Recent Powerbooks vs recent iBooks?
May 3, 2004 12:41 AM   Subscribe

Is there anything that makes recent models of Powerbooks superior to recent iBooks with a comparable processor?

My Pismo (my first Powerbook!) is getting long in the tooth, so I've started to look over Apple's offerings again. Now, I usually buy used to avoid the biggest depreciation hit... and I've often found with computer hardware in general that 1-2 year old pro stuff is a better bargain than latest-greatest consumer stuff.

The recent iBook specs have made me think this isn't necessarily so. Recent iBooks from just released to a year old look quite competetive with Powerbooks in the 2 year old range.

Any thoughts?
posted by namespan to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
Just doing a quick like for like comparison, it confirms my understanding that at the moment there's not a lot between a Powerbook and an iBook.

Powerbooks have a bit of a heftier graphics card, so if games are you thing that could be a consideration. I'm suprised to see the wireless capability of each is comparable.

Looking at this, if I were to buy a mactop I'd opt for the ibook (I think they look sexier too, and from experience with a 12" powerbook, I don't think Aluminium is a good material for a portable computer). It does beg the question, though: what Powerbooks are just around the corner? You might be waiting a while, you might not. How tempting do you find the prospect of a Powerbook G5? OK, I'm idly speculating now.

Somewhere at the back of my mind is a niggly feeling that there must be a compelling reason to opt for a Powerbook, though.
posted by nthdegx at 2:45 AM on May 3, 2004

I believe I read that G5 laptops are still a way off because of issues with cooling.
posted by skylar at 3:37 AM on May 3, 2004

There are a few other differences along with the graphics card already mentioned. I believe the current Powerbook line as a whole has faster RAM, a faster system bus (167mhz vs. 133mhz), audio line-in, DVI-out and Airport Extreme and Bluetooth built in. Other differences will depend on what specific iBook and Powerbook you are comparing.

From a benchmark point of view, I don't think there is an awful lot between 'processor comparable' iBook and Powerbooks... Powerbooks are perhaps 10% or at most 20% faster than iBooks, although again this depends on what applications you're running and how much RAM you put in.

(I just realised that you were asking about new iBooks vs. *old* Powerbooks. So...)

The current iBooks are as fast as, if not faster than, Powerbooks from 1 or 2 years ago. I would definitely recommend buying a new iBook over an old Powerbook, from reliability and warranty grounds as well.
posted by adrianhon at 5:39 AM on May 3, 2004

As mentioned above, don't wait for a G5 powerbook; although there are rumors about a summer release, it's unlikely. I have a 17" PowerSlab and most of my staff have iBooks (I like to have the distinction of rank preserved =). They are totally capable machines, they look great, and they're an excellent trade off to save some money.

Two things to consider: You may read that iBooks don't support non-mirrored external displays; this is true by default, but it's just a crippled feature (bad apple!) and there's a hack out there to enable spanning.

Also, if you are at all interested in bluetooth, you should go with a powerbook. Having bluetooth built-in (as opposed to a dongle) makes a big, big difference.
posted by ulotrichous at 5:55 AM on May 3, 2004

iBook v Powerbook benchmarks from Barefeats
posted by adamrice at 6:23 AM on May 3, 2004

You can get BlueTooth built in with your iBook if you order it that way. That is what I did in December when I got mine. However, I am wishing that I did go with the powerbook for a couple of reasons. 1. The powerbook has a better keyboard with it. I know its minor, but it makes a huge difference if this is your main working machine. 2. The DVI out is amazing. We have three 22inch displays here at work and I cannot connect my iBook to them. 3. The PowerBook as a whole has slightly better features.

If you are not needing to hook up to a DVI monitor, then save the money and configure the 14inch iBook with everything built in (Airport, BlueTooth, SuperDrive, etc) and you will be just as happy.
posted by thebwit at 8:11 AM on May 3, 2004

FWIW, my GF bought a iBook over Christmas and I bought a 12" PowerBook (revision B, thank God) shortly after -- funny thing is, she's a graphic designer, and I'm just a university student, yet we're both thrilled with our purchases. I do not think there is a marked difference between the two, although I would hasten to add that buying a first-generation Al or Ti powerbook is a bit of a crapshoot, due to quality and design issues with them.

Oh, and what thebwit said.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:43 AM on May 3, 2004

I doubt G5 powerbooks will be around any time soon, but the line is definitely due for an upgrade. I would not be at all surpised to see a revamped powerbook at the WWDC (June 28-July 2) or Macworld Boston (July 12-15), if not sooner.
posted by rorycberger at 8:52 AM on May 3, 2004

Here's a great MacNN thread from last week, all about the differences between the new iBooks and PowerBooks. It mostly focuses on the 12" models, but I found it an informative read.
posted by jbrjake at 9:01 AM on May 3, 2004

I bought my PowerBook last November, and a month or two ago I helped someone get her new iBook set up on a home network. To me, aside from the differences mentioned earlier in this thread, there's a pronounced difference in look and feel between the two. Whether it's worth the extra money is, of course, a different question, but I wouldn't trade my PowerBook for anything, and I'd encourage you to play with both, if at all possible, before buying one.
posted by Acetylene at 10:14 AM on May 3, 2004

In addition to the above mentioned points, the biggest difference to me (saving up for one) is the monitor resolution. I'd go for the ibook, but it is limited to 1024x786, which is not spacious enough for my needs. The 12" powerbook has the same resolution, but the larger two models are much better about screen real estate.

The other main concern for me is expansion capabilities, a category in which the ibook falls short. My roomate has the 14" ibook and couldn't be happier. His needs are not terribly demanding and it performs well.

Final point, the white surface gets dirty easily and starts to look kind of grungy after a few months.
posted by shotsy at 10:48 AM on May 3, 2004

Well, YMMV shotsy: I have a 12" iBook I purchased at about the same time (c. 6-8 months ago) as a friend got his 15" aluminum PowerBook. My iBook continues to look clean and crisp, his PowerBook is covered with buff marks and nicks... Go figure...
posted by JollyWanker at 11:54 AM on May 3, 2004

Powerbooks come with a slightly more generous software bundle, don't they? That may or may not influence a purchasing decision, but it's worth noting.

I was also under the impression that the processors used in the iBook have somewhat less cache on them. Depending on how sensitive you are to performance, this might make the difference between two models with equivalent clock speeds.

I can confirm the grunginess thing: I went to the Apple Store here in San Francisco, and every one of the demo model iBooks looked unsalvageably dirty around the keyboard and touchpad area, with finger grunge apparently having stained the plastic, whereas the metal laptops were all looking much better.

The iBooks all seemed very flimsy: it was pretty clear why they are the lower-cost model, it felt as though everyday handling might break them. This is probably not true, and they are probably acceptably durable, but worth noting if you like something that "feels solid."
posted by majick at 11:57 AM on May 3, 2004

We are a powerbook/ibook family [17"/12" dual USB] and I have used both a lot. My information is mostly anecdotal:

- keyboard - I don't have very long fingernails but I do have some fingernails. When they get long, they can get stuck under the ibook's keys. This is annoying. I prefer the powerbook keyboard.
- wireless - depending how far back you go on the powerbooks, some of the really older ones had severe problems with wireless reception. Make sure you don't get one of them [no handy link for explaining this, sorry]
- besides the keyboard, I really like the feel of the ibook. It's been really rugged for me, works fine [my bf has had to send his powerbook back in twice for CD/motherboard issues all repaired under warranty by the nice guys at SmallDog]

In short, I don't do games, do a fair amount of web stuff, photoshop stuff and eight-applications-open-at-once stuff and the 12" newer G3 iBook has been fine for me [and was fairly low cost, new/refurbished for $800, 1 year warranty]. Check for the latest low prices if you're just looking for comparative numbers]. I don't seem to have trouble keeping mine clean.
posted by jessamyn at 12:03 PM on May 3, 2004

(I'll testify in favor of SmallDog as well. They've been around a long time, I know several people who have done business with them, and all are happy. I recently made a purchase with them and had minor problems; they went so far beyond what they were actually responsible for -- at not inconsiderable cost to themselves -- that I wouldn't consider doing Apple-related business with anyone else.)

jessamyn: I'm sure you have little trouble keeping the iBook clean, but in a situation where the machine will be somewhat less cared for, I would avoid an iBook if appearance and/or cleanliness is important. Sure, it's easy to wipe a little schmutz from the plastic, but I've seen the area around that touchpad blackened with irremovable dirt; I tried at that Apple Store. The sales dude mentioned it as well: on the sales floor, the metal machines stayed cleaner.

In any case, if price/performance ratio is the primary buying concern -- and seems like it might be, with namespan -- the iBook is an obvious choice. What a Powerbook has to offer over an iBook is pretty marginal in that area, particularly given the price difference, though clearly there are some non-performance differences to take into account.
posted by majick at 12:59 PM on May 3, 2004

I've got a two-year-old iBook and the biggest problem for me is the resolution. The built-in LCD has developed some problems (out of warranty, of course) but the machine is fine, so I've got it plugged into a big 19" external monitor. But I can't run the damn thing at higher than 1024x768, which royally sucks. It's like reading a large-print book. You also can't run the iBooks with the lid closed because they go to sleep every time. (Apparently this is because heat dissipates through the keyboard and it'll damage the LCD if you run it closed, but my LCD is damaged anyway.) I have to prop it open with a stack of Post-Its. My next laptop will be a Powerbook.
posted by web-goddess at 4:28 PM on May 3, 2004

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