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Rationalizing a Powerbook

Posted by Chris Jones
On September 28th, 2005 at 13:22

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I’m very close to picking up a new LCD panel and Mac Mini for my wife–I just want to make sure that the 1.42 GHz ones are out of the channel before I commit to purchasing one. Along with this, of course, is the desire to upgrade from or replace my Dell Inspirion 8100. It’ll be four years old this November, the battery is truly shot, it’s got a potentially defective power supply, and I can’t even really use it to bot in DAOC (plus, I’m either playing Guild Wars or WoW these days anyway). While it’s potentially good for programming, web browsing, etc., especially if I invest in a new battery, I want more.

What’s disappointing is that laptops haven’t gotten that much faster, longer lived, or better in the four years that I’ve had it. The laptop I’m using at work, that belongs to Cardinal, has a 3 GHz Pentium 4 HT–essentially a desktop chip, with the heat and battery-life issues that go along with it. Mobile Intel chips, however, are generally limited to around 1.7 GHz because of power and heat considerations–this helps give insight into the annoyingly long wait for Powerbook upgrades.

Where laptops have really seen improvements are in memory, disk storage, networking, and graphics performance. My 8100 tops out at 512 MB of PC133 memory, and has a 20 GB HDD, integrated 10/100 Ethernet, and a 32 MB Nvidia GeForce 2 Go. The year-old Inspirion 5150 I’m using has 1 GB of PC2100 RAM, a 40 GB HDD, integrated 10/100/1000 Ethernet, and 64 MB GeForce FX 5200 Go–respectable upgrades from what I own, and certainly not top-of-the line or upgraded. A 17″ Powerbook goes up to 2 GB PC2700 RAM, a 100 GB HDD, integrated gigabit ethernet, and a 128 MB ATI Radeon 9700. (I’m using a Radeon 9600 at home, albeit with 256 MB.) Faster bus speeds, memory speeds, and hard drives all help performance, but they’re harder to see than the standard for laptop CPU speeds has only gone from 1 GHz to 1.7 GHz in four years.

MacRumors’ buying guide tells me to wait to buy a PowerBook. I’ll take their advice for now: if the Intel chips are available before June, it may be worth waiting, but the new edition Powerbook will suffer from teething problems–I may not want to be part of that group, and would instead rather have the last (collector’s edition) G4 PowerBook.

Why not an iBook? Not enough speed, bandwidth, etc.

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