Help me build my PowerBook!
January 4, 2005 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Help me build my MAC PowerBook!! [more inside]

I'm not sure how much RAM or processor power I need. I've been using a Dell for the past 5 years and haven't been on a non-windows machine since the Apple IIgs! I would like to use the machine for a pretty decent desktop photo editing and printing suite and I have had trouble with my old machine as it is unwilling to put up with large automations in photoshop or multiple prints in a queue for a photo quality print job. I'm probably going to be hooking up a new Canon printer of pretty high quality (read 6-8 ink cartridge color separation) and I have a fairly decent HP scanner. I wish to run photoshop, illustrator, and quark, sometimes two programs at the same time. I am unsure as of yet whether or not I would also like to use the machine for video editing (this may be unrealistic.. but I already have the camera). I appreciate any help and/or recommendations you can give. I would like to hear ideally what the minimum system requirements for a new powerbook with these abilities would be.
posted by kirstin to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Those are all very RAM-intensive applications. Buy as much RAM as your PowerBook will hold. At least 1 Gig, or you will be miserable editing video or rendering images. Buy third-party RAM from Viking or Corsair if cost is an issue.

Also, you should have at least a 1 GHz processor to edit video. Apple's iDVD will not even install on a machine with less than 650 MHz. Still, I edit video using iMovie on my 450 MHz G4, but it is slow sucky slow.
posted by mds35 at 11:27 AM on January 4, 2005

Put as much memory in it as you can afford. However, you don't have to buy the memory from Apple -- in fact, it's a bad idea, because they charge exhorbitantly for it. Consider buying the minimum memory at the time of purchase, and then adding third party memory.

Pretty much any machine in the current product line will do just what you want -- it doesn't look like you have a particularly demanding workload from a hardware perspective.

You'll also want to think about adding an extrenal (Firewire, most likely) disk. The hard disks that Apple puts in their portables are typically abysmally slow.
posted by majick at 11:30 AM on January 4, 2005

Afterthought: if you are buying a new PowerBook, I think every model currently available from the Apple Store should be fast enough for you. The low-end PB runs with a 1.33GHz G4 processor. So it may be hard to go wrong. But again, be sure to buy plenty of RAM!
posted by mds35 at 11:32 AM on January 4, 2005

why does apple charge so much for RAM? everyone i know always suggests to steer clear from Apple when buying extra RAM for a new machine.
posted by lotsofno at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2005

Same reason auto dealers can gouge you on extras -- convenience, you buy the product integrated and whole and don't have to worry about it.
posted by namespan at 12:02 PM on January 4, 2005

Apple's RAM is also less likely to fail, I believe... the 'unofficial' stuff always tends to be a little more dodgy in terms of reliability. Then again, it's not like it's that hard to swap out dead RAM.
posted by reklaw at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2005

Whatever you do, *don't* buy it until after Mac World San Francisco next week! There are some announcements that have been brewing among Apple circles and even if there are none concerning the PBs, it's still worth the one week wait if you can.
posted by moxyberry at 1:02 PM on January 4, 2005

"the 'unofficial' stuff always tends to be a little more dodgy in terms of reliability."

This is outright misinformation. I'd sooner trust a stick of Crucial, Kingston or Mushkin memory than an unbranded Apple OEM stick which may have been sourced from the lowest bidder. Apple RAM is an unknown quantity with unknown quality control properties, whereas the major third party memory providers have solid reputations for low defect rate.

I strongly suggest purchasing from Apple with the minimum of memory, then adding more yourself. It's very easy to do, is within the warranty, and can save you several hundred bucks.
posted by majick at 1:56 PM on January 4, 2005

majick: Internal would be even better (there's that Hitachi 7200 that I hear is very good).
posted by abcde at 2:05 PM on January 4, 2005

What's a good place to buy said third-party RAM?
posted by inksyndicate at 2:13 PM on January 4, 2005

I'd strongly second the recommendation for waiting for updated powerbooks - they will likely come at Macworld (keynote next tuesday morning), and almost certainly within a few weeks. I'm looking to purchase a Powerbook myself, and have been watching the rumor sites pretty closely. No one's quite sure when it will happen - some were predicting today, but we got updated Xserves instead - but with the iBooks as closely featured as the powerbooks right now, an update is all but inevitable in the very near future.
posted by rorycberger at 2:24 PM on January 4, 2005

Best place for third-party RAM (IMHO) is Crucial mainly because they have the system selector dohickey - you put in what computer you have and it gives you a list of what's compatible. They also make some of the better RAM on the market - they're part of Micron, so you're buying basically from the manufacturer.

Mushkin also makes very good RAM; better than Crucial, but you'll need to know more about what you need (it's also more expensive). You can also buy it from places like NewEgg or whathaveyou - Macs use the same RAM, for the most part, PCs do now so it's not hard to find compatible RAM. Cheaper stuff does tend to be flaky though - for my money, I'd stick with Crucial.
posted by mrg at 3:51 PM on January 4, 2005

I'd also recommend RAMJET for RAM. Their 1 GB module for the 15" Powerbook is substantially cheaper than Crucial, I've bought from them many times before since they're located in my hometown and I've never had any problems with them.
posted by gyc at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2005

I've also been happy with Crucial RAM (for both a desktop Mac and a PowerBook). But I'd also echo everyone else's recommendation to wait until next week (after this year's MacWorld announcements) to buy anything.

Can'tHelpMyselfFilter: By the way, it's a "Mac," not a "MAC."
posted by klausness at 4:56 PM on January 4, 2005

FWIW, Apple often uses RAM from Micron, the parent company of Crucial. Among brandnames I can rattle off from memory, I have also seen Samsung and Hynix in stock machines [can't vouch for the reliability of either of those except to say I don't see the stock Apple RAM go bad all that often].

You'd still probably save a good sum buying the ram yourself [you'll need a tiny, jeweler's size Philips screwdriver to open the hatch on the underside of the Powerbook, but after you get that off it basically snaps in].
posted by britain at 5:44 PM on January 4, 2005

Building a P-P-P-Powerbook.

As seen on Metafilter.
posted by Laen at 2:51 AM on January 5, 2005

Re: hoping for product announcements at keynote speeches--keep in mind that if Apple announces a whole new PowerBook (as opposed to just offering a speedbump) next week (not that I'm expecting this), then the first version will almost certainly have some kinks that need to be worked out. Plus there's often a delay between announcement and actual shipping product. So there's a balance to be struck between new/faster/buggy and older/slower/stable. On the upside, the older products are cheaper once their successors are announced!
posted by kimota at 3:44 PM on January 5, 2005

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