Help deciding between Apple computers
December 27, 2003 7:04 PM   Subscribe

As an extension of this previous thread: I've decided on an iBook. I have the opportunity to get a 14" 900MHz G3 refurb'd for $900. I can also get this discontinued model new for $1000. The comparable G4 iBook, which has almost exactly the same specs (save the processor, of course) is $1300. My $1000 could also buy me a 12" 800MHz G4.

I'm having trouble parsing the literature about the chips. I understand that, particularly with Macs, it's not just about the MHz, so should I expect the "slower" G4 chip to outperform the G3 I'm looking at? I expect to use this computer until at least spring '06, which seems like a long way off considering that the G3 chip is now technically obsolete. Also, there are obvious form factor issues; does anyone have a strong opinion about the old iBook design vs. the new? Has anyone been personally affected by the logic board problems I've heard about for the last-gen G3 iBooks? Any warnings about Apple-refurbished machines? [slightly more inside]

I have to say that the ability to boot into 9 has a little appeal for me still, though not a lot, and I will appreciate being able to recycle my Airport card, since I don't plan on buying an Airport Extreme hub anytime soon. There's also the possibility that my G3 Pismo memory will be compatible with the new iBook, though I'm not yet sure and am not counting on it. My understanding is that the refurb'd G3 is running Panther, so that's not a point of comparison. And there's definitely an appeal to me of not moving all the way down to a 12" screen.

Also, if anyone is here from the previous thread: My Pismo finally gave up this morning, or rather, the contortions I'd been placing on my power cord to enable my failing power supply finally put the kibosh on the cord; when I took it into a service place this afternoon and tried a new cord, I was able, with further contortions, to get the machine to boot, but it's clear a new cord is not going to be the solution.

I almost hate to abuse Ask MeFi by resurrecting a thread not yet a week old, but I can't not take advantage of the knowledge base and friendliness assembled here before dropping this kind of money.
posted by blueshammer to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
A few thoughts:

1.I wouldn't get a 12" 800 mhz PowerBook because they suffer from a heat issue that makes using them uncomfortable. This has been resolved in the 1 ghz models.

2.Regarding ibook logic boards, yeah stay away from the g3 based systems. I can't say much more on the matter for certain reasons, but you don't want to go there.

3.Refurbed Apple product is fine, as it carries the same warranty as new. Put anything you buy under Applecare.

That said, I'd pay a little extra and get a G4 iBook.
posted by machaus at 7:27 PM on December 27, 2003

I have a G4 12" (867mhz, I think) and the heat issue is not a problem, really. Yes, the thing gets very hot, but only in the lower left hand corner and by no means does it affect my comfort level. It also only gets hot when plugged in so if you're a big battery user it's not an issue in the slightest.

I quite like the 12" and actually prefer its portability to the the screen "advantage" of the 14", but maybe that's just me. When I need more screen real estate, I plug it into an external 19" monitor (the PB can utilize the full range of the external monitor's resolutions; the ibook cannot, to my understanding--the resolution is fixed to what's on the ibook screen).

I don't know anything about the Pismo or ram (except that ram for my g4 was cheap. $100 for 512, which puts mine at 640).

I'm new to mac so OS9 meant nothing to me. If you've got the extra $300, buy the G4 ibook if the extra 2" make a diff to you. Otherwise go for the g4 PB--I'd avoid the g3 just because it's obsolete.
posted by dobbs at 7:49 PM on December 27, 2003

Besides the relative processor speeds, consider cache, Altivec (not present in the G3), and video processor and if your intended use of the laptop will be affected by any of those.

Speed improvement from a larger cache is noticeable if you are running Virtual PC. Altivec gives you better performance if the software you are running (e.g., Photoshop) takes advantage of the unit. Some recent games (and probably those coming in the future) have stiff video requirements -- most want at least 32 Mb VRAM.

I've purchased several refurbished products from Apple (not from anyone else, though) and have had no problems. To be truthful, I prefer refurbed stuff because it's already been debugged and has the same warranty as new equipment.

If you are going to be using this laptop until '06, forget the G3 and get the latest system you can find in your price range. The G3 won't be obsolete, but you will have less grief trying to keep up with software updates since your hardware is newer.
posted by joaquim at 8:31 PM on December 27, 2003

Re: the logic board, it seems that it's a problem that's reached critical mass, and that disappointingly, it's a problem for which Apple hasn't done the right thing. I agree -- avoid the G3 iBooks like the plague, unless you are OK with spending extra money either on an AppleCare warranty you shouldn't need or on a logic board replacement that you similarly shouldn't need.
posted by delfuego at 9:18 PM on December 27, 2003

The difference between the slot-loading CD/DVD drive and the tray-loader, while small in comparison to the above, is still a consideration with old-style iBooks. Go with the slot-loading drive, of course. Just 2ยข.
posted by zpousman at 9:35 PM on December 27, 2003

I'm posting from a 12" iBook 800, so I may have a bit of bias, but I'd say that the 14" doesn't offer much of an advantage. From my last computer-buying trip, I learned that both the 12" and 14" only offered 1024x768 resolution (this is confirmed via the Apple site), so unless having slightly larger versions of the same thing appeal to you, I would look at either a 12" iBook or a PB.
posted by lackutrol at 10:37 PM on December 27, 2003

A lot of software today asks for the G4 processor, so, if you were to go for a G3 make sure you check out any software you were thinking about beforehand.
posted by nthdegx at 10:51 PM on December 27, 2003

Just to clarify... the consensus is that the 1 GHz G4 PB runs cooler than the 800MHz G3 PB? I have an old Pismo G3 500 (which I still love) that has heating issues. I'm kind of in blueshammer's position regarding the decision he faces. I also have a 800 MHz G4 desktop (Quicksilver 2002) and I'm sold on the G4 processor.

I don't know about the differences between the G4 in the towers and the G4 in the PBs.

nthdegx, what new software are you referring to that prefers a G4, or won't run on a G3?

While we're at it, what's the word on the new G5 desktop processors?
posted by squirrel at 11:10 PM on December 27, 2003

Traktor DJ Studio 2.5
and DVD Studio Pro 2 require a G4 processor.

Final Cut Express
requires a G4 processor for realtime effects. Keynote recommends a G4 processor.

Sure, these are specialist intensive bits of software, but since we don't know exactly what blueshammer intends to do with his mac I reckon it's worth flagging that software is an issue worth investigating if someone is considering a G3. These examples were not hard to find, and I recall the requirement coming up a fair bit when investigating software to purchase with my mac.
posted by nthdegx at 11:39 PM on December 27, 2003

I think this may have been mentioned in the previous thread, but Macworld will start on January 5. I don't know if Apple will be announcing any new hardware, but you might want to wait another week and a half before making your purchase just to play it safe.
posted by the biscuit man at 12:54 AM on December 28, 2003

I have an 800 mHz G3 iBook, and I've been plagued with logic board problems--the video chip died back in June, and currently, the computer isn't recognizing that there's a battery.

I sent it in for repairs two weeks ago, and they returned it without doing the repair, and without returning my AC adaptor, rendering the computer essentially useless. Luckily, I have an old PB that my girlfriend loaned to me, and the AC adaptor works with the iBook. They're supposed to be sending me a new AC adaptor (after which point I'll be sending the computer back in for repairs), but I'm still waiting on the power cable. I need to call them about it on Monday.

I am not a happy camper about this. I love OS X, but I am not loving Apple's QA--and I'm going to have to think very carefully about whether or not I want to get another Apple once this one is either paid off or dead (whichever comes first). Needless to say, I'm really glad I bought AppleCare.
posted by eilatan at 2:24 AM on December 28, 2003

I bought a refurbed iBook G3/600. No problems whatsoever. Guess this one's been vaccinated from the 'plague.'
posted by Tacodog at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2003

Go with the G4. There are too many optimizations in software applications and in Panther itself that rely on the G4 architecture to bother with a G3, particularly if you are planning on running this machine until 2006...
posted by JollyWanker at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2003

My 900 MHZ iBook's logic board failed, and it was fixed under warranty. I bought AppleCare the next day.

I still love my iBook, but I would always recommend buying the best processor for the money, so I'd recommend the G4. I've worked on both 12 and 14 inch screens, and I didn't really miss the extra real estate with the 12.
posted by astruc at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2003

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