Nearly 20 years ago in October 2005, Apple released the Hi-Res PowerBook G4, in a 15″ and 17″ variant. These were named as such, as the base screen resolution which shipped with PowerBooks were increased dramatically. On the 15″ PowerBook G4, the screens jumped from (1280 x 854) to (1440 x 960), and for the 17″, the bump was (1440 x 900) to (1680 x 1050). Not only was this the final refresh for the PowerBook lineup, the Hi-Res model introduced a variety of noteworthy upgrades to it’s hardware, which stands out above any other PowerBook G4 made prior to it. This makes it a very appealing choice for a tech enthusiast such as myself!
- Uses PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM, supports 2 GB (2x 1 GB). Only PowerPC Mac laptops ever made that uses DDR2!
- Shipped standard with a ATI Radeon Mobility 9700 128 MB (previously BTO)
- (As mentioned above) higher resolution, nearly 1080p screens in 2005!
- Shipped standard with DVD-DLSD, you can read and burn Dual-Layer DVD’s on these
- Internal design and connectors looked more like early MacBooks than PowerBooks
- Screens are brighter than previous PowerBooks, backlit keyboards also feel brighter.
I was surprised upon receiving the device, of its mechanical condition. It’s nearly 20 years old at this point, scratches are a given. I wasn’t too pleased about the big scratch going down the top lid near the Apple logo, however, the entire lack of dents anywhere on the machine had reassured me. Then, I noticed how tight the hinges were. How the 4 rubber feet were still tightly held and unworn on the bottom. How the screen was nice and bright, as was the keyboard, how the top case snapped snugly into the bottom aluminum frame and didn’t jump back out, how the magnetic clasp worked and clicked like it was brand new.. and then it hit me. Minus cosmetics, this is technically and mechanically the finest PowerBook G4 I’ve ever owned.
I’ve had a flimsy Hi-Res 17″ PowerBook G4 in my possession years ago, the screen shook back and forth. I couldn’t be bothered to fix it up or see its value as I was quite deep into modifying all sorts of other intel machines at the time. Ended up selling it, and regretting it years down the road. I wrote off the Hi-Res PowerBook G4, comparing it too much to trying to use it as a modern computer, not realizing how much better they felt than any previous PowerBook. After seeing Greg Hrutkay post about his own 1.67 Hi-Res 15″ PowerBook G4 in 2023, I had to get one for myself. It’s a fun project so far, punches closer to an intel machine as configured, and although it’s increasingly a reflection and relic of it’s time, I believe this can still be used in some capacity in 2023, whilst simultaneously understanding it’s limitations as a device. Whether for fun or for work, the subjective value of anything is contingent on the eye of the beholder. There are an insane amount of ways to efficiently and effectively do what this PowerBook G4 does, with better security features, processing power, on even higher screen resolutions. As subjectivity goes, I stay in line with the reality of understanding this is an aging device from 2005, whilst simultaneously maintaining an unwavering faith that this device be useful to this day. There will come a time where no amount of photoshopping could keep up with the ever increasing image sizes, no amount of optifine mods can keep up with the newer versions of Minecraft, and certainly, the internet will someday be wholly inaccessible to this PowerBook G4. But in the spirit of doing anything but letting this be a museum piece…
Tech Specs (Of the pictured Mac)
Late 2005 15″ Apple PowerBook G4 Hi-Res DLSD
PowerBook5,8, Released Oct 2005, Discontinued Feb 2006
1.67 GHz PowerPC G4 7447a, 1 Core, 1 Thread, 1 CPU, 32-Bit
512 KB L2, 167 MHz FSB
2 GB PC2-5300 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM (2x 1GB) (System sees it as PC2-3200s?)
ATI Radeon Mobility 9700, 128 MB GDDR3 SDRAM, 445 MHz GPU clock, 240 MHz Memory
64GB KingSpec PATA/IDE SSD
1440 x 960 15″ Hi-Res LG TFT LCD
Mac OS X 10.5.9 Sorbet Leopard, with Windows XP, Vista, and 7 Inside Virtual PC 7
This one was made in Shanghai, China, between 10/17 – 10/23/2005.
Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, Airport Extreme a/b/g
Matshita DVD-R UJ-846
If we look up close, the similarities between the A1138 and A2485 are quire remarkable! See for yourself.
LED Backlit Keyboard in 2005
Did I forget to mention, it had an LED backlit keyboard in 2005? Many of us familiar to PowerBook G4 notebooks are aware of this, it’s been pictured above, and was initially released in 2003. Still, wow. An LED-backlit keyboard in 2005, on a notebook which had already touted it for 2 years. Just look at it!
Theoretical use cases/ideas:
- Old school video game emulation (Some USB controllers will work with this!)
- Dedicated word processing machine
- Lightly browse the web using extensive web browser modifications
- Watch YouTube Free/Premium. with TenFiveTube. (Must pay for premium to use it)
- Discord (Thank you Colin Mistr)
- Adobe Photoshop CS4 workstation – Better than paying $20/mo for a subscription model?
- Portable storage, if ODD/HDD configured to user’s liking in terms of storage capacity
- Use it as a sort of “Swiss army knife” to fix other Macs from the same era
- Audio Editing
- Sub-HD video editing, maybe?
- (Fill in the blanks)
Idea: Half museum/art piece, half functional device
It looks nice setup this way, as a clock with a projector on it. A $50 low-res projector off ebay, a couple different screensavers, a low power LED rose set, and the right settings, and suddenly this old PowerBook G4 becomes more of a functional yet decorative piece. Personally, I don’t want to put this higher end PowerBook G4 through its paces just running a screensaver until it simply burns out. I have a 15″ 1.5 PowerBook G4 which had been doing this for years at this point, and I don’t feel as bad having that lesser valued hardware running like that. Once the larger 128 GB SSD arrives, it’ll go in this Hi-Res PowerBook G4 to replace the 64GB SSD. The 64GB SSD will go back into the 1.5 15″ PB G4, so it can return to being this projector clock.
Some pics inside the device
Below: A1138 15″ Hi-Res PowerBook G4, before I dropped the 64GB PATA SSD into it.
Below: A1095 15″ PowerBook G4. Notice any differences? The Hi-Res model reminded me more of a MacBook Pro with it’s internals, including how it had a single connector for the KB/Trackpad versus 2 on earlier PowerBook models.
As time moves on
One of the greatest overall driving forces of economic growth in the modern world is technological innovation. Ultimately, as a society, we’re influenced to throw away devices, purchasing new ones when the old ones are of no use, or in disrepair. With each passing year, newer devices are becoming increasingly more difficult to repair, require more specialized software and tools to diagnose, and devices feel less and less like something I can disassemble and mess around with, without learning soldering. While hanging onto something like this is more a reflection of the tech enthusiast in me than the rational self, the thought still lingers in my head, that perhaps affects us all: (at the risk of sounding alarmist..) Aren’t we moving a bit too fast? Are we throwing out devices a bit too soon? Aren’t we extracting minerals and materials at an alarming rate, and is all of this truly sustainable here on earth..?