12" Pow' review (translated from German) - ehMac.ca
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 03:29 PM   #1
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Here's a review of the 12" PowerBook (link to original above) -- translated from German to English by a macnn.com reader. It's more understandable than using the Babel Fish translator.

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> The 12" PowerBook Review (by Markus Schelhorn, macwelt.de)

Steve Jobs calls the new PowerBook a jewel, the most compact and best equipped 12-inch notebook in the world. It is certainly the job of the Apple boss to praise his product, but if you look closer at the little PowerBook G4, it is an upgraded iBook. The casing of the mini PowerBook is very similar to the iBook, which is indeed 4 milimeters thicker. Instead of plastic the PowerBook's casing is made from aluminium.

Processor speed with trade-offs

The G4 processor of the 12" PowerBook uses only a 256k Level-2 cache. In contrast to the 1MB Level-3 cache of its bigger siblings the 12" PowerBook has none. This additional buffer memory can feed the processor faster than the slower RAM. Although the G3 processor of the iBook neither has a Level-3 cache, it has a doubled Level-2 cache compared to the G4 processor.
You will definetely notice the missing Level-3 cache. The processor of the 12" PowerBook is of similar speed as the 800MHz iBook when using AppleWorks or Microsoft Office, although the iBook is clocked 67MHz slower. These applications (like Cinema 4D) don't use the Velocity Engine of the G4 processor. Using the 3D program the iBook renders generally faster than the little PowerBook. The 800MHz iBook renders an example scene in 43 seconds whereas the 12" Powerbook need 5 seconds more. The 12" PowerBook shows its strengths with Photoshop, iTunes or iMovie. These applications frequently use the floating point unit of the G4 processor. Our Photoshop test (rendering 10 filters) was done after 72 seconds on the PowerBook, and it took 23 seconds longer on the 800Mhz iBook. Ripping a song with iTunes required 58 seconds on the little PowerBook and 94 seconds on the iBook.

Fast graphics.

The new nVIDIA Geforce4 420 Go with 32MB video RAM is responsible for the graphics compared to the ATI graphics chip in its 15" big brother. This mobile variant of the Geforce4 is slower than the ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 built into the 15" PowerBook in our tests, but is considerably faster than the graphics card of the iBook, especially with 2D acceleration.
Scrolling a 500 pages document in Microsoft Word took 59 seconds on the 12" PowerBook. Where the 15" PowerBook is 15 seconds faster, the 800MHz iBook is 19 seconds slower. But with 54fps in the Quake3 test the 12" PowerBook got only 3fps more than the iBook. The iBook uses an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 with an AGP interface half as fast as the PowerBook's one. The 15" PowerBook is a lot faster in this discipline, the ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 generated 74fps.

Configuration: partly with trade-offs

The little PowerBook has the same mini VGA interface as the iBook, whereas his big brothers have a DVI-I interface, which can connect to both digital and analog VGA displays. After all you can use spanning with the little Powerbook instead of just mirroring on an external display as is the case with the iBook. Appel provides a mini-VGA-to-VGA adapter and a S-Video/Composite adapter with the PowerBook.
On the right side of the PowerBook you can find the slot-in drive, depending on mode it is a Superdrive or Combo. Contrary to the iBook the power plug is located on the left side. There are also the ports for modem, ethernet, FireWire, USB, mini VGA, headphones, and microphone. You can find the slots for the RAm and AirPort Extreme card on the bottom side of the PowerBook. After removing the cover of the meomry slot we saw the SO-DIMM slot. Unfortunately it is loaded with an 128MB module. if you want to add more memory, you have to remove this module. After removing the battery you can reach the AirPort slot easily without any tools. If you need a bigger hard disk, we recommend to built to order. We quickly gave up our attempt to see the inside of the PowerBook.
We were surprised that the 12" model has a faster ComboDrive that the 15" model. It writes to CD-R with 24x instead of 8x, it writes to CD-RW with 10x, instead of the 8x in the 15" model. Also, the SuperDrive of the 12" model is faster than the 15" one's, because it reads DVD with 8x instead of 6x.


The little PowerBook G4 left us with mixed feelings. The gain in speed is to little for the hefty premium compared to the iBook, the better configuration does not justify the big drain on your wallet. For the premium you get an PowerBook which design may appeal to some people more than the plastic of the iBook. Additionally you get an slot for an AirPort Extreme card. and the possibility of monitor spanning. This function has been disabled by the Mac manufacturer in the iBook's Open Firmware. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Seems the new 12" Pow' doesn't stand up well against an 800 MHz iBook but outperforms in AltiVec compatible tasks. That (IBM) Sahara in my iBook -- an 800 MHz-- feels snappy. I however need a larger screened laptop than my current setup -- hopefully a yet unannounced 15" AlBook which will likely retain the L3 of the current Ti. Plug -- anyone interested in a pristine 800 MHz iBook
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 04:09 PM   #2
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To each his own. It's unfortunate for Apple's "value" rating on its portables (see CNET ratings), but not surprising, that nobody is able to attach a price tag to features like Bluetooth, Airport Extreme, monitor spanning, or even battery life, size or weight. Personally I agree with Apple that this book is currently worth its weight in dollar bills (US), and am happy to pay the premium. Granted, I will be using it as a pro-sumer and not a professional, so I tend to value having the most up-to-date technology but not necessarily the highest performance. What relative importance do different features have for you?
External VGA resolution: ? %
Business apps performance: ? %
Media apps performance: ? %
Cool factor: ? %
Portability: ? %
Screen real estate: ? %
Data storage capacity: ? %
Compatibility: ? %
Connectivity: ? %
Usability in Aqua: ? %
Usability in X11: ? %
Durability: ? %
Having it all but not having to take out a mortgage: ? %
What else? hmmm...
Sheesh - I just realized - this reads like a MasterCard commercial. Apologies!
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Old Jan 31st, 2003, 06:28 PM   #3
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Ahhhh, Babel Fish.

Douglas Adams, we miss ya.
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