The Power of Mac

PowerBook Deathmatch

Eric Schwarz - 2001.10.18

Over the past few days I have been borrowing a PowerBook 5300cs from a friend to see how the replacement to my PowerPC-upgraded 540c stacked up - and to learn more about other Macs. Both PowerBooks were about the same" 100 MHz PowerPC 603e, 16 MB RAM, 10Base-T ethernet, etc. The only difference was System 7.5.3 on the 5300cs and Mac OS 8.1 on my PPC-540c. Also, the screens are different: 10.4" dual-scan on the 5300cs and 9.5" active matrix on the 540c.

Will I decide to keep my 540c or opt to get a 5300c to replace it after some use?

PowerBook Deathmatch

Upon turning on the 5300cs, it seems that it is much like the PowerPC-upgraded 540c (pictured at right) I own. The 540c, Blackbirdhowever, seems to sound much, much better - it has two nice speakers, as opposed to the cheesy single one on the 5300cs (pictured below). Speedwise, they were about the same loading their OSes. The 5300cs loaded 7.5.3 a little faster, but if they both had 8.1, I assume they'd be the same.

Using both Macs, they operated much the same. They have the same keyboard, it's just mounted differently. The trackpad clicker on the 5300cs seemed to be a little more like the PC laptops I sometimes use (but don't own). The hard drive on the 540c seems higher pitched than the IDE drive of the 5300cs, but that's just because they're different mechanisms.

Anyway, getting into hardware, the 5300's latch seems to be sturdier (it's metal, after all). The case itself seems flimsier, and there are lots more little taps, buttons, and doors to be broken off. I do like the module that allows storage of PC cards in the floppy bay. If I had a 5300, I'd carry a stash of storage cards in there - they're much more useful than floppies.

Ports seemed about the same, but the 5300 has no built-in ethernet or modem. Those are on PC cards. The infrared port seems to be a useful idea, but I haven't seen much implementation of it.

Batteries and AC adapters seem about the same, except the 5300cs does get slightly better battery life. The 5300cs also has "dumb" batteries, as opposed to the 540c's "intelligent" batteries. This avoids the errors and EMM problems that the 540c's battery sometimes has. The 5300's battery does have to be reconditioned, though.

In closing, both 'Books are about the same in physical size, and shape. The 540c's flip-down feet are a lot more durable than the 5300's push-button feet. One thing that I wish Apple would do is to have dual latches (like the IBM ThinkPads used to and might still have), one on each side of the screen. This makes the computers more durable when closed, rather than relying on one small central latch. On both, the trackpad clickers are somewhat exposed.

The 5300 is not as nearly a bad machine as the press made it out to be, although it does need some improvements in the reliability and design departments.

PowerBook 540c (PPC) vs. 5300c - Top 10 Noticeable Differences

This compares the differences between a PowerPC upgraded 540c and a 5300c.

10: Gray case on 540c, black case on 5300c.
 9: Flip-down feet on the 540c, push-button feet on the 5300c.
 8: The 540c has to be hacked to run OS 8.5+; the 5300c runs it naturally.
 7: 5300c has to be sent to Apple Repair Program. ;-)
 6: Onboard ethernet and modem on 540c (albeit slow).
 5: Infrared on 5300c.
 4: 9.5" screen on 540c, 10.4" screen on 5300c.
 3: 2 speakers on 540c, 1 speaker on the 5300c.
 2: SCSI on 540c, IDE on 5300c (internal hard drives)
 1: Drive bay and PCMCIA slots on the 5300c.

These were hard to rank since both machines are about the same in terms of power (since the 540c has a PPC card). Most of these were my opinions, so that's how my rankings were for these. Yours may differ.

Both computers are equally good; it really depends on what you prefer. You can probably find a 540c cheap, but a PPC card would require a little more dough, than, say, a 5300c. But you never know when you may find a deal.... LEM

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