Which G3 PowerBook to purchase?

Discussion in 'Apple Collectors' started by CooperBox, Dec 23, 2015.

  1. CooperBox macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #1
    I think I've got as far as I want to with my iBook Clamshell collection - until another nice example turns up....;), so I'm now turning my attention towards 2016 when I'd like to find a nice example of a G3 Powerbook.
    But which model?
    I recall reading here that the Kanga is one of the most sought after, but as I'm in Europe I guess the chances of finding one are pretty slim.
    If I understand correctly the Pismo is a model that is highly respected, and I think may be at the top of my hit-list. Again probably difficult to find, and priced accordingly when they do appear.
    Here are two other possibles that I've seen for sale locally:
    i) A model 540c which looks in remarkably good condition, with the description, "In very good condition, functioning, but lacks the charger. Price is equivalent of $54. I've contacted the seller and he's willing to share the shipping costs within Europe (approx $10). So total price $60 max.
    ii) A G3 with 333MHz/512KCache/64MB/4GB HD/8MB Video/CD - 1999, which I guess is the 'Bronze'. Looks good from the photo, with a description, "Good condition, works perfectly." Price is the equivalent of $43, so I guess max $50 with shipment.
    I'd be grateful to hear any words of wisdom from you specialists here. If these are worth following up, given that my objective is to have an additional piece of Mac history, in good condition & for occasional functioning - certainly not as a 'working' machine.
    Or would I be better off saving the money and putting that towards a Pismo when one comes on the market? And no doubt would be more expensive.
    I'd also like to know in your experience which of the G3 Powerbook series one can still find spares for, and are relatively 'workable' when it comes to parts replacement.
    Cheers.
     
  2. MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #2
    For servicing, I'd stay away from the original PowerBook G3 "Kanga" (the one that looks like a PowerBook 3400).

    I'd also steer clear of the first model flat PowerBook G3 "Wallstreet" (the one with black a keyboard) - In my experience, a lot of internal modules are potential failure points, and they're not too nice to take apart.

    The bronze keyboard PowerBook G3s (Lombard & Pismo) are very nice to work on, and I've only seen rare failures of CPU cards. Don't expect working DVD drives or batteries. With these two models in mind, you might want to consider if you want a SCSI port (Lombard) or Firewire ports (Pismo), which differentiates between the two models. Both have USB ports.

    The Bronze Keyboard models both have a common problem of appearing to be completely dead when left un-powered for many many months. This often requires removing the internal battery and performing a power manager reset with an AC Power Source, and they spring back to life. Thankfully on these two models Apple made disconnecting this internal battery VERY easy. :)

    The above points are from experience gained when these machines were new, up until about 6 to 10 years old. I don't have very much experience with them as "aging machines".

    If you plan to run MacOS X, I'd be getting a Pismo 400Mhz, and preparing to get at least 512MB of RAM and a 7200RPM hard drive.

    As for parts availability, I really have no idea. Certainly batteries and DVD drives may be high on your list, as would RAM and a 7200RPM drive. There is a possibilty of replacing the DVD drive with a much later non-Apple mechanism that suits the tray nose (not all makes and models of drives will physically allow fitment of the drive tray nose panel). See http://www.jax184.com/projects/pismo/matdvdmod.html

    The AC Adapter from iBook Clamshells also fits all the PowerBook G3 machines, provided they supply the sense power on the outer shell, otherwise they may not charge the battery.
     
  3. bunnspecial macrumors 603

    bunnspecial

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Kentucky
    #3
    I have an example of every variation of G3 Powerbook, although I only managed to pick up the Kanga a week or so ago.

    I largely agree with MacTech's thoughts. I wanted a Kanga to complete my collection. From a collectibility standpoint it's one of the best models, but if you want to use it you'll find yourself handicapped. The RAM is specific to the 3400/Kanga(aka 3500) and maxes out at 160mb. I was fortunate to get it already maxed in mine, as the modules are tough to find. It has the dubious distinction of being the only G3 powered Mac that doesn't support OS X, although there are ways around this. With the limited RAM, though, I haven't even installed OS 9-it came to me with a fresh install of OS 8.6, and I plan to leave it there.

    The Pismo is the newest and fastest of the bunch. It will hold up to 1gb of RAM, which is great for running OS X, and also is the only PB G3 that officially supports Tiger(it can be installed on the Lombard without too much trouble).

    Personally, I find the Pismo the most well rounded and useable of the bunch, and is what I'd hold out for if I only were going to have one.

    Also, the point about dead PRAM batteries is very valuable. Many "dead" computers can be brought back to life by unplugging the PRAM battery. VGA TiBooks are like this also(although the battery is harder to access). I've revived a couple of 400mhz TiBooks that were free or nearly so this way :) .
     
  4. CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #4
    Thank you both for your replies, which has helped, and definitely given me food for thought.
    I have several thoughts. I cannot help wondering if your absence of a mention for the Powerbook 540c is because it's now hardly worth bothering with.
    My attention was drawn to the 540c after reading an article Insanely Great Macs, with a summary of The Top 10 best Powerbooks of all time. 2nd place went to the Powerbook 540c, with the Pismo in top position. I guess it's possible that the article is no longer valid, or is it?
    Do you feel I could regret the purchase of a 540c, and if so for what reasons?
    Obviously if I did get the one I mentioned, it would (hopefully) be followed up by a Pismo in 2016.
    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  5. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #5
    I have a 540. It is interesting if you are keen on playing with System 7.x but it has a few disadvantages.
    First, most versions you will find are B/W, although you seem to have found a colour version.
    Second, the power adapter is a one off and not cheap to buy. If it dies, look at importing one from the US for about $25-30 delivered.
    Third, RAM is in modular form and not easy to find. Most 5xx laptops I have seen for sale have only the stock 4MB on board. Oddly enough, I have found France to be a good source of obscure Apple memory if not necessarily the cheapest.
    Fourth, the hard drive is SCSI. This is a big deal and really limits storage, which is likely to be a meagre 80MB. I managed to find a working 210MB hard drive quite cheaply but the average price is very,very high and I had to buy blind with no guarantee of working capability/no bad sectors. Given the age of these drives, very few are in decent operational condition and the rest are on their way out. You can get SCSI to mSATA adapters but these go for over €100 each. You have to really, really want a 5xx series to spend that given the limited capabilities of the notebook. Probably cheaper to look for another 5xx or similar and hope for a working HDD if yours dies.

    Out of the rest, I would go for Pismo -> PDQ -> Lombard -> Kanga in that order. As MacTech68 said avoid the 1st gen Wallstreet. Those were plagued with electrical problems, although mine seems to be mercifully free of those so far. I also have a G3 1400 but that was a CTO/Upgrade. The 1400 series has arguably the nicest keyboard of all the Apple notebooks depending upon your taste. If you want to play with Rhapsody, then you will want to concentrate on the Kanga and PDQ.
     
  6. MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #6
    I love the old "PowerBook 500 Series". Recently there was a 520C up for sale locally with a 167Mhz NuPower PPC Upgrade. I couldn't justify it, sadly.

    I always wanted one with a PCMCIA adapter module but since they had a lot of I/O choices already, I only ever saw one.

    I did discover a way of reviving dead batteries. There's an 24C04 (or similar) EEPROM on the circuit board in the top behind a clipped in panel. Replacing the chip allowed the old "Battery Recondition" to ask for the serial number prefix, which I believe denoted Panasonic or Sony battery cells, and reprogram the IC.

    As weckart says, there are many drawbacks with rare, unique spares, and given that PowerBook G3 Bronze machines share parts with other Apple and NON-Apple laptops (like memory, hard drives and optical drives), the added fact that the Power Supplies were used on G3 Series machines as well as iBook Clamshells, it's a little obvious which might be easier to maintain for the near future.
     
  7. CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #7
    Many thanks again for all your information. I now have a better appreciation of what to aim for, and will keep you updated on any purchase.
    Have a great day tomorrow in Perth, Kentucky, or wherever you may be spending Christmas! (We've been having summer-like weather here in S.W. France. Amazing)!
     
  8. CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #8
    I thought you might be interested to hear, it looks as if I have a rather nice G3 Pismo in my sights. Just made an offer which has been accepted - the basic 400MHz model with 10Gb storage.
    The owner is currently traveling so if things go according to plan, probably a few weeks away from showing off a new 'toy'.
    Exciting times!
     
  9. CooperBox, Jan 15, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016

    CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #9
    It's here. Arrived today! Looked very good in the ad that was posted, and the condition was even nicer than I could have imagined. A few blemishes on the palmrest which I'll hopefully get used to.
    Still amazed that I was able to find a good one so rapidly.
    Here are two quick photos on un-packaging. Will detail a few more over the weekend, together with my initial reactions after booting, and my 1st Pismo hands-on experience.
    Many thanks to both of you for your inputs, which certainly guided this purchase.

    Pismo1.jpg

    Pismo2.jpg
     
  10. MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

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    Australia, Perth
    #10
    Compared to what I've seen, it's in great condition! Congratulations! :)
     
  11. CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2010
    Location:
    France - between Ricard & Absinthe
    #11
    After a quick clean (it really didn't need much), here are a few additional photos below.
    Have now tested it, and everything functions beautifully, even the HD (IBM 4200rpm) is amazingly quiet and appears pretty rapid.
    I unplugged and re-made the PRAM battery connection, and so far have 4 green lights on the indicator, so I may have a reasonably serviceable battery too.

    Pismo3.jpg

    Pismo7.jpg
    Pismo4.jpg
    Pismo5.jpg
    Pismo6.jpg

    I have just removed the lower 64Mb RAM module, and installed 256Mb to the same location. The upper held 128Mb which remains until I can purchase and add 512Mb to both.
    Think I'll wait till max RAM is installed before installing OS Tiger.

    - OS 9.0 was found installed. Are there notable benefits or bug fixes in raising this to 9.2?
    - Regarding RAM. On Amazon.fr who I would normally buy from, I noted that 2x 512Mb sticks were listed at more than I paid for this PISMO! This was ArchMemory brand (never heard of them) with life warranty, but methinks not cost effective. At the other end of the scale is Komputer Bay brand (anyone with any experience of this?) which is pretty cheap and also listed as having life warranty. Kingston may also be available, priced between the other two, so maybe the best bet.
    -Regarding upgrading to a 7200rpm drive, I like the idea of this. Could anyone please recommend a precise make and model?
    You can probably guess, that I'm enjoying this new toy immensely.
    Cheers
     
  12. MacTech68, Jan 17, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016

    MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #12
    Looks very nice & clean. Amazed it came with the original bundle CDs - it's obviously been well looked after.

    Regarding RAM, I've not heard of those names before, just make sure they are stated as fitting a Pismo. A minimum pf 512MB should reveal the fastest the machine will run MacOS 10.4, but max-ing it out to 1GB is worth doing.

    If you plan to have MacOS 9 on it, I would highly recommend taking it up to 9.2.2. 9.0 had a number of flaws to avoid, and 9.2.2 also brings OSX classic environment compatibility.

    For a 7200RPM, I could recommend a HTS721010G9AT00 100GB. They keep showing up on eBay and are dropping price. IIRC the largest ever made in a PATA 2.5" was 120GB.
     
  13. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #13
    I have a 160GB in my Pismo, which has half the capacity of the largest WD Scorpio Blue that used to be available on eBay up to a year or so ago, unless you are thinking solely of 7200rpm HDDs.
     
  14. MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2008
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #14
    Shoot - I never knew a PATA 2.5" 160GB existed, although I'd prefer a 7200RPM over 5400 or 4200.

    Still, you could also go for a 60GB or and 80GB but the price differential is becoming negligible.

    What's the model number of your WD?
     
  15. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #15

    I think it was WD1600BEVE although you should be aiming for one of these. Amazed these are still available, even if used.

     
  16. MacTech68 macrumors 68000

    MacTech68

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    Mar 16, 2008
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #16
    Just found a WS3200BEVE 320GB PATA, manufactured in 2013. I never realized ANYBODY was still making them so late! :eek:
     
  17. CooperBox thread starter macrumors 6502a

    CooperBox

    Joined:
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    France - between Ricard & Absinthe

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