The 'Book Page

TiBook Value: New vs. Old

Dan Knight - 2002.04.30 - Tip Jar

Sometimes Apple upgrades a model, increases the price, and raises the question, "Is the new Mac a better value than the old one?"

This is not one of those times. The new PowerBook G4 surrenders an infrared port but gains in almost every area with a minimal price increase over the earlier models.

PowerBook G4 (Spring 2002)

The biggest difference - and the one that most makes me want a new TiBook - is the 1280 x 854 display. I was used to working as 1280 x 1024 and 1280 x 960 on my old 19" monitor, so switching to the old TiBook's 1152 x 768 display took some adjusting. I fill practically every square inch of screen real estate; the 23% larger display would make me very happy.

I don't see 32 MB of video memory or the newer Mobility Radeon 7500 as offering a real improvement, but then I'm not a gamer. If you are supporting a large external monitor that isn't mirroring the built-in screen, the extra video RAM could be a real blessing.

The new TiBook is marginally heavier at 5.4 lbs., but I don't think anyone's going to notice, and the 1 MB level 3 cache should improve performance a bit.

PowerBook G4/800

At $200 more than the old G4/667, processor intensive tasks should easily run 20% faster thanks to 800 MHz clock speed and the big 1 MB L3 cache. A 7% price boost for 20% more speed - not bad at all.

But it gets better. The G4/800 includes twice as much RAM (512 MB) as the G4/667 and includes a one-third larger (40 GB) hard drive. If that's not big enough, you can get a 5400 RPM 60 GB drive as a build-to-order option.

All things considered, the larger screen, faster CPU, increased RAM, and more spacious hard drive make this a much better value than the old PB G4/667.

PowerBook G4/667 (Spring 2002)

We could look at the G4/667 as the G4/800's little brother - about 80% the performance at 78% the price. But I think we'll see the value equation more clearly by comparing it with the old G4/667 and G4/550.

Spec for spec, the only place the new G4/667 distinguishes itself from the old one is in video: Mobility Radeon 7500, 32 MB video RAM, 1280 x 854 display. And it sells for $500 less than the old G4/667. That easily covers the cost of an AirPort card, which was included with the older G4/667 and is optional on the new one.

At a $300 premium over the G4/550, you gain at least 20% in CPU performance, a 50% bigger hard drive (30 GB), twice the RAM (256 MB), and all the video improvements mentioned above. I'd say that's easily worth the 14% difference in price.

Close Out Deals

Be on the lookout for deals on the recently discontinued TiBooks. As someone who's been very happy with a PowerBook G4/400, I think most users will find the speed comfortable. Of course, Apple and others will have to blow out the old G4/667 for much less than the $2,499 price tag of the new G4/667, and then they'll have to slash the G4/550 price as well.

I haven't looked into blow out bargains yet, but I'd say the old G4/667 shouldn't be priced any higher then $2,250 - 10% less than the new edition. After all, while it suffers in the video department, it does include an AirPort card.

The G4/550 will also have to be reduced significantly to keep everyone from scarfing up the old G4/667s first. I'd peg the top realistic price on the G4/550 at $1,900.

In both cases, I expect we'll see even better prices from Apple and others, not to mention deals on refurbished machines.

Conclusion

For over a year I've watched the TiBook evolve. My G4/400 still suits me, so the speed and larger hard drives of the newer models has never been an issue. It would be nice to have a Combo drive and burn CDs, and I burn CDs so rarely that I couldn't justify an upgrade for that alone.

The screen on the new TiBooks, on the other hand, is very appealing. The old 1152 x 768 screen is the minimum I can work with; 1280 x 854 would be a dream. And the base G4/667 retails for $100 less than my G4/400 did when new. If I had the money burning a hole in my pocket, I'd make the move. And I think the screen will make the new TiBook even more attractive to those with older PowerBooks that have 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768 displays.

But I don't have the money for a new 'Book, and my old one (15 months old) has all the RAM, drive space, and speed I need. I've lived with this screen for over a year; another year or two won't hurt. I really do intend to hold on for at least two years - and three would be better.

But you have to look at your own situation. If you've long wanted portability but needed lots of horsepower or screen real estate, the new TiBook provides both in spades at a very realistic price.

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