Buy a Powerbook now?
February 2, 2006 8:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering buying a Powerbook G4 15 inch, but I hesitate to do so knowing that the Macbook comes out so soon. I am worried that Macbook is untested and could be buggy, especially with heat/power/battery issues (see here and here). Is it a bad idea to buy a Powerbook G4 now? Will the price drop after the MacBook goes on the market?

I'm planning to use the machine for photoshop and some low-intensity video editing. I have a monitor at home I can hook it up to, so I'm not worried about screen resolution.
posted by kirstin to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
it's a lose-lose situation. they're bound to come out with something better, faster, bigger, powerful etc... the second after you buy wither one, so just figure out what your needs are and buy a machine accordingly.

It tok me over a year to decide on buying my first mac (1 ghz powerbook) and of course a couple of months later they came out with something else.

If you keep waiting until you find just the right thing at the right proce and specifications then you'll be waiting for a long time.

so seriously, figure out what you need and buy accordingly. i bought my powerbook for the same reason as you, photoshop and other work and everytime i get a job, i wish i had a desktop. the laptop comes in handy once in a while to take on location or to show a client some images at their place but for real work, meaning for work that you want to be able to finish faster, i personally would recommend a dekstop. they cost less and are more powerful.

don't worry about what they might come out with next. although it probably is a good idea to wait on buying the first generation of the macbook, the G4 powerbooks are mature to a good point.
posted by eatcake at 8:37 PM on February 2, 2006

the G4 architecture is really, really slow wrt. price in today's market. OS X and Apple products are great, but I really think you're better off either waiting until the Macbooks are a little battle-tested or sucking it up and hoping Applecare comes through for any problems.
posted by kcm at 8:47 PM on February 2, 2006

DON'T buy a new G4 Powerbook now for heaven's sake. This is one of the oldest models in Apple's line (I'm typing on one). Either buy on of the new Intel Macbook Pros, wait for the intel iBook (probably going to be called plain 'Macbook') or buy a G4 Powerbook used, so you don't take such a huge bath on the depreciation.
posted by unSane at 8:49 PM on February 2, 2006

There are many reports of incompatibilities with certain software running under Rosetta (Intel Mac's translation software). Any program that makes Java calls to PPC code will not run. Many plugins for PhotoShop, et al will not work. Running programs that are not universal binaries will be slower than if you ran them on a PPC processor.

There are also reports of networking issues and other hardware incompatibilites. Third party disk utilities don't work yet. And there are sure to be more problems ahead. You can check out MacInTouch for reports on this and more.

Add to this there are problems and bugs with version 1.0 of every Mac hardware release. Get a MacBook and you are effectively becoming a beta-tester for version 2.0. The upside is that you will be on the cutting edge of technology and that can be fun if you like to tinker with stuff and troubleshoot all the time (I do).

My advice is to buy now and wait until they work out all the bugs in a year or so. You can sell your PPC model and then you will be getting an Intel book without the compromises and lots of bug fixes. If you are getting a computer that is needed for mission critical work, then the choice is obvious. Go with the current PPC offerings.

Apple will be supporting literally millions of PPC computers for many many years into the future. You will likely upgrade before there is a blip in support for a current PPC laptop.
posted by qwip at 8:53 PM on February 2, 2006

I, personally, would not consider buying a G4 at this point; you'd be getting a chip that's basically two generations out of date. (My G4 desktop already feels a bit creaky and slow.) But I also don't quite trust Rosetta; the idea of running everything on an emulator until people update their software doesn't sound like much fun.

If you need something now, and are planning on parking it at your desk and attaching it to a monitor anyway, get a G5. Or if you can wait until there's a universal version of Photoshop and whatever video software you use, then wait while other people have the "fun" of troubleshooting their v1 intel stuff for you.
posted by ook at 9:05 PM on February 2, 2006

Cutting edge = bleeding edge. Don't buy a 1.0, ever.
posted by cribcage at 9:06 PM on February 2, 2006

Buy the G4 version and wait for v. 2.0 of the Macbook Pro. When the time comes, sell the G4 and buy the MP. In my experience Macs hold their value extremely well and are very easy to sell on ebay. Or, buy the 14" iBook and load it up with ram. For everyday use you won't see much of a difference between it and the Powerbook and you'll save yourself several hundred $$$.
posted by photoslob at 9:16 PM on February 2, 2006

I've got a new Intel iMac. It's been running well for several days now.

I just counted up the number of third party apps in my Applications folder that I use regularly and that aren't minor Applescript Studio applications or the like. Out of 21, there are 9 that haven't already come out as universal binaries. Out of the 9, all run under Rosetta, with the biggest problem being one (TextSoap) that runs as an app, but not as a context menu item.

So the universal binary issue hasn't been hard on me. Especially since most of the non-translated apps are things like blog editors and such, that simply don't benefit from a big speed bump. They didn't improve any when I upgraded from a G3 to a G4, either.

It would make good sense to consult the Macintouch universal binaries list to see what's in the pipe to be updated or has already been updated. Versiontracker is also doing a special page to track updates to UBs. Even if 90 percent of the apps out there are already universal binaries, and another 9 percent run o.k. anyhow, if the app you depend on is in that 1 percent that doesn't run, it'll suck for you.

All that said, I trust new Apple notebooks less than I trust new Apple desktops. No firmly objective reason for that -- my new iMac is the first time I've ever bought something this new from Apple. My last desktop Mac was a trailing edge eMac. But I've had two iBooks, and they both went back for widespread problems with the logic board. The second one went back a week after I bought it, because the problem manifested even as Apple expanded the units it was assuming were bad, and I'd bought it thinking "*whew , out from under the shadow of those old, bad iBooks!*"

So based on that, and that alone, I trust their notebooks less. it's subjective, but it will affect my *book-buying decisions in the future.
posted by mph at 9:20 PM on February 2, 2006

The price of the Powerbook will definitely drop when the Macbook comes out so if you can wait, I'd so so. The iMac G5s just dropped $200.
posted by Manhasset at 9:27 PM on February 2, 2006

I think you could benefit from a lot of people selling their g4 powerbooks if you waited for the macbook pro to ship, if that's the way you want to go.

However, there is a chance that Photoshop won't be optimized for Intel Macs until 2007. That's a looong wait, considering that it apparently takes a 50% speed hit from Rosetta.

However, iMovie and Final Cut will work wonderfully with it in the near future (iMovie does now).

So I guess it comes down to. . . which matters to you more, how much does a slightly slow program matter to you, and how long can you wait for photoshop?

Personally, I bought a MacBook Pro because I need a faster laptop for Final Cut. But I'm holding onto my Powerbook too incase the MacBook just can't do Photoshop.
posted by visual mechanic at 9:33 PM on February 2, 2006

I bought a powerbook in November and am very pleased. I will update mine in 2 years or so and stay with a Mac because i like the interface....Depending on your it for home, design, web development?....I think u are fine on those levels...If I was in the market now I would hold back on the new Macbooks until the reviews are settled....but the Intel move seems to be a winner from all I have read.
posted by jamie939 at 9:39 PM on February 2, 2006

I am worried that Macbook is untested and could be buggy, especially with heat/power/battery issues

I ordered a rev A macbook pro. I can name a dozen friends and colleagues who did the same.

My thinking is that this is going to be the most thoroughly tested rev A apple in a long, long time, because the anti-apple hordes will overreact to any issues.

And besides, if something goes wrong, they'll fix it.

For me, there's no price (including $0) that I'd pay for a G4 powerbook at the moment.

For what it's worth, laptops have a 15-25% first year major failure rate regardless of brand. Apple is towards the left of that distribution, but that won't stop anybody from whining.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:50 PM on February 2, 2006

I'm planning to use the machine for photoshop and some low-intensity video editing.

Photoshop won't be available as a Universal Binary until probably the end of the year. Buy a PowerBook G4 now, because it will be faster then the MacBook for what you want to do.
posted by cillit bang at 2:33 AM on February 3, 2006

My Dad and I have just ordered MacBook Pros (the 1.83GHz versions). He's sold his 17" G4 PowerBook (bought last Summer) for £1,300. The new laptops will cost us £1,640 each (He can get educational discount).

We plan on keeping these for at least a year, so there's no point in buying a two year old model. We hurried to sell the 17", because we know that the price will bomb when the MacBooks come out.

I'll probably sell my MacBook just before the warranty runs out, and get whatever new version is out by then. If it costs me £300-£400 to do so, I don't mind. It'll mean I get a whole year's more warranty, a top of the range laptop, and a laptop with a renewed second hand value.

As I've only just managed to convince my employers, it's better to have a rolling stock of current hardware worth a lot, than an obsolete stock of worthless junk that you have to pay people to collect.
posted by armoured-ant at 4:32 AM on February 3, 2006

I'm planning to use the machine for photoshop

Well there you go, not much choice there... I'd get a used G4 (search local ads or ebay in your area so you can arrange to see the machine before buying) when the prices drop even further - yes it'd be relatively obsolete but you'd get 100% certainty that Photoshop and all plugins work fine on it. Don't buy a new G4 unless you absolutely need financing.

You'll still be able to resell it in a year or so, when the switch to the Intel based Macs is more established and Photoshop has been optimised for them. At worst, if the price for a used G4 is too low by then, you could perhaps be making more money by selling the parts on ebay, cos there'll always be someone who'll still be using those machines and the older a computer gets the more difficult it is to get replacement parts from Apple or other vendors.
posted by funambulist at 5:20 AM on February 3, 2006

ook, I don't think it should matter how old the technology is. So what that the g4 is 2 generations old? if the machine is going to do the work that you need it to do, then it doesn't matter if it's 2 generations old or 20.

being the first kid on the blosck to have the new toy is nice for only so long and if you're doing it to have the latest/greatest then you're spenfing money for the wrong reason.

I seconf buying a g4 powerbook now instead of the macbook but only if you decide that it's going to do what you need it to do. just fill it up with ram and maybe replace the hard drive with a faster 7200 rpm drive and you got yourself a supercomputer.

check out to see if they have anything you might like. I bought my first one from there for less than what a new one was going for and yes...although it was still expensive, i got my money's worth out of it because i used it for the next 3 years. the machine is still working and has been passed down to my brother who uses it on a daily basis.
posted by eatcake at 5:43 AM on February 3, 2006

FWIW, the price of the G4 iMacs have fallen about 15% in the UK Apple Store like-for-like with the Intel ones. I anticipate the same to happen on the PowerBooks pretty soon.

Also, if you're in the UK, use your Egg Money card and get an automatic 10% rebate on stuff you buy at Apple. Getting £180 off of my PowerBook was great :)
posted by wackybrit at 6:48 AM on February 3, 2006

FWIW, the G4 is still not a bad investment if it's fast enough for you. Universal binaries mean that even apps developed in a couple of years should still work on the G4 line.

The only thing that'd ruin G4 owners' days is if certain drivers of OS X itself become Intel only in a few years.
posted by wackybrit at 6:49 AM on February 3, 2006

The price of new powebooks haven't dropped a cent.. Buy one used if they appear to be cheaper now the macbook is due out soon.
posted by joshgray at 8:39 AM on February 3, 2006 just posted benchmark results from the Macbook Pro v. the G4. Worth a look.
posted by photoslob at 9:18 AM on February 4, 2006

I asked this same question here, maybe that will help you too.

FWIW, I convinced my wife to let me buy a desktop and got an intel iMac. 1 week old today and running FAST AS HELL. I am using a combo of PPC and UB software and I can tell you there is nothing on this computer I would call slow or close to it. I don't have Photoshop or anything but the MS office testdrive software is even super quick.

I would wait, but that's just me. My experience thus far has been superb.
posted by Chuck Cheeze at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2006

ook, I don't think it should matter how old the technology is.

I refer you to the part of my answer where I said "I, personally." Also the part where I said "My G4 already feels creaky and slow."

being the first kid on the blosck to have the new toy is nice for only so long

I refer you to the part of my answer where I specifically recommend against spending extra money to get the latest and greatest.

Sheesh. If ya gonna criticize my answer, at least read it first.

Even light video editing can be pretty processor-intensive; so can Photoshop, if you're working on print files as opposed to tiny web-based images. All that lovely OSX eye candy chews up quite a bit of CPU, too. People who do nothing but write word documents and surf the web can get by just fine with a slower computer, but kirsten probably wouldn't, in my opinion, given her described requirements.

Theoretically it shouldn't matter if your chipset is current or twenty generations out of date, as long as it does "what you need it to do", but in practice, software tends to be written with the capabilities of current systems in mind; sticking to an old platform is fine only if you never plan to update your software -- including the operating system. And "what you need it to do" isn't exactly a fixed target. My G4 runs blazingly fast if I boot it in OS9, but I can't do my work in OS9.

I, personally, wouldn't consider a G4 a good investment right now, and what I use my mac for sounds pretty similar to what kirsten described. Personally, I'm waiting to see if there's a substantial price drop on the G5s after the intel macs have been out for a while; if so, I'll get a G5 and stick with my current software until everything is universal binary... if not I'm going to limp along for a year or so with my current setup and wait for rev 2 of the intel macs.
posted by ook at 8:29 AM on February 5, 2006

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