What is necessary in a new PB?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Mac|Photo, May 6, 2004.

  1. Mac|Photo macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004
    I am going to be heading to Europe soon for study/work abroad, and I will be getting a new PB, my first Mac :D

    I was playing around on Apple's website during lunch and I was just wondering what exactly is necessary on the new PB? I am looking at a 15" PB, just trying to figure out how to order it.
    Should I "upgrade" the 512 to a single stick? Is that worth $100? Although I would like to play games, I don't know if a laptop can really handle them...is it worth spending extra money to upgrade to 128mb of vram? Superdrive or Combo? etc....

    Any opinions you have are more than welcome, and I know this sort of things probably gets asked frequently, sorry about that :p. I read around a bit and didn't find one recently with these sorts of options.

    Oh, mostly going to be used for general internet purposes, and photography type things, like editing, viewing thanks to included iLife, etc...no real video besides watching movies, but no editing of video...if that info helps at all. I am currently a PC user and "require" my computers to be fast...so I was definately thinking 1.5Ghz...but feel free to talk me down if you think it would make more sense.

    Thanks again in advance all.
  2. dragula53 macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2003

    depends on how much money you have, really ;)

    if you plan on putting 1.5 gig of ram into it, by all means, upgrade to the 512 single dimm. don't, however, buy your ram from apple. buy it from www.crucial.com

    if you want the extra 10% frame rate on 3d games, get the radeon 9700 with 128 meg of ram.

    I personally prefer portability. 12" powerbook *drool*

    but that's my recommendation.

    get what you can afford, but buy your ram from somebody else. moo.
  3. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    I have had a good look at your requirements, but it appears the main use for the powerbook will be study / work which would generally be word processing and perhaps spreadsheets, with general internet use. You state that you will not be doing video editing, and light photo editing (you mention iPhoto rather than Photoshop). The Superdrive only really comes into its own for video editing and iDVD unless you have a lot of files you need to store on DVD. I recommend that you don't need the superdrive. If it was not for your gaming requirement I would have suggested that iBook may be a better option for you.

    Do think carefully about games for Mac, as although some of the key titles are available for the Mac, the range is much more limited than the PC and they are released about six months after the PC. The Mac is not a good gaming platform for this reason, and if you do plan to do a lot of gaming, I would consider if a PC might be the better option. If it was not for the fact that you said you were traveling, a console and iBook may have suited you very well.

    Because you are not planning to do heavy photoshop or video editing work, I don't think extra RAM above the initial 512 MB is critical, although I would recommend that you pay the extra for the one dimm.

    Adding the extra ram on the video card and increasing the hard disk speed to 5400 are probably worth the extra, especially the video memory for games. However if you only play games once in a while it may be overkill for your other requirements.
  4. satty macrumors 6502

    Mar 1, 2004
    You can't beat Wellington on a good day
    Additional RAM is all you need

    In my opinion 512 MB RAM is the minimum a computer should have.
    If you want to use programs like iPhoto and a Photoshop I recommend 1024 MB RAM or more. Otherwise work is transforming into torture.
  5. BrianKonarsMac macrumors 65816

    Apr 28, 2004
    the laptop is more than capable of gaming, wit a 128 9700 you actually have a very nice portable game machine. The most ESSENTIAL add-on is ram, if it were my computer, i'd max at least one slot (i.e. a 1 GB Stick) so that if i ever wanted to max out the ram in the future, i wouldn't have an extra 512 sittting around. Upgrading to the 1 DIMM is a must tho, it shouldn't even be an option.

    If your dead set on the 15" versus the 12" I think the 128 megs is a MUST as well. It can't be upgraded later, and for $50 it's worth the peace of mind alone. Everything else can be changed later on. I'd recommend the base 4200 HD and upgrading to a 7200 on your own.
  6. Mac|Photo thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004
    I will be using the PB mostly for productivity use, school/work/editing/etc however games are a nice afterwork thought. I have looked into the games on the Mac, and I realize that the selection is not as vast, and release usually comes later, but that is fine because the games I really wanted are already out, so its quite alright, but thanks for the heads up.
    I will be using Photoshop once things get rolling, not just iPhoto. I will probably purchase Elements for lack of extra cash and a basic non-requirement for the other features that the full blown Photoshop provides. That said, does Elements use less resources than full? Or is it simply a lesser feature set?
    Secondly, the recommendation to upgrade to a 7200rpm harddrive later, seems like wise info however is there a second bay for a harddrive in this laptop or would I essentially be swapping the one out to replace with the other?

    Thanks again all, I really appreciate it!
  7. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    Elements is basically a stripped down consumer version of Photoshop. If you have large multi layer files that you are applying effects to then the basic processing power and memory requirements would be the same. With Photoshop lots of memory helps, more so than processing power.

    I would recommend the 15" 1.5 GHz Powerbook with the additional graphics memory and hard disk upgrade. The hard drive is not a user replaceable item. While it is possible for end users to do it, it is nothing like as easy as replacing a hard disk in a desktop computer, and will invalidate your warranty. I believe there are some resellers that will do this for you, but I suggest you take the apple upgrade and don't mess with the 7200 drive, while I am sure that some people have fitted this drive and have no problems, Apple may not have allowed this as a standard option for a reason (extra power drain and heat). The new powerbooks have not been in the field long enough to tell what the long term effects of a higher rated drive may be. For a machine this expensive I would not want to take the gamble.

    If you are going to do lots of photo editing I would not consider the 12", while I am sure it is fine for some people I would prefer the extra screen space for photoshop (or elements).

    As I said before I would save some money and configure the Powerbook without the DVD burner, unless you think that you may need it in the future.

    Hope this helps your decision.
  8. papersushi macrumors regular

    Nov 14, 2003
    128MB Video RAM upgrade is a must-have. only cost $50 to double the video RAM. That's a steal.
  9. aswitcher macrumors 603


    Oct 8, 2003
    Canberra OZ
    I agree completely. Get it just to give your PB a longer life and better resell
  10. Mac|Photo thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004
    Build option

    I just got the a-ok to head to Europe, leaving late September or first of October tihs year. I have to get this PB on its way so I can learn it before I go, this is my first Mac afterall :)

    So this is basically what I am taking from all of you:

    -15" PB 1.5Ghz (15 is what I want....)
    -single 512mb system ram
    -128mb vid card
    -5400rpm 80gb HD
    -combo drive (for lack of necessity on dvd burning)

    On the Apple website, through student pricing, I can get this setup for $2299.
    Are there any other ways to save some more money on this system or is that as cheap as I can get it? :confused:

    Thanks again, and feel free to comment on the setup too.
  11. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    Your configuration looks good to me, I would go ahead and order, you will only save money by reducing the spec. Report back when you receive it and let us know how you have got on, I am sure we would love to hear.
  12. Mac|Photo thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004

    So I was bumping around on Apple's website during lunch and realized that there is quite the large difference in price and performance between the 12"PB and the 15"PB. I knew that the 12 was less money, but its significantly less, but the feature set is down too.

    Anywho, I guess I was looking for experiences with either the 12 or the 15 PBs and what you think. Basically doing photo editing, website design, general apps and surfing of course, and perhaps some basic vid watching and whatnot, but that should be easy. Here is what I was looking at:

    12"PB 1.33Ghz -$1782 student priced
    -512mb single stick (at 333mhz)...shoot, was just about to post and realized you can't do this! its 256 built in...and then upgrades...dangit! so now at 768 with the 512 stick in there...price reflects that now at 1782 :(
    80Gb 5400 rpm
    GeForce FX Go 5200, 64mb ddr vid. ram

    15"PB 1.5Ghz -$2299 student priced
    512mb single stick (at 333mhz)
    80Gb 5400 rpm
    R-9700 128mb ddr vid. ram

    Combo on both...and planning on upgrading to 1Gb of ram, just not from apple cause they charge a lot :p For that price difference...is the Radeon worth that extra cash? and does 1.5Ghz G4 make a leap over a 1.33Ghz G4? I guess I just never really looked into it, but thats $700 bucks I could spend on cases, BT mice, software, etc.
    Is a 12" screen big enough to do stuff or is hard to manage all the windows!?

    Dang... I was going to order later today too....now I am stuck with what to do :confused:
    Ok, last line, I promise! I have been trying to read up on AppleCare as well...is it a MUST? or just a nice thing to have for the faint of heart? Its quite a bit of money more...and its already costly to switch over...I am really getting killed here in the wallet :(
    Any and all words...let them fly
  13. James Craner macrumors 68000

    James Craner

    Sep 13, 2002
    Bristol, UK
    If you can, I would try and look at these machines in person. A lot of this is about personal preference. Both these machines are really nice.

    As far as Apple care is concerned you can add this at any time in the first year, and I would recommend that you do, laptops if they go wrong after the 1 year warranty are very expensive to repair.
  14. bryanc macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2003
    Fredericton, NB Canada
    Tough decision. Basically, this comes down to how much you can afford to spend. Qualitatively, you will be able to do everything you want to do with the 12", but you will be able to do it more comfortably on the 15". What you have to decide (and you have to decide this without knowing in advance) is wether the minor irritations of having to work on a tiny, somewhat slower system, will add up to $700 worth over the time you use the computer (say 3-4 years). Keep in mind that the tininess of the 12" is also a *feature*...you can't find a more portable computer with that kind of power anywhere.

    But for me, the 15" is the better deal. I've been running photoshop almost constantly for the past two years on a 15" 667MHz TiBook, as well as a lot of other fairly other computationally intensive packages. I do a little coding, a lot of surfing, iTunes is running constantly, lots of Word/Excel, and a surprising amount of gaming (Warcraft & Neverwinter Nights mostly, with a few other games now and then). I also use my TiBook for watching DVDs and modest video editing with iMovie. I can't begin to express how much I love my TiBook. This was my first Mac since my Apple ][ back in 1978, and it's been the best (and most heavily used) computer I've ever owned.

    I'm sure you'll be very happy with either the 12" or the 15", but, my advice to you is to spend as much as you can afford (+10%) and get the best machine you can. You won't regret any extra expense when you get your PowerBook.

  15. Diatribe macrumors 601


    Jan 8, 2004
    Back in the motherland
    It's a problem that a lot of people seem to face(me included). The difference is about 500€ so it is definitely not a marginal one. I guess what it comes down to are two factors.

    First, how portable do you want to be? Do you want to carry it around with you everywhere(meaning cafes, parks, etc.)? Or do you carry it just to one place and back home? If you do the latter, the 15" is more than portable.

    Second, Games. The 12" is significantly slower at gaming due to the worse video card. That said, some people have been able to run UT2004 all right. So it's a matter of preference.

    For me it is three things:
    I do have a 22" CRT at home which I am going to sell because first of all it's HUGE, second it gives me a headache and red eyes and third I am abroad a lot.
    Which brings me to my second point. I want to be able to look at a decent sized screen when I am in another country or elsewhere. It's not even necessary to do a lot of photo editing (which I do occasionally) the 12" just doesn't quite fit my style of using a computer and although expose helps heaps it's just a little annoying having a 12" when you have some chat windows, a browser window, your buddy list and word open. And this is WITHOUT using photoshop. With that it's just a tough game.
    Third thing is that I do play an occasional game and although the 12" plays games it's far from superb and the screen size just takes away the fun of the game.
    Since I am not going to carry it around from place to place but rather from my home(wherever that is at that moment) to work, or to college and back home. The 15" is awsome.
    Because it is a bigger investment you should be holding on to this for at least the period of your AppleCare(which you should get just before the end of the first year of your purchase) for it to be worthwhile.
    And another word on RAM 1GB is enough. No need to get the 1GB stick.
    And I have to agree, my current 12"ibook is the most heavily used computer I have ever owned. And I started a LONG time ago :D (286ers)
    Another word on battery life... the 15" gets between 3 and 3,5 hrs. compared to the 4-4,5 hrs. the 12" gets. That might be something to consider too. For me, although spoiled with the almost 5 hrs. I get from my ibook, 3-3,5 hrs. is fine.
    Hope that helped you, I know it's tough I spent countless evenings thinking about it, after all it's a $2000+ purchase.
  16. bryanc macrumors 6502

    Feb 12, 2003
    Fredericton, NB Canada
    I agree with the comments on AppleCare. It's a reasonable price to pay for peace-of-mind, especially after your 1 year warranty expires. Buy AppleCare 364 days after you buy your PowerBook.

  17. Penman macrumors regular

    Jan 27, 2004
    Let me be 'Dad' and give the oldest truest advice about buying a computer. Work out what you intend to do with the computer and then buy a computer that can do that. It'll determine how much to spend far more easily than weighing hypotheticals. It comes before everything including deciding it's going to be a Mac.

    I have a 17" PB and the screen resolution's low even on that. If real estate's a concern all the PB's are weak. I'd suggest you simply commit to an external monitor if you get desperate (tubes are so cheap now it's a joke).

    This is really bad advice. Sorry Bryan but that's just terrible. You spend the least you can in order to meet your needs and, as long as you've been realistic to begin with, you'll never worry about what you've bought.
    That said - his advice on Applecare is spot on. It's way overpriced but it's peace of mind.
  18. tomatobush macrumors newbie

    Apr 21, 2004
    I just bought a Powerbook 15 inch and found myself asking the same questions. I decided to go with the standard hard drive and video processor. I also decided to go with the super drive over the combo. For memory I chose to switch the 2-256 RAM's to 1-512. I bought additional memory from crucial.com, installed it myself and it runs great. It feels good knowing that I saved over $200 by doing a little work myself.
  19. abc123 macrumors 6502

    Apr 26, 2004
    12" screen is big enough for word processing and other everyday internety things.
    i'm getting a bit frustrated with the smaller screen as I’m using the powerbook as a desktop replacement. I never noticed when I used a 12” ibook purely as a laptop but editing pictures is hard on such a small screen as is managing lots of windows, even organising spreadsheets in excel, and I’m yet to really try out garage band because I get too annoyed by the lack of screen space.
    I still wouldn’t give up the portability of the 12” model, I’m waiting now for a price drop on the cinema displays :) and shopping around for other screens.
  20. arnette macrumors 6502


    Nov 22, 2002
    Manhattan Beach
    me too!

    I'm kinda in the same boat as you, I'll be studying in the UK for a phd soon and I'm taking over my computer (an ibook). But what I would recommend to you is a 12" Powerbook. Spend the money on extra RAM and AppleCare (which you'll have a disc. for through your student connection AND it will cover the Apple-installed RAM). Go with a combo drive because the Superdrive is only necessary for video editing.
    More than likely, you'll be wanting a better computer in 2-3 yrs anyway so don't think of it as the system you'll have for a lifetime... the un-obtainable 'perfect system'. Get a machine that will do everything you need it to (12" for portability, especially in a school; wireless card; lots of RAM for photo work, MS Office if you can't get it through your school) and you'll be much happier in the end.

    It's fun to play with the specs so that it's a screaming machine, but if you don't truly use the 128MB of VRAM, etc., then it's just wasted money. Beer money, if you will.

    Good luck! perhaps we'll cross paths.
  21. Mac|Photo thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004
    Can anyone provide a reason that the 128mb of vram is necessary? I know that for only $50 ($45 student discount) its a great deal, but is it a true necessity if all I plan to do is some photo editing (probably in elements) and the normal chit chat, word processing, excel, whatever.
    The other thing would be to get the 1.33Ghz 15 because even optioned out (slightly less options than 1.5) it still totals a few hundred cheaper, and if I won't even be using the extra video, then there is no point in spending $45, as cheap as that sounds.

    Is there a large difference between the 4200 and the 5400 rpms drives? is that worth another $45?

    Thanks again all, this will be the first Mac, just trying to make sure its a near-perfect experience...atleast as much as I can influence it :p
  22. Ozi macrumors regular


    Apr 9, 2004
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Well at such a low price, it is a good upgrade, if only because it will hold its value if you ever want to resell the computer. Also, the Radeon is a FAR better Graphics Card than the Nvidia, especially with twice the Ram.

    Now in terms of performance differences, the 1.33 and 1.5 are fairly similar in terms of performance... The 1.5Ghz has a maybe 10% advantage in X-Bench tests over the 1.33.

    However it is not the performance difference which matters too much. The main thing about getting a 15" over a 12" is the larger screen size, and higher resolution available. If you are doing photo editing, the 15" gives you more screen real-estate and better resolution. Also, a 128 Radeon video card can put out far more graphics than a lowly 64meg Nvidia.

    The specs of my 15" are below:

    • 1GB DDR333 SDRAM - 1 SO-DIMM
    • 1.5GHz PowerPC G4 w/ 128MB Graphics Memory
    • 80GB Ultra ATA drive @ 5400rpm
    • Combo Drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW) (downgraded from Super drive; i dont need it.)
    • AirPort Extreme Card
    • Backlit Keyboard/Mac OS
    • 15.2-inch TFT XGA Display

    I think that more RAM never hurts, its just a personal choice as to how much you can afford.

    SO yeah, get a 15" for the better screen, get a 128meg for the better graphics capability, get a 5400 RPM for the quicker day to day operation.

    And save the $275 AUD by downgrading the superdrive to a combo. :p

    Good luck deciding!

  23. Mac|Photo thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2004
    Well in all reality I have a very nice and powerful PC desktop that I can use for most photo editing and other intense software applications. This will be my first laptop as well as my first Mac, and in thinking about it, perhaps as you stated above the 12" will be ample enough to suffice my wants. I will be using this as a desktop replacement only for the three-five months I am in Europe, and after that point when I return to the US I will have this solely as my laptop, and the actual intensity of usage will drop off a little bit.
    I have all the Adobe suites and full issues on my PC for photo editing and the like, so I am now wondering if a 12" might suit my needs (plus save me money!)
    Who knows :p, its all just nervous anticipation...I have to order this thing in the next week or so :D
  24. kgarner macrumors 68000


    Jan 28, 2004
    I disagree. Not about the AppleCare, get it definitely. But either get it when you buy the laptop or at least with in the first 90 days. I believe that AppleCare covers a few things that the 1 year warranty does not (International support comes to mind), but if you have problems of a software variety they will charge you $50 a call after the 90 days.
  25. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    This page at BareFeats shows speed tests comparing the extra video RAM and 5400rpm hard drive upgrade. He recommends both for $50, which I completely agree with. The 128MB VRAM upgrade for $45 is a very good investment... since upcoming games will require 64MB, and recommend 128MB, you should get it just so your graphics card doesn't become limited by VRAM. The graphs there clearly show how much of an improvement you see with the 5400RPM drive, its a MUST.

    Also, this page shows comparisons between the 15" and 12" Powerbooks. They are the PB 1.5 9700 and PB 1.33 GeFX52 (12") on the graphs. You can draw your own conclusions from that, but Halo shows a very large gap in performance between the two, and I don't think the 15" in that test had 128MB VRAM.

    Read all of his conclusions, the guy knows what he's talking about, and happy hunting. :)

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