Apple Archive

12" PowerBook G4 an Improvement over 15" Titanium in Most Respects

- 2003.05.23

Well, it's arrived. My new 12" PowerBook G4, that is. I've had it now for about a week, and there are many things I like about it - and some I don't.

When I first carried the box to my kitchen counter, I noticed how light it was compared to the Dell I had been using. Upon removing it from the box and examining it, I found that it seems to be more solidly built than the Dell - and my previous titanium PowerBook G4.

It's only a little bit over an inch thick, so it's really not any taller than the 15" PowerBook I had before, and I think the screen benefits from that. Whereas on the 15" PowerBooks the screen portion is thin and flimsy, the 12" version's screen seems to be a bit more solid.

The screen brightness and clarity is awesome. On my 15" PowerBook, the brightness had to be up most of the way to get a good picture; on this one, halfway is plenty. It is difficult to move from a large 15" screen to a smaller 12", but since the resolutions are similar, it isn't as bad as I feared. Unfortunately I can't read print on it without my glasses - something I could do on my 15" G4.

The 12" PowerBook features a new keyboard, which I think is a significant improvement over the older version. The feel is definitely better, and it seems to give more of a response while pressing the keys. For those who are not touch-typists, the keys are now actually readable - no more white print on a black background. The power button, though, hasn't changed since the older G4, and I still dislike it. I don't like the fact that you have to push down on it considerably harder than you do the keyboard keys - and sometimes I end up pushing it two or three times to turn the machine on, as the first time doesn't always do it.

The speakers are not bad - certainly better than the 15" PowerBook's speakers, which I found tinny and impossible to listen to music through. These aren't great, but for a laptop they're not bad, partly due to the midrange enhancer. Unfortunately, they're not very loud, and I find it hard to hear the BBC News clips in the crowded library at school, even with the volume turned up completely.

The ports on the side are convenient. However, they just happen to be on the wrong side - my printer is on the right of me, as is the external mouse that I occasionally connect. Given that they brought back analogue audio-in (the only major thing that I desired on my 15" PowerBook), it kind of neutralizes the issue for me.

I like the light on the power adapter plug - amber when the battery's charging, and green when it's charged. Most other PCs have had this for some time (my Dell lights up solid green when it's charging and goes out when it's done), and even the iBook has had it for two years already.

As you've probably heard, this thing gets hot, but only when it's plugged in. When it's running from battery, I find it no different than my previous PowerBook, but when plugged in and charging, the left wrist rest does become uncomfortably hot.

I have heard reports of the screen becoming warped. I am assuming this is from the heat affecting the screen while the battery is charging, so when I have the machine plugged in, I keep the screen in the open position. This isn't a big deal, since it sits at my desk all day while I'm at home anyway, and to have it open already just makes it more convenient to use when I need it.

I do find that the computer wobbles slightly from front to back at an angle. It may be due to the feet not being the correct height, or it may be due to warpage in the frame. This doesn't bother me - but if it gets very bad, I can always send it in for repair.

The only other issue I've experienced is the trim around the upper edge of the lower section of the computer has a slight space in it where it meets the casing. This is just big enough to pinch your wrists while you are typing. I suspect this is a design flaw more than anything else, and if you have long sleeves on, it shouldn't be a problem.

Performance and battery life tend to be a "one or the other" issue, and I find that while the 867 MHz 12" PowerBook is much faster than my 400 MHz 15" titanium PowerBook, battery life suffers. With my titanium PowerBook, I had no trouble getting through the five class periods I use it in and still have some charge in it to use it at home for a while. The 12" PowerBook's battery typically runs down toward the end of my last class period; however it charges faster than my previous one, so within an hour I can be sitting on my bed with it, running it off the battery again.

This is a nice machine, and the size and weight make it a much better choice for use at school than the 15" titanium, but there are a few things I would change. First, I would move the power button and place it on the keyboard, where it used to be on older PowerBooks and then move the keyboard up toward the screen. I think just a few centimeters would help make typing a little bit less cramped.

I would also put a better latch on it. I find it a little bit hard to close, unlike the 15" PowerBook. I would also do something about the heat - while it's not a major issue, it does get annoying, and if that is what's warping the screens, it could start getting expensive for Apple (of course, that's their problem to deal with).

Overall, I don't think it was a mistake buying this over an iBook or another used or refurbished titanium PowerBook. It's light, it's fast, and it's reliable so far.

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