apple 15.2″ aluminium powerbook: to buy or not to buy

[update 20031018: i will cancel the order asap as there are serious screen quality issues with the new 15″ aluminium powerbooks]

as there is a nice shopping occasion i consider buying one of these new aluminum fruits (1.25 ghz 15.2″ powerbook with superdrive model no. M8981LL/A). there have been some favorable reviews already which allows me to publish just my very own plus/minus bullet list:

why i should buy a powerbook:

+ great hardware coupled with cool design. true “form follows function”. very solid material, very well engineered. no latches. excellent full-size keyboard (with auto-adjusted back-light as a special gimmick). slot-in superdrive (writes even dvd-r). good speakers, nice sound chip and d/a-a/d converters (0.005% distortion, 92.9 dba dynamics), internal microphone. bright, large display (158 cd/sqm). track pad (much better than a track point).
+ very low noise, 19 dba/0.1 sone (this is particularly important to me and rarely seen with current processors – or should i call them heaters? ;)
+ light weight (2.5 kg) and yet a full-size notebook with all features needed
+ many builtin ports and connectors. state-of the art connectivity such as firewire 400 and 800, usb 2.0, bluetooth 1.1, 802.11g wlan, gigabit ethernet, modem, pc card/cardbus, dvi, s-video, line-in, headphones out.
+ features the fastest available graphics chip for notebooks: ati mobility radeon 9600 with 64 mb ddr sdram. the graphics chip is often a weakness of pc based laptops and particularly of (plain and convertible) tabletpcs. ati is nicely supported by linux (better than nvidia which only release binary drivers but no specs).
+ very good operating system (mac os x 10.2 “jaguar”, eventually mac os x 10.3 “panther”) based on an open source kernel (darwin). supports unix/posix.
+ great gui (aqua) with very good usability. no nasty window resizing lags as seen with windows xp or xfree. aqua sports 3d hardware acceleration, true what-you-see-is-what-you-get (wysiwyg) featuring built-in pdf-support thanks to quartz extreme. has original fonts included (not those cheap imitations as with windows xp and "linux"/xfree -> this is a clear evidence for apple’s quality consciousness).
+ apple embraces open source software
+ is capable of running linux (e.g. gentoo, debian and many more). also runs windows xp prof and windows software using virtual pc(*). if needed, there’s office v. x (but i guess openoffice would do the trick. besides, for serious writing i prefer what-you-mean-is-what-you-get aka troff or latex anyway ;). many linux/*bsd/oss devs own powerbooks – a good sign for its future linux/*bsd/oss support.
+ runs most linux, unix, *bsd software. even has a native x-server. ports collection (fink).
+ suitable for almost any task. nice programming environment (java, objective c, c++, fortran) enabling and encouraging both closed and open source software development. good interoperability with unices and windows boxes thanks to nfs and smb/cifs support and rendezvous (rendezvous is an implementation of zeroconf which is also supported on windows). excellent multimedia capabilities. suitable for highly demanding 3d applications/-simulations and games (thanks to the ati mobility radeon 9600).
+ runs the latest versions of x-plane (the x-plane demo for windows i’ve downloaded unfortunately crashes at startup – i hope the mac os x version doesn’t) and flightgear :)
+ runs serene screen (which is nice for meditation wherever you are ;) eventually i could even continue to use my current license key (not sure whether it’s valid for the mac os x version too).
+ (hopefully) no more bad multitasking and faulty file locking hassles as experienced with windows xp
+ very good price/value ratio
+ makes coffee ;)

why i shouldn’t:

– relatively “short” battery runtime (c’t measured 2:15 h for the 1 ghz model when playing dvds, the apple retailer told me it’s about 2:30 h in normal use. the 1.25 ghz model will probably run a bit shorter.)
– no pentium m/centrino (the g4 cpu is not as fast as a pentium m. mac os x however still looks much smoother and faster than windows xp on a faster cpu. for number-crunching and kernel compilation orgies a pentium m would be better nevertheless.)
– no tablet pc functionality (that’s a pity as apple – the inventor of the newton – would actually be predestined for producing tabletpcs ;)
pegasus notetaker does not work on mac os x (i guess i could make it work with virtual pc though). eventually i’ll need to replace it by a wacom tablet (which are technically superior to the technology wacom uses in tablet pcs). this would also more than compensate for the lacking tabletpc functionality (i’d only use tabletpc functionality for designing/painting anyway). the tabletpc contender of the powerbook would be the acer travelmate c111 tci (which clearly can’t compete feature-wise).
– some proprietary microsoft video file formats might not be viewable anymore (except when using virtual pc) despite of mplayer’s remarkable file format support.
– can’t leverage msdnaa anymore (except via virtual pc or any of my other boxes running windows)
– hardware lock-in. the hardware choice is definitely more limited than with the wintel/pc platform. in return the hardware and software is well tested and usually matches better. apple/mac hardware tends to be of better quality than pc hardware in general.
– wait for a g5 based powerbook to be released (note: one might need to wait for ages as the g5 is not energy-efficient enough for mobile use yet.. it will probably be a long and hard journey to take it there)

here’s (again) a comparison of the usability and features of mac os x vs. windows xp. i don’t know how current this comparison is.

(*) ben, is there any chance that “virtual pc” will be included in our msdnaa subscription?

One Reply to “apple 15.2″ aluminium powerbook: to buy or not to buy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 × 1 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.