The 12" PowerBook Blues...

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by BLewisMaltz, Jan 15, 2004.

  1. BLewisMaltz macrumors newbie

    Jan 15, 2004
    Is anyone here an advocate of the 12" PowerBook, or is this machine ultimately the Laptop of Regret?

    I am torn between the 12" and the 15". Quite frankly, I like the smaller and more compact design of the 12", but am nervous that while it's screen won't bother me when writing, it will be bad news for watching DVDs. But the difference in price between models pretty much allows for a 12" and a killer external display. Is there any drawback to using the 12" with a external display, such as it's graphics card simply not being to handle the picture quality the external display could theoretically support? Does that make any sense?

    I'm not in graphic design, digital video editing, or anything of the likes. I'm a writer, and this puts me in an interesting quandry; technically I don't need anything more then a word processor, but I do want a good quality machine that will last me for a long while, allow me to enjoy some recreation (watching DVDs, etc), and be capable of upgrading if some killer new tech comes along that needs not warrant a new computer (thus, the lack of expandability on the 12" versus the expansion slot on the 15" is food for thought. But what the heck would I even need that option for, anyway?).

    So is there anyone who thinks the 12" has all a non-professional digital video editor really needs? Or is the 15" all that and a bag of chips?

    Also, I know it sounds like the display problems are all solved on the 15" but were they ever around on the 12"?

    Many, many, many thanks in advance for any help, advice, or common sense you could give me on this subject. I'm getting one or the other, but I just can't figure out which.
  2. hugemullens macrumors 6502a


    Dec 15, 2002
    The 12" is everything and more. I use my old skool one for FCE, Photoshop, and all the goodies with no problem. I mean its not a dual G5, but its more than enough for most anyone. DVD's look fine to me, i have had no problems with external displays, they look great even high res. Only annoying this is it can get old typing in word after 4 hours staring at the small screen. But i love my powerbook. The expansion slot on the 15" is only a pc card slot, and there isnt a lot avaible for a pc card slot. I dont think you will be upgrading much of anything other than ram no matter what powerbook you get.
  3. FriarTuck macrumors 6502


    May 26, 2003
    Chicago area
    Aside from the expansion question, which I really don't see as much of a question on any PB at this point, a 12" will meet your needs just fine as you describe them.

    That said, there are times I'd like to have more real estate to move from app to app or doc to doc more easily. Expose has lessened that craving somewhat.

    And now everything bigger looks cartoonishly large to me.
  4. MoparShaha macrumors 68000


    May 15, 2003
    San Francisco
    I have a 1 GHz 12" PB, and love it. I regularly use it as a desktop with Bluetooth mouse/keyboard, and a 21" monitor. I run the resolution at 1600x1200 without a hitch. It looks as good as my dual 1.25 G4. The only weak spot of the 12" in my opinion is the graphics card. The card in the 15" is far superior, but not worth the $400 premium. The weakness only really applies to games, which it doesn't sound like your interested in. Go with the 12", you'll love it, plus have extra cash for a nice display.
  5. joker2 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 19, 2003
    DC area
    I'll chime in here as a 12"pb owner! The 12"ers never had the whitespot problems. I haven't had any of the "hot enough to fry an egg" problems with the palm rests. Hooking it up to an external monitor has been no problem, and the additional mini-DVI to S-Video/composite adapter does quite well.
  6. oingoboingo macrumors 6502a


    Jul 31, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    Another satisfied 1GHz 12" PowerBook owner here. For the uses you describe (writing, watching DVDs) and of course standard web stuff like browsing and e-mail, the 1GHz 12" is more than adequate. The 12" screen is of good quality (although sometimes I wish it could be brighter), and you will have no problems at all driving an external display.

    The 32MB GeForceFX 5200 graphics chip has enough 2D grunt about 1000 times over to properly drive the 12" screen and an external CRT (at high resolutions). The downfall of the FX 5200 is with 3D games and other intensive 3D apps. I'm not quite sure what nVidia was thinking when they released the FX 5200, because in some benchmarks it is beaten by the previous generation GeForce 4MX...and the GF4MX was widely criticised when *it* was released for being an underperformer. Check out for a huge video card benchmark roundup. The news isn't good for GeForce FX 5200 owners.

    That said, if you're not doing a lot of 3D gaming, then it won't be of concern. Expose animations render fluidly, DVDs play without a hitch, and like I said, any graphics chip manufactured in about the last 7-8 years has got horsepower to spare for 2D work (even on multiple screens).

    The 12" PowerBook form factor itself is brilliant...probably the best part of the notebook. Small and compact, absolutely fantastic keyboard, and solidly built (no chassis flexing at all). It does get a little warm sometimes, but not uncomfortably so (certainly nothing like the stories you read from some Rev A 12" PB owners).

    The only things lacking in the standard configuration are RAM (256MB isn't really enough for a serious OS X user...get at least 512MB. If you're running more than a few large apps at once you won't regret the RAM upgrade), and an AirPort Extreme card (but of course depending on your requirements, WiFi might not be necessary).
  7. MacRAND macrumors 6502a


    May 24, 2003
    Phoenix AZ USA
    12" PowerBook Blues...

    You have analyzed the situation perfectly. Compare all models at:
    If compactness is premium, then the 12" is your choice. You may want to upgrade some things:
    $200 more for the SuperDrive is a good investment and you should get most of that back out when you trade or sell. With only a Combo, it's really just a metal cased iBook G4. :(
    $50 more for the 60GB Hard Drive (minimum), or $125 for 80GB if you think you'll need it. OS X eats space & you only get 1 HD.
    iSight is an awesome addition for only $149
    AirPort Extreme gives you freedom around the house that will quickly spoil you, work, print, access internet anywhere; get the one with antennae; check Apple DEALS for $50 off refurb
    ALWAYS get AppleCare extended warranty for any laptop, you have 12 months to pay; if new to OS X, get it now.

    If you watch DVD movies during flights, the small screen really won't bother you; pay $299 for the amazing Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones - nothing comes close. Compact 12" size is way easier to handle on a plane and in transport.

    BUT, my eyesight is getting too poor for a 12" PB or iBook, so I have to have 14 or 15" minimum. My next laptop will be the 15" 1.25GHz PB which is loaded. I would not get the 17" unless my employer (not) would fly me 1st class all the time; and, like you, I'm not a video editor - they need the extra real estate for sure. I will pay extra for faster 5400 rpm larger drive (N/A on 12"). Also, need backlit keyboard (N/A on 12").

    I sync my cellphone using Bluetooth, could print with it, use wireless keyboard or mouse, it's new tech; can't live without AirPort Extreme card. Print on the road using extremely compact and well built Canon i70 mobile printer with extra battery and dock, great photo quality prints, excellent printed pages on 24#. With a Cannon i30 or better scanner, it's a full tech Office on Wheels.

    So, if your eyes are good and you travel a lot, go 12".
    Otherwise, the 15" has a lot to offer and the PCMCIA port is a primary port to new technology (N/A on 12").
    Regardless of which PB you chose, it's a Mac!
  8. jamdr macrumors 6502a


    Jul 20, 2003
    Bay Area
    Maybe you should consider something bigger

    I think it's interesting that you said you think the 12" display would be fine for typing, but not for watching DVDs. I've had a 1 GHz 12" for a while, and the reason that I don't like it is because I think it's too small for typing for extended periods of time (but never had a problem with the screen when watching DVDs--after all, you are right in front of it). The first few weeks I had it, I thought it was great. But after I had to sit down at it to write an essay for a few hours, I realized the drawbacks of the screen size. If writing is going to be your main activity, you may want to consider the 15" PB or the 14" iBook.

    That said, if you will mostly be writing while the PB is connected to a bigger, external monitor, you should just go ahead and get the 12" and save yourself some money. I find that for virtually all other things, the 12" is great. Personally, I do regret buying it because I don't have another display to connect it to, and if I did, there wouldn't be a problem.
  9. ExoticFish macrumors 6502a


    Dec 3, 2002
    The inner depths of madness, aka Kent, OH
    Anyone who has read posts of mine knows that I am madly in love with my 12" PowerBook. I had a 15" TiBook and sold it to get the new 15" AlBook. I was stuck using a 12" PC laptop from work for a couple weeks and ended up getting used to the size of the machine and how portable it was. There are things I miss about the 15" but there are so many advantages to the 12". Portability being number one. I carry this thing everywhere I go practically. One thing I love about Panther is the ability to play DVD's on an secondary monitor. When at home I always have a second monitor hooked up and usually when I watch a DVD or something I'll put it up fullscreen on the secondary (larger) screen and keep doing whatever I was doing on the PowerBook. Great stuff.
  10. virividox macrumors 601


    Aug 19, 2003
    Manila - Nottingham - Philadelphia - Santa Barbar
    it seems all these 12 inch owners are coming out of the woodwork. I WISH we 17 inchers could be so fervent. sniff sniff
  11. veedubdrew macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2002
    Los Angeles, CA
    I love my 12" PowerBook!! It's gorgeous, fast, runs cool and is great for watching DVDs. Exposé makes the 12" screen tolerable, but I use my 17" iMac for video editing.

    My Little Al turns heads everywhere too. I've had two random people at Starbucks come up to me and proclaim their love for the book.

    What else? The keyboard is good, it's light, it's easy to schlep through the airport... It's a great machine!
  12. jasylonian macrumors regular

    Sep 25, 2003
    my spacebar squeaks, i have a half-dead pixel, and my 12" is still the best computer i've ever owned. i love travelling with it since it's so amazingly light and in no way unwieldy. it fits on tables in coffee shops and you still have room for your coffee (this was not always true with my bronze G3). you might want some extra RAM (which i did) to make everything just a little bit nicer.
  13. pdrayton macrumors member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Boston, MA
    My 12" PB is awesome!

    If you can get the SuperDrive, do so. I've got the combo, probably should've gotten the SuperDrive, but even with just a combo my 12" PB is much more advanced than the iBook.

    Many of my friends have 15"PB, and were skeptical of my getting only a 12" screen. Now that they've taken mine for test drives they're hooked and want to "upgrade" to the 12"!

    Viewing DVD's is easy. I have no problem viewing the screen for Word processing.

    Aiport Extreme card is a must... with a laptop so portable you just gotta get the AE card so you can be connected most anywhere you go. I find Airport reception on the 12" far outperforms the 15" & 17".

    Oh, battery life is outstanding... since the "battery update" I now get 5 hours of continuous use.

    You'll love the 12" PowerBook!
  14. Sabbath macrumors 6502a


    Sep 18, 2003
    I love my 12" too. I have a 20" cinema display I use it with when I'm at home and it runs it just great, although I dont use it for 3D stuff so I couldnt comment on that. I wouldnt watch DVDs at home on the 12" screen but on the road (on your lap) its just great for watching DVDs.

    The thing I miss when just using the 12" screen is the ability to use multiple windows all at once ie copying from one app to another, iChat windows and productivity apps at once. Exposé has solved the prob of using lots of apps at once by not viewing multiple apps. The 15"'s other big plus is the graphics card, I dont use my PB for gaming (I have a gamecube and xbox for that) but if I did Id go for the 15".

    The 12" is wonderful for travelling watching DVDs doing basic work etc, however if youre gonna be doing any serious stuff on the road I'd seriously consider the 15"
  15. FriarTuck macrumors 6502


    May 26, 2003
    Chicago area
    Five hours? I doubt I could get five hours with my main and backup batteries combined.

    And I've done all the updates and the full drain and all that.

    What am I missing?
  16. joker2 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 19, 2003
    DC area
    I don't get 5 hours, but I get somewhere near 4 and a half if I've got airport & bluetooth off, the screen dimmed a bit (to 2/3 instead of full).

    With Airport on, I generally get about 3-3.5 hours per battery charge.
  17. musicjon macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2003
    Nashville TN
    Love it

    I received my 12" three weeks back. I love it. It's solid, beautiful and fast enough for my basic pro-audio needs. Get Airport Extreme, and the HD upgrade, I'm glad I did.

    It does help that I have an external 17"LCD for the desktop stuff.

    I get about 3 hrs of battery time with basic use that doesn't touch the hard drive much. If the HD keeps spinning for things like BitTorrent or recording, the heat goes up and the battery goes more quickly.
  18. hugemullens macrumors 6502a


    Dec 15, 2002
    I;ve had mine for 10 months, i use the battery a lot and i get around 3 1/2 hours still. I got close to 4 with airport on, bluetooth off, and screen brightness about a 1/3 when it was new.
  19. r6girl Administrator/Editor


    Staff Member

    Sep 6, 2003
    i've had my 12" for about 4 months now and love it. i wanted total portability and i just love the size. it's more than adequate for what i need (web surfing, word processing and presentations when i bring work home, cd/dvd burning). no video editing or lots of gaming here. airport is excellent. dvd watching is just fine. i will say, though, that word processing can get a tiny bit frustrating on such a small screen - i just like to see more of the document i'm working on without straining my eyes to see tiny text. but that's my only tiny gripe. i get good battery life for what i use it for, and have a spare battery anyway (got a brand new one off ebay for $60!) just in case.

    the 12" is all i need, and while the 15" is very attractive, i didn't want the larger size, and i won't need the expandability of the pc card slot.

    good luck!

  20. Pants macrumors regular

    Aug 21, 2001
    I have both - a 15" al book and an old 12" pb. I have to say, I prefer using the 12" - its more portable for a start and I havent had the screen 'issues' i had with the 15". I dunno, but it also seems more robust. Get an airport card, one of those neoprene 'skin' covers and external monitor and you're laughing.

    One thing though- i do find the dock really annoying on the 12" - screen real estate is (obviously) limited and the number of times of accidently opened up an app is amazing. Just for the 12" pb, I'd like the ability to turn it off.
  21. joker2 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 19, 2003
    DC area
    Have you tried setting the dock to auto-hide in the dock preferences? That helps me occasionally. It'll still be there if you go to the edge of the screen, but will stay out of the way otherwise.
  22. powerbookje macrumors member


    Jun 1, 2003
    same here, 12" rev A maxed out, beautifull machine! My father has a 1.25 PB, but it is BIG compared to my little Al...The first time I saw the 12" in the store I was like "wow! , this is gorgeous". battery life is 3 hours :( (10 months old)
  23. pdrayton macrumors member

    Jan 15, 2004
    Boston, MA
    Upon receiving PB I fully charged, ran it dry until it went to sleep, then fully charged it. Do that about once a month.

    I turn off Bluetooth, turn on Airport, and do web surfing, word processing, run 8 widgets, iChat and dim screen to "2 blocks to the left of the middle" (that's using the F1 key) and get 5 hours.

    I regularly get 5 hours battery life doing the above WHEN the temperature is room temp (about 70 F). Cooler temps ... 50's ... diminish battery life. And, since it's been down to -11F here in Boston even a quick dash to the subway which is 3 houses away with my PB wrapped and packed gives it a chill that shortens battery life (Still easily get 4 hours though).

  24. superbovine macrumors 68030


    Nov 7, 2003
    ok no mention this stuff.

    here is the skinny.

    obiviously the trade between the 12" and the 15" is speed and size.

    ok... here is the when you buy what ever powerbook at least get 512 mb, but buy from a 3rd party like it will a lot cheaper.

    the next is you are a writer. the 12" will suffice however, having a bigger screen will make you more productive in writing, because you read of at one time. you said you were be getting an external monitor so that will make up for on desktop top. on the go, you will be stuck with the 12" at 1024x768 which is an average resolution. with the 15" on the there will be a little more real estate to do you work on. i think this will be the biggest factor that will effect you directly.
  25. chicagdan macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2002
    Chicago, IL
    A lot of great comments here, but since I'm a writer, let me just say that I've owned many laptops in my day (PC and MAC) and the 12" PB is the first computer that I've ever used that seems like it was designed for writers. The size, weight, keyboard -- everything feels exactly right. The small, crisp screen is perfect for writers, very intimate. I've never felt like I was "lugging" my PB anywhere, it becomes a computer you just casually take everywhere, just like a little note pad. I'd rather someone steal my Infiniti G35 than take my PB away.

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