Final Words

When I finished writing the first Mac article, I knew that I hadn't covered everything that I wanted to. At the end of this article, I'm left with a similar feeling. I haven't even talked about the applications that make up iLife, but that's actually on purpose, since they have just been updated to their new '05 versions. I haven't touched on a number of the applications that I use on a regular basis under OS X, or even bothered comparing cost of software ownership on Mac vs. PC platforms. I've talked a bit about subjective performance, but I haven't done much with actually doing apples-to-apples performance comparisons within the Mac world. Over 10,000 words in this article, and there's still so much more to talk about. I started the first Mac article saying that it had been one of the most difficult articles that I'd ever written, and that statement holds true for this one as well. I can crank out a review of a CPU or a video card or just about any benchmarkable, quantifiable technology in a day, but summing up an entire platform, from the perspective of an outsider, is difficult - especially to a group composed of insiders, outsiders and critics alike. There will be more of these articles to come - you can pretty much already guess what the next one will be. I took it upon myself to do the first two Mac articles about the Power Mac G5 and the PowerBook G4, but AnandTech readers have written me asking for my take on the Mac mini. Hopefully, I can shorten the turn around time on that one though.

As for the PowerBook G4, it's an excellent laptop. If you're used to the portability offered by something ultra thin, ultra small and ultra portable, then the PowerBook isn't the notebook for you. But, having owned some of the smallest laptops around, I can say that despite its bulk, I can get a lot more work done on the PowerBook than I could on my more portable notebooks. And compared to most average notebooks, the PowerBook is extremely competitive in portability, especially the 12" and 15" models. It's smaller, lighter and thinner than competing PC notebooks, which are all things that matter when talking about a notebook. In terms of performance, the PowerBook G4 held its own just fine as my companion on numerous trips, never disappointing me in terms of performance. I was actually somewhat surprised, especially considering the low expectations of G4 performance I had going into the experiment - whether it is OS X, the G4 itself or the combination of the two - the performance of the laptop was definitely nothing to complain about (other than the slow hard disk, which is true of all notebooks, unfortunately).

As far as the display goes, the beauty of LCD panels is that there are only a handful of manufacturers, regardless of whether you're talking about PCs or Macs, so the display specifications are obviously competitive. The native 1280 x 854 resolution provides a decent amount of desktop real estate, which is quite handy when working on the road and it is a good resolution for the 15.2" screen.

The slot loading Super Drive (CD-RW/DVD-R) is also nice to have, especially coming from a string of notebooks without any built-in optical drive for portability. The plethora of ports, including DVI-output, is equally useful. Evaluated purely as a notebook, I'd say that the 15" PowerBook G4 is a little expensive, but the most full-featured, complete package that I've ever seen in a notebook. The 12" PowerBook would be a little tougher of a sell for me, simply because I'd be giving up a decent amount of screen real estate, but despite its heavier weight compared to things like the ThinkPad X series, I'd still probably pick it simply because the package as a whole is much more complete. Having an optical drive, despite the number of times that I've said the contrary, always comes in handy. It's not that you use it all the time, but it's the handful of cases when you need it that you can really appreciate it.

And then there's the OS. On the desktop, there's the issue of gaming, but when you're dealing with a portable solution like the PowerBook, gaming isn't really much of an issue. The integrated Mobility Radeon 9700 isn't used for much now, but it will come OS X Tiger. Unless you do a lot of .NET development on the road, just about anything you use your laptop for is available under OS X - and as a portable OS, OS X works very well. The price argument isn't as big of a deal on the mobile side, and although the Mac mini is an attractive platform on which to get introduced to OS X, the PowerBook may actually be a more useful one if you find yourself using a laptop a lot. While OS X as a desktop replacement to a life-long PC user may be a tough sell, the PowerBook is a much easier sell if you need a laptop. If you don't, well, then there's this little thing that Apple just released...

OS X and Mobile Usability (and Performance)


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  • jonmarsh - Thursday, November 03, 2005 - link

    I just read this and several other Mac articles here last night. Funny thing is, several weeks ago when my "enterprise" HP laptop started flaking out on a business trip, I was at the point where I was considering buying a Mac Mini just to play with. This was after reading about the current state of Tiger and the platform in general.

    Instead, I ended up walking out of the store with a new 17" Powerbook, which is no heavier than my 15" HP, and infinitely more pleasurable to use, in so many ways. After loading Office for the Mac, iWorks, Deltagraph, Acrobat and Acrobat reader, and bringing my files over, I was ready for a subsequent three weeks of business travel, and haven't looked back since.

    I'll need the HP to run some of my CAD software (schematics and PCB design), but I'm pretty sure now there will be a G5 dual processor system in my future running those apps under Virtual PC.

    Perhaps some of the adoption process and uptake wouldn't have been as smooth with earlier versions of OSX, but some days I just wonder why I didn't do this sooner.

    BTW, I've been using PCs since 1983, and building them since 1985, so it's not like I'm not quite immersed in that scene, especially due to the CAD work (electrical and mechanical) which I do. For now, I'm learning Ashlar Vellum Graphite, and thinking I should have done that long ago, too. (Adios, AutoCAD).

    BTW, the 23" Ciinema display is great- not that my Samsung 213T is obsolete, but the integration factor for the Apple is a big plus. And this silly laptop DOES have dual DVI and can drive the 30" display, too. Hmmmm. ;^)

  • Imaginer - Sunday, August 07, 2005 - link

    "For example, if you have a file, drag it into an open Terminal window and the entire path to that file will be copied into the window for you. It actually makes interacting with the file system from the command prompt quite easy. "

    Windows command prompt allows this too
  • rhayes - Tuesday, July 26, 2005 - link

    I bought a PowerBook 15" 1.5ghz about 4 months ago (my first Mac for all intents and purposes).

    As mostly a PC user (Windows + Linux), I agree with a lot of what Anand talks about in the article. I think most people coming from a Windows background could safely make a purchasing decision based on that article...

    For the record, what really sold me on the Mac (particularly the PowerBook) was running into it EVERYWHERE at my last Java symposium: "No Fluff Just Stuff". As a Java developer, it just seemed liked the perfect package: a) no Windows in sight, b) UNIX on a notebook without having to install it myself, c) the best OS GUI on the market IMO.

    The reservations about the 1 button mouse on the G4 are definitely understandable. But somehow (for whatever reason) it really doesn't bother me. However, when I'm at a client site and developing for long periods of time on the G4, I do carry a Bluetooth mouse with me. It's one button also :)

  • ginjin31 - Sunday, June 12, 2005 - link

    wonderful job with all the articles related to this. i can't believe i read the whole thing. =D

    there's one thing that i haven't noticed though. you never mentioned the sleep freature in the Powerbook, where you never really have to turn off your laptop. so whenever you need to use it you just take it out open it and it's ready to go.

    unlike PCs, you have to turn it off, standbye, or hibernate. waiting for the PC to boot takes a lot time, so a lot of time wasted before you can actually start working. i'm not really satisfied with the standby feature either. sometimes the PC just doesn't resume or i would get an error message. this happens more often and i would always end up rebooting the PC in the end.

    this is my favorite feature on Macs, and i don't know if i missed it but i don't think you mentioned it at all in the article.

    wonderful job overall Anand. i felt exactly the same way when i first got my Mac, being a diehard PC user myself.
  • Gooberslot - Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - link

    #28, it works on Win98 too. Reply
  • mongo lloyd - Monday, February 21, 2005 - link

    Sometimes, these article make me wonder if Anand is the kind of "die-hard PC user" as he claims. For example:

    "Unlike the Windows command prompt, Terminal actually interfaces quite well with the rest of OS X. For example, if you have a file, drag it into an open Terminal window and the entire path to that file will be copied into the window for you. It actually makes interacting with the file system from the command prompt quite easy."

    As does CMD. As it's done for at least since Win2000. Possibly longer. There are lots of small things like these, bordering on being untrue statements, interspersed into these two Macintosh articles (which, admittedly, are good reads).
  • azkman - Sunday, February 06, 2005 - link

    It looks like one of your dislikes with the G4 P'Book may have been partially addressed with the brand new lineup. Scolling and panning on the trackpad can be performed with two fingers. Besides, they're just plain faster and cheaper than before. BTW, great review! Reply
  • sluxx - Thursday, February 03, 2005 - link

    Enjoyed the article very much.

    I'll also fifth SideTrack. For $15, you essentially get a new multi-function trackpad.

    When you are typing, in the middle of a word, press alt+esc, you get a list of words that begins with what you've typed. Great for looking up words that you're not certain of the spellings. I imagine it works only for Cocoa apps and not Carbon apps.

    A couple of other freewares that I find useful: Spirited Away that hides selected (you select) background apps after a specified amount of time, and Speed Freak, a GUI wrap of the "renice" unix command. It's especially useful for me on a G3 iBook, but can help making your front app snappier. You can search and find them at

    My first time here, but looking forward to reading your other articles.
  • hindsight - Saturday, January 29, 2005 - link

    A couple of PowerBook features not covered in the article but still worth mentioning:

    - Dual displays: an external monitor plugged into the PowerBook can either mirror the LCD screen or act as a second display and thus significantly increase the desktop real estate.

    - Target Disk Mode: start the computer with the 'T' key held down and the computer behaves like an external FireWire drive. Very useful for transferring large amounts of data between machines quickly. (this works to all Macs)
  • bshell - Thursday, January 27, 2005 - link

    Both Windows and Macintosh OS's try to "think for you", but there's a fundamental difference in how they do this. Windows *imposes* its monopolistic will all the time, making decisions that it decrees to be the way things should be done all the way from spelling and grammar to where files should be stored, to the web search results. It's very mercenary, patronizing, irritating, and annoying. Apple, on the other hand has a more philosopher-king style, making "kind suggestions" rather than decrees, and guessing what you want correctly, sensibly, and unobtrusively more of the time. Somehow the choices Apple makes feel much kinder than Windows and always make you go "Wow, thanks" instead of "Oh damn, leave me alone." This is pervasive. Reply

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