PowerBook 5300: The Real PowerBook

The concept of Luddite Mac appeals to me at the gut level, because I am temperamentally resistant to change. When I have found something that works well for me, I’m happy to stick with it and reluctant to move along to the next big thing.

Luddite MacPowerBook 5300: The Real PowerBook

Charles W. Moore – 2002.04.01

The concept of Luddite Mac appeals to me at the gut level, because I am temperamentally resistant to change. When I have found something that works well for me, I’m happy to stick with it and reluctant to move along to the next big thing.

PowerBook 5300This is why I’ll probably never find a computer that grabs me emotionally as much as the PowerBook 5300 did and still does. The 5300 wasn’t my first Mac, but it was my first portable, and I discovered – in about the first five minutes after taking it out of the box – that I’m a portable computer guy.

For me there was something just right about the 5300. I loved its size, its styling, and even its fairly hefty weight. There’s something reassuringly substantial about a diminutive object that turns out to be heavier than it looks. Ever pick up a Krugerrand?

Even though my base-specification 5300 had only a passive matrix grayscale monitor screen, I even liked that. Of course, I wouldn’t have objected to the bright and jewel-like, 105 dpi, 800 x 600 TFT monitor of the PowerBook 5300ce either, but there is something soothing and comfortable about passive matrix LCD screens that appeals to me.

“But the PowerBook 5300 is a slow as a lame dog,” you might object. Okay, by today’s standards the 5300 is slow, especially if you try to run any system later than OS 8.1 on it. However, back in 1996 it didn’t really seem that bad, and the 5300 was actually quite tolerably lively running System 7.5.5 and using contemporary software like Word 5.1, Eudora Light, and Color It! 4.

I prefer the general feel of the 5300 to that of any other laptop I’ve ever tried. The light-touch, positive click of the trackpad button is much preferable to the simultaneously stiff and mushy feel of my later, G3 Series PowerBooks trackpad buttons, and the palm rest ergonomics are better, too, although I must concede that the 5300 keyboard is mediocre compared with the lovely keyboards on my WallStreet and Pismo. However, I do like the way that the tops of the key caps on the 5300 keyboard are recessed to the level of the palm rest surfaces.

The dual-USB, 12.1″ screen iBook has about the same footprint as the PowerBook 5300, is not radically dissimilar in styling, and offers performance that blows the 5300 far into the weeds. However, the iBook still falls short of the true PowerBook mystique, while the 5300, despite some shortcomings, is a full-fledged PowerBook, complete with a removable module expansion day (we have a Zip drive, a second hard drive, and a floppy drive for ours), two PC Card slots, a full set of classic PowerBook connectivity ports, 16-bit sound in and out, video out including monitor spanning, and an infrared port.

For me, the 5300 is and always will be the real PowerBook benchmark.

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