Apple, Tech, and Gaming

2005 iBook G4: Going Out with a Technological Bang

- 2012.07.26 - Tip Jar

12-inch and 14-inch iBook G4
12" and 14" iBook G4

Seven years ago, the final iBooks were released (a 12" 1.33 GHz model and a 14" 1.42 GHz version) as the last hurrah for the consumer grade PowerPC portables. That 14" model was a Mac that I know all too well today after purchasing a lot of five on eBay in January 2010 that was divided among five family members - including yours truly.

At the time, these units were still selling for $300 to $400 each, so when many lots of various size showed up at bargain basement prices (roughly half the typical per-unit cost) from various sources, many jumped on the opportunity and loaded up.

Lots of New Tech

12-inch iBook G4
12" iBook G4

The last generation iBooks added lots of new features that caused them to hold their value so well for so long:

  • Scrolling Trackpad: These are the only iBooks with the 2-finger scrolling trackpad. This is a great feature for quickly moving to the top or bottom of a page.
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR: These iBooks also included built-in Bluetooth 2.0 EDR, which allows for much faster data transfers from smartphones and other Bluetooth devices compared to the optional Bluetooth 1.1 offered in the late 2004 models.
  • Sudden Motion Sensor: These were the only iBooks to ship with support for this technology that stops the hard drive heads from spinning if the iBook takes an unfortunate spill off a coffee table (or possibly worse), possibly helping preserve your drive and precious data in such an event
  • Core Image: This is the greatest addition given to these iBooks. Since 2003, well before the advent of OS X 10.4 Tiger (the first version of Mac OS X to fully support Core Image), several Macs - including the first Aluminum PowerBooks - began shipping with capable enough graphics cards to handle Core Image technology. The last generation iBooks were given the Radeon 9550 graphics chip. While this graphics processor had just 32 MB of VRAM, it was very capable and somewhat faster than the GeForce 5200FX found in 12" PowerBooks (which had 64 MB of VRAM). Core Image allows you to really unleash OS X 10.5 Leopard.
  • Support for PC2700 DDR RAM and 512 MB of onboard RAM vs. 256 MB for 1.5 GB maximum vs. 1.25 GB for earlier G4 iBooks. This extra memory also helps with Leopard operation and provides a more realistic amount to start off with running Tiger.

12-inch iBook G4
12" iBook G4

As you can see, all of that new tech gave the 2005 iBook much better lasting value compared to its previous iterations - but there always seem to be drawbacks as well.

iBook's Achilles' Heel

Most of the white iBooks can wind up with a bad graphics card resulting in video artifacts (white spots) and eventual failure altogether, resulting in the need to replace the logic board. This is less of an issue on the 2005 iBooks than others, but if you ever need to swap out the optical drive or hard drive, it's a very difficult process (nearly a full teardown).

14-inch iBook G4
14" iBook G4

Opening up one of these iBooks to service/repair is a very tedious act - so very much so that if you make one wrong move on a particular part, you may end up with a ruined logic board that will require an extremely steady hand and eagle eye to solder and repair. iFixit's teardown of the iBook G4 14" 1.42 GHz (this one is particularly for a hard drive replacement) clearly shows how delicate the cable and socket are that run to the power button from the logic board:

One false move when performing this illustrated step, and you will do some irreversible damage (at least for those without a surgeon's hand with the soldering iron). I happened to have made such a false move with mine when attempting a hard drive upgrade. I will resurrect it someday, but for now it's just boxed up waiting a logic board transplant, since fixing the socket proved to be too cumbersome.

Still Reliable Today

When these iBooks are running trouble-free, they are one of the best PowerPC portables you can ask for, and I will never forget mine due to the lot I brokered. Because of the technology added at the end of the iBook's run, it's no wonder they are still fairly capable today running Leopard with maxed out RAM.

The iBook came a long way since its 1999 original fruit colored variants, and at the pinnacle with these 2005 models they may not have looked as playful as they once did, but they clearly offered much more in terms of overall performance and technology.

With that said, happy 7th birthday, Mid 2005 iBook - the last of your kind! LEM

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Dan Bashur lives in central Ohio with his wife and children. He uses various PowerPC G3 and G4 Macs running Tiger and Leopard. Besides finding new uses for Macs and other tech, Dan enjoys writing (fantasy novel series in the works), is an avid gamer, and a member of Sony's Gamer Advisor Panel. You can read more of Dan Bashur's work on ProjectGamers.com, where he contributes regular articles about the PSP, classic gaming, and ways you can use Sony gaming hardware with your Mac.

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