My new 15-inch Powerbook: a review

Okay, I promised a review of my 15″ Powerbook and I was quite mum on this topic because I did not feel like I already knew enough of my machine to give you good feedback. But now is the time. Unfortunately, I must admit my machine suffers from what most owners suffer from. There are three major issues with this machine:

  1. The White Spot Problem. Reported throughout the internet, this seems to be the the biggest trouble with this computer. White spots appear over time and my machine has them as well. It is quite annoying although you can still work with your computer. But you have them always and when looking at movies it is more than annoying. However, it seems as Apple has finally admitted this problem exists, after Powerbook users joined and brought up this Online Petition. I signed it, if you have the same problem, please sign it too.
  2. Noise. The second problem is noise from the loudspeakers. If it is quiet in your room, you can hear crisp sounds coming out of the speakers. They tend to become much loader if any kind of ethernet activity is going on. I noticed something similar with the latest G5 machines where it is even louder. Obviously the machines lack some kind of shielding. Although this is not as annoying as the white spot problem, it should be fixed.
  3. Battery Lifetime. I was quite disappointed to see that I never got more than 3 hours of power from the battery. Actually, it was more close to 2 hours depending on what I do, but the things I do seem to prevent independent work longer than 120 minutes. Apple should do something about this and offer a stronger battery for the machine as soon as possible.
  4. Loose Lid. The lid does not close as it should. For reasons totally unclear to me, Apple chose to design the lid with some extra “air” between the lid and the bottom. So when it is closed, it still moves when you press it. This is annoying, when wearing it around. I don‘t understand why it it just can‘t be done otherwise. Jobs tends to compare Apple to BMW quite often. This is not a good thing, Steve. Please try to stack up with MERCDEDES-BENZ. Their doors shut perfectly. I would expect the “door” of my Powerbook to shut with the same feeling of preciseness and with no slackness.
  5. Lid Angle. Due to the new lid construction style taken over from the iBook, the lid can‘t be pushed as far back as the Titanium G4 Powerbook. This usually not a problem but there are situations where you would just want to push it a bit further back if only to see it was already well-positioned. However, this is not a big issue, more a remark. The Titanium adopted to all kinds of situations where the Aluminum G4 just adopts to some less.
  6. No Handle. There is no built-in handle and there seems to be no option to add one.

Okay. Now after having dropped my rants, I can turn to the pros of this computer: it is a wonderful machine in every other respect:

  1. Performance. The performance is fine. Coupled with Panther, my workflow is more than sufficient. The machine is powerful enough to handle the usual DV to MPEG-4 encodings in acceptable time and the 3D acceleration makes the windows fly (not only with Exposé)
  2. Keyboard Illumination. The keyboard illumination is pure beauty. More optimization could be done on making the funnction keys a bit more visible but in general everything is fine. There are however some bugs in Panther that keep the lighting from switching on automatically after wakeup. Putting the machine to sleep and waking it up once more usually helps, but the feature is sometimes stuck. Usually, when you want to demonstrate the feature to potential convert :-)
  3. Sturdiness. Overall sturdiness has improved a lot over the former G4 model. While the old model was quite flexible, the new feels more like a piece of metal, which is good. If the lid wouldn‘t move, it would be perfect. There is still work to be done and if Apple sees room for improvement, they should go ahead and do it, but it is fine already.
  4. Keyboard Feel. I know this is a very personal thing, but the keyboard is fine for me. Good they added another COMMAND-key and good they still have the ENTER key in addition to the RETURN key. This is one of the small things I like about Macs compared to PCs which have no notion of separate input confirmation keys.
  5. Screen. Apart from the white spot problem, the screen is bright, clear and you can look at it from almost every angle without any distortion in color or brightness. Very good.
  6. Interfaces. This machine has them all: an extra Firewire port makes working with a DV input source and external hard disks much easier. The Firewire 800 port is good for high-performance disks like RAID, which are not that important to me that much but to other people like VJs. USB 2.0 works and it is good to have this option although I dislike USB a lot in general. It is a clever move to have one USB port on each side as it is ideal for right-handers and lefties alike. The analog part of the DVI-I port not only connects to VGA devices but it decodes the display type and the supported resolutions. I forgot how this feature is named and found no mentioning in the Developer Note as well but I remember this being a feature added to VGA recently by an industry-wide agreement.
  7. DVD. The built-in DVD drive is pretty silent and burns DVD-R at double speed, which is acceptable. Unfortunately, this drive does not yet support DVD+R media, but I am not really missing that.
  8. Sound. The sound of the machine is so much better than the original Titanium G4. I know the speakers have already improved during the lifetime of the series but the Aluminium model adds a lot. Sound is still far away from HiFi, but it is much less annoying and louder (could be even a bit more louder).
  9. WLAN Reception. WLAN was a catastrophe in the former model, not it is somewhere between okay and good. I have noticed even better signal numbers on PC laptops being connected to the same base station so this can still improve, but now I have good coverage in my whole flat where I could just use WLAN in a single room before.

So what should I say? Apart from the bugs, this machine is very recommendable. I heard, Apple has stopped production right now anyway so if you go ahead and order yours, you will probably receive a fixed version already. I am waiting for my old Powerbook to return from repair before I hand over this Powerbook to AppleCare to get rid of the display and noise bug. I can wait as it will make it much more likely to get every known issue fixed.

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