Apotheosis of the PowerBook

The MacBook Pro is a very cool, very fast and very shiny computer. But, as of now, largely pointless for me: until such time as core applications for the photographer and image munger are released as Universal Binaries, I’d simply be paying more for a machine that ran Photoshop and its ilk more slowly than my existing machine (under the Rosetta emulation environment), and which wouldn’t run some plug-ins at all. Unless I was using Aperture as the heart of my workflow (which I can’t, due to its current, “limitations” in RAW conversion), the only benefit would be that the Finder, email and text editor would run ludicrously fast (and they’re fine already). The first generation MacBook Pro has also taken some backward steps in its specification that smack of a rush to market.

On the other hand, I would rather like as fast as possible a machine to carry me through until Adobe go Universal with the software heavy brigade. It’s got to be a portable, and needs to have a screen that’s bright enough for photo-editing in the field (on my 1.25GHz Powerbook, I have to use an external Cinema Display for any serious editing, due to the brightness/contrast limitations of its screen). A little more resolution wouldn’t go amiss, either. And, funnily enough, Apple make one of these. Or rather, made one: from October 2005 through to the launch of the MacBook Pro, the final version of the 1.67GHz G4 Powerbook included a faster memory and bus architecture (DDR2) as well as a stunning new 1440*960 high brightness screen (on the 15″, 1680*1050 on the 17″) and a dual-link DVI output for the 30″ Cinema display. The 17″ is of no interest to me (one of my usability tests being whether I can open a laptop in Economy Class), but the 15″ looks like a sweet machine. And a look at Apple’s Refurbished Store shows that Apple are currently punting these machines out at some very, very attractive prices. So that was a no-brainer. In fact, I’ve ordered four: assorted colleagues and collaboraters who saw a draft of this have all jumped on the bandwagon. For a machine that listed at about £1400 inc UK VAT, a price in the UK refurb store of £909.32 inc VAT (reduced further this week) and $1599 in the US store are a very useful reduction. Take VAT out of the equation and it’s about £100 cheaper in the UK than the US, which makes a nice change. The 17″ version with the big screen isn’t currently listed on the US store, but is £1399.20 (inc VAT) on the UK store. The 15″ is very obvious on the US refurb store, but the UK store confuses the issue by listing several of the older-spec machines at higher prices – look for the one labelled PowerBook 15.2″ 1.67GHz /512MB /80GB /SD /AE /BT, at £773.89 exc. VAT – in the Learn More link, you’ll see the 1440*960 screen listed in the specification. The weirdness here is that the very same machine is (at today’s exchange rates) is $923 in the US and $A1110 in the Apple Australia Refurb store. As someone currently resident in the UK, I ain’t arguing.

If this has made you think seriously about buying one, I’d naturally be very happy if you did so by following the graphic ad at the bottom of this posting to the UK Store and then clicking on the refurbished store logo – I’m a registered Apple UK Affiliate and the very small kickback I get from Apple helps give me the incentive to keep on posting hopefully useful stuff to the site. The US store (on which I don’t get any benefit) is here – click on the “Special Deals” link to go to their refurb store. Thanks and all that…

There is one thing to watch (for which read, “learn from my mistakes”): PowerBooks are known to be fussy about aftermarket memory – and this machine seems to be a very major prima donna in this regard. I can say, with some confidence, that Transcend memory upgrades do NOT work on this machine, no matter what the Transcend web site says. When buying RAM, I invariably max out my Powerbooks with 2GB – absolutely essential for programs like Photoshop and Aperture. This machine, the final 1.67GHz Powerbook G4, uses DDR2 RAM – the same form factor as the MacBook Pro, so I ordered 2*1GB of Transcend DDR2 667MHz SODIMM RAM from Orca Logic, on the principle that I could simply swap over the RAM when I finally buy a MacBook Pro. Nice idea, but one that simply didn’t work – the Transcend memory causing multiple freezes and loss of Bluetooth connectivity – usually a sign of mismatched memory timings. Although the 667MHz memory should have worked fine, I took it back and replaced it with the DDR2 533MHz memory specified by Transcend for this PowerBook. No dice – same problem. Beginning to suspect the PowerBook itself, I swapped the memory into a second, identical, PowerBook: same problem. A collaborator of mine was, by this stage, also having the same problem with identical memory. So the Transcend RAM was duly returned to Orca Logic (whose service has been exemplary throughout) and 2GB of Micron memory ordered through Crucial. That went in this morning and, so far, it’s looking good…

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One thought on “Apotheosis of the PowerBook”

  1. Hi Thankyou for your review on the 2*1 Gb Transcend Ram for the powerbook DDR2 g4. I did the same thing and having the same problems. Could you let me know if the Crucial memory modules are working well? Were you able to get a refund on the transend Ram?? Thanks Paul

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