed.)

    Another option: you have your portability for now... so add a cheaper NON-portable system for number crunching alone. Wait for the new G5 desktops (can't be TOO long now) and get the low end (or the lowest dual, if the app supports that) and you'll blow away a laptop for price/performance.

    It's really a personal call--but be careful about thinking Windows is "good enough" on initial impressions alone.

    Good luck whatever you choose! I use both platforms and own a PC too (which sits unused since Virtual PC does the job when I need to test Windows apps)... but obviously I have developed a clear preference for one platform :)
  8. oingoboingo macrumors 6502a


    Jul 31, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    Re: Should I get a PC Laptop?

    A 12" PowerBook is NOT a combination of power and ultra portability. Yes, it's ultraportable. But powerful it ain't. You'd have to be pretty deluded to believe that a 1GHz G4 offered anything much in the way of processing grunt these days. Sure, it's plenty for the typical day-to-day uses that an ultraportable might encounter (ie: web, e-mail, office apps, light graphics work), but G4s simply aren't competitive with anything recent from the Intel/AMD camp in terms of raw number crunching punch. I have a 1GHz 12" PowerBook and I think it's great, but I know better than to get into CPU performance pissing contests with anything in x86 boxes. Any Athlon XP system will shame the G4.

    Have you thought about the 'shoe box' form factor PCs which are gaining popularity these days? Shuttle is one of the most notable manufacturers of these. They are quite portable (obviously no permanently attached screen though), but you can configure these types of systems with the just about the fastest Pentium 4 or AMD chips you can lay your hands on, with large hard drives and fast graphics cards which will cream just about any laptop you care to drag up.

    Apart from that, there are already Athlon64 based notebook systems on the market. Although these systems aren't small (don't expect anything as elegant as a 17" PowerBook), they pack an insane amount of processing power.

    BTW, what type of data processing are you doing? Floating point intensive? Integer? Memory bound? Disk I/O bound? CPU bound? Can your project run on Linux, or is it only available on Windows and Mac OS X? It's hard to pick the best solution if we don't know any of the problem details.

    BTW, I don't know if it's necessary to shut off the 12" PB just because it feels hot. As long as you are running it in a well ventilated area on a desktop (ie: not sitting on a couch or carpet or something), the machine's own cooling system should keep everything running within spec. Yes, the casing does get quite warm (warmer than your average plastic shelled x86 notebook), but that's because the alumimium case is more efficient at radiating internally generated heat out of the notebook (rather than being an insulator, like plastic is). I've left my 12" PB running stuff like SETI@home for extended periods (about 24 hours at a stretch) and no harm came to it.
  9. jxyama macrumors 68040


    Apr 3, 2003
    are all of your companies other laptops, those "kicking your butt," ultracompact as well? if so, why not get one of those?

    mind you, there's only so much power an ultracompact laptops can offer. they will not be as powerful as other not-so-compact laptops.

    btw, if the machine is constantly sitting there crunching data, why do you need an ultraportable? regular laptop won't suffice?

    i don't have any problems with my 12" PB but my needs are obviously different from yours. if you notice significant performance increase with other laptops, then you should go for PIV laptops - because it seems like battery life isn't much of an issue for you, no? and they should not be as expensive as pentium-m's, no?
  10. jamdr thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area

    Thanks for all of your input. I didn't mean for the project to sound top secret or anything, but I myself don't know much about how it works. I'm working for a group conducting research in biotechnology, and custom software was designed to use distributed processing to model 3d functions of the heart. I'm not sure what "type" of processing the software requires, but my PowerBook doesn't perform particularly well.

    The reason I got the 12" is because I needed it both for work and personal use. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford an iBook and an XServe, so I thought I was compromising with the PowerBook. 1GHz sounded like a lot to me at the time because I was used to an old Performa. Anyway, I do like the prospect of a G5 PowerBook being released soon. I think in the meantime I will try to get by on this thing by maxing out the ram. I really do like OS X, but Apple does need to do something about its portable line, and soon. I think a night's sleep put some sense into me--Windows really is THAT bad:p

    Thanks, everyone.
  11. numediaman macrumors 6502a

    Jan 5, 2004
    Chicago (by way of SF)
    There are three laptops in my house: a G4 PB, a Dell and an IBM ThinkPad (the oldest). The only decently built computer of the bunch is the IBM. The things a workhorse.

    The Apple is the coolest (and has the best OS, of course), the Dell is the fastest. Both break down constantly. In fact the PB is now dead -- having its logic board replaced. The DVD was dead long ago. The Dell dies daily, always something small and stupid.

    I have great confidence that the newest generation of Powerbooks will be fast, with plenty of features, and cool. I have no confidence in the quality control, however.

    Sorry, just an honest observation.
  12. 603 macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2004
    i second the ThinkPad recommendation.

    i also second the comment about quality control on the new PowerBooks.... i've only had mine for a few months and the hard drive has already died. the apologists will come out of the woodwork to say that the hard drive is only as good as the company that makes it, in this case, that's not Apple. ok, true. i've never had a HD die on me before though. and i've been through 6 or 7 ("been through" meaning that i only got new ones for more size, not because they died.) what is Apple's fault is the cheap construction of the 12" PowerBook. rattling latch, anyone? trim popping up around the edges? maybe the 15" and 17" are put together better... and maybe someone wanted to give me another $500 - $1000 to get one too.

    besides, if i would have got a 15" i would have probably ended up sending it back due to the white spot issue (i got my 12" around the time that was happening). the 17" is too big for my needs - i already have two desktops, thanks. i wanted the smallest thing they had to offer. the CPU is OK for everyday stuff - playing games on it is another story. i'm more concerned about its physical qualities than anything under the hood (not including all the quirks of OS X, of course).

    so yeah, if processing time is money for your business, and you have to have a laptop, then the answer to this thread's title is "YES."
  13. rueyeet macrumors 65816


    Jun 10, 2003
    Another thought: if you're the only Mac in this cluster, then the distributed computing software might be optimized for Windows machines. If that's the case, you might not be better off with a Mac after all.

    I too would recommend IBM ThinkPads; they're some of the best quality PC notebooks in the business. And while Windows XP is indeed that bad, Windows 2000 has all the stability and a fraction of the irritation (as far as Windows can go in not being irritating, anyway).

    The other thing, too, is that your salesperson steered you wrong. The 12" PB is basically an iBook's guts in aluminum clothing with a G4: portable, but a definite compromise in power. I don't have the specs to hand, but they're not a match with the larger PBs. A 15" or 17" would probably do a bit better. Check out Macworld's benchmark comparisons of the various systems.

    Or there's always the much-longed-for, as-yet-nonexistent G5 PB.... :D
  14. IndyGopher macrumors 6502a


    Nov 3, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    Re: Wait--and keep the G5 in mind

    Um.. we're on OS X version 10.3.2 right now..
  15. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    I know Apple's official, obscure naming, but in reality Panther is the third (arguably fourth) version of Mac OS X, and calling Panther version 3 of OS X makes informal good sense. Calling it version 10 of OS X may be accurate from a trivia perspective, but makes less sense :)

    Comparing 10.8 to Longhorn is misleading to many who don't get that Apple uses "point" releases differently from other companies--so I phrased things in a more universal way.

    Really, if Longhorn IS delayed to 2008 (I know... it might be 2007!), and Apple upgrades once a year (not that they need to), OS X would be in its 9th release, not counting Public Beta.

    Re G5 PowerBooks: the new G5s in Xserves are much cooler than expected. If that trend continues, maybe G5s will become portable sooner that the fall?
  16. jamdr thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    You're right!

    You know, this is what makes me the most mad at Apple. When I talked to the sales rep at the Apple store, it was obvious I didn't know much the computer I was buying. I told him that I would need to run it at maximum processing settings for many hours at a time, and he told me that the PowerBook would be fine for that. Well, it's not. The case started to warp slightly from the extreme heat, so I called Apple and they told me that the 12" PowerBook is not designed to do intensive processing tasks. That got me extremely angry!! I paid a lot of extra money to get the PowerBook over the iBook because the sales rep told me it would be able to handle the type of work I needed it for. But now Apple tells me that it's not designed for that? Then how can they even call it a PowerBook?!? So I told the customer relations person at Apple that I felt I had been misled into believing the PowerBook would be able to handle "power" work, when, evidently, it can't. Her only response was that I should sell it on eBay and get a different computer. (They did replace the warped casing, by the way.)

    Some of you are probably thinking to yourself it should have been common sense that I couldn't run the computer that hard. But it isn't. Apple markets the PowerBook to professionals to use for professional work. That's what I was using it for. And now I'm stuck with this consumer-level PowerBook that had a high price tag for inadequate specs. Now I'm getting myself angry all over again! :mad: I think I will look into the ThinkPads...
  17. Mantat macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2003
    Montréal (Canada)
    I have to agree, IBM make great laptop but they cost WAY more than anything of the same quality from Apple and they are heavier.

    My call would be see if the application is HD bound. if it is, just getting an external FW HD could solve the problem. IF its memory, get more ram. If its processor intensive, see if the code is optimized for a particular platform and buy a desktop of the same kind.

    Macs perform very well when the code is optimized for them, if its only ported from the PC, they wont be as good as they could.

    What ever you do, dont buy a PC laptop. You better spend your money in upgrade for the PB or a desktop server.
  18. Richter macrumors member

    Sep 22, 2003
    Re: Re: Should I get a PC Laptop?

    what's the difference? does not the 'm' denote "mobile"
  19. 603 macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2004

    > You better spend your money in upgrade for the PB or a desktop server.

    well, he said that the case is warping due to the heat generated by this processor-intensive task - the PowerBook is obviously not going to cut it. in one of the earlier posts he was also saying that he has to use the computer for work and for personal stuff, so a desktop server isn't going to cut it either. i mean no offense at all, just offering a correction.

    as for the ThinkPad being more expensive and heavier, i didn't have to dig very deep on the IBM site to find the X-series ThinkPads, starting at $1,349.00 and weighing just 3.6 lb... that's cheaper and lighter than even the 12" PB. the T-series (most expensive) weighs 4.5 lbs. (1/10 lb. less than the 12" PB, fwiw) and starts at $1,499.00.

    i just called IBM myself, out of curiosity, and you can indeed get Windows 2000 instead of XP, even though it doesn't look like that on their laptop customization pages.

    gee, i never thought i'd find myself defending ThinkPads over PowerBooks, but here i am...

    this "power" vs "PowerBook" thing reminds me of a guy in the Apple Store once... some mall in Massachusetts... i asked him how fast the SuperDrive in the 12" PB was, just to see if he was going to BS me... it was right there in the brochure, i just wanted to see if i could trust him, if he knew his stuff. incredibly, he said, "i'm not sure of the exact speed, but it's... it's.... super!" he also told me that there were no spare FireWire cables in the WHOLE STORE that i could use to see if Mac iTunes would read the files on my FAT32-formatted iPod... he said it wouldn't work, not to even bother... so i sneaked over to a PowerMac and unplugged the cable... sure enough, it read the iPod DB with no problem. same thing happened at another store when i asked the guy (as another test) if PC TrueType fonts were readable on the Mac... he said, "i don't know, but they're great for stuff like that, graphics and stuff." i mean, they're just retail guys, so i can cut them some slack, but nobody should ever take them too seriously... doing the research yourself, online, is always less fallible than expecting a salesman to tell you the truth.
  20. oingoboingo macrumors 6502a


    Jul 31, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    Re: Re: Re: Should I get a PC Laptop?

    Yes the 'M' does mean mobile, but the Pentium M and the Pentium 4M are totally different processors. The Pentium M (aka: Centrino) is essentially a Pentium III that's been tweaked and clocked higher. The Pentium III design generally runs cooler, consumes less power and executes more instructions per clock cycle than the Pentium 4 does. That's why Intel resurrected the design for a mobile CPU. A Pentium M running at 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz can be competitive with a Pentium 4 running a full GHz faster.
  21. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Run it as hard as you want--it IS designed for that

    I do some very high-end Photoshop and animation stuff on my 700 Mhz eMac, which is slower than the 12" PB. The 12" is indeed "suitable" for high-end professional "power" work. That's a fair statement--on top of which "sales people" for ANY company will paint things in the best light. There's nothing shocking to me about what you were told.

    But what does "suitable" mean? It's subjective. Opinion. And the sales person couldn't possibly know the details of the app you would be crunching numbers with. So that subjective statement can't be taken as a hard, specific promise.

    As for the case warping, a PowerBook CAN run all the time, and it IS meant to, and you should indeed have had it replaced. I'm glad you did. And if I were you I'd run it JUST that hard again, while still in warranty, to make sure you don't have a problem again.

    Even a company like Apple (with the best service of any PC maker, according to Consumer Reports) is still made up of individuals, and some of those people will sometimes be wrong, stupid, or rude. The guy who told you your 'Book wasn't meant to run at full speed all the time would probably get in trouble for saying that. Politely but firmly take the matter higher if you get that nonsense from them again. That is NOT the official position of Apple. The person just wanted to get rid of you, sadly.

    Set your PowerBook on a hard flat surface and it can run as hard you want. It's designed to control its own heat--and it's not designed with the intent to fail. Running an app full-time is in no way abusing a computer.

    Sorry to hear you got a bad 'Book followed by bad service, but it happens. The bigger picture, though, is that your machine CAN serve you better than you were told--and you paid your money, you have the right to demand it!
  22. Earendil macrumors 68000


    Oct 27, 2003
    Re: You're right!

    Originally posted by jamdr
    You know, this is what makes me the most mad at Apple. When I talked to the sales rep at the Apple store, it was obvious I didn't know much the computer I was buying. I told him that I would need to run it at maximum processing settings for many hours at a time, and he told me that the PowerBook would be fine for that. Well, it's not. The case started to warp slightly from the extreme heat, so I called Apple and they told me that the 12" PowerBook is not designed to do intensive processing tasks.

    This concerns me. Not that I believe my 1.25ghz 15in is prone to warping of the case, but that Apple didn't offer any other answers to your problem. I can not IMAGINE that aluminum case warping under normal conditions. I use my powerbook for everything from video editing, photoshop work, to 3D games. I also run a temp monitor that sits in the menu, so I get to observe how hot the proc gets under different conditions.

    Under Warcraft 3, with iTunes playing music, my mail in the background checking, and a few chat clients open, I can run the proc at 140-144 degrees for hours without any problems. For comparesen, I've noted the PB running 100-110 while just surfing, 115-130 if I'm multi taksing with music playing. Hard wooden surface, laying flat, in a 70degree room with no ventilation flow. Even SETI doesn't push the proc above 145.

    Yes, the PB is quite hot to the touch, especially the vents, but no problems. I once left Warcraft open, but paused for a night, I hid it away in the background and went to sleep. 8 hours later I woke to find that, for whatever reason, WC3 had kept the proc and/or 3D card active all night, and kept the proc's temp at 140! yet I had no problems.

    I beleive the tempatures the proc/vid card/HD/ram would have to produce to get above 145 degrees, let alone hot enough to WARP a case are extremely odd. After all, these things are designed to function with the lid SHUT if you have an external monitor. They shed heat like an evening at the Pole.

    Anyhoo, just my take.

  23. nagromme macrumors G5


    May 2, 2002
    Same here. My 15" Al is wider and thinner than the 12", and I run it at full load non-stop for folding@home. I cannot IMAGINE the case warping from heat.

    So... perhaps the case warping was NOT heat related at all? Just some other defect? I can't imagine what could cause a case to become warped when it wasn't... but my own experience makes be doubt heat as the cause.

    In any case, caused by heat or no, the warp shouldn't have happened, and the 'Book should run fine at full load.

    To the owner: If you know who at Apple told you the 12" can't be used for intensive tasks, you can probably get them in trouble and save other users the grief of facing the same nonsense :)
  24. krunk macrumors regular

    Jan 29, 2004
    You said it was "custom software" it must be portable or the pc's couldn't use it. With that in mind I'd like to make a suggestion.

    Why not install linux as a dual boot? The advantages would be that you could dedicate 100% of your processing/ram to the program you are running without any being wasted on gui rendering (or anything else for that matter). Since macs use the bsd kernel, your hardware should be fully supported. Furthermore, if you did upgrade your ram to 1gig you could create a ram drive and run your program and kernel completely in RAM from a chroot environment. At least than you'll know the absolute fastest your current set up can do.

    I'm a mac newb so I'm not sure if something similar can be done in OSX. I know it has a bash terminal and fully functional CLI, but I don't think you can boot strictly into the command line. If so, these suggestions may not require the dual boot at all.
  25. Dippo macrumors 65816


    Sep 27, 2003
    Charlotte, NC
    You could always get a cheap slow laptop and connect to a powerful desktop to do all the computations. I would assume both would have permanent internet connections.

    I use Desktop Remote Connection in Windows to run software on my desktop machine when I am away and you could probably do the same with what you have.

    I thought Apple had a similar function in OS X but I don't remember if it was just a rumor or was real.

Share This Page