Retro Review: Titanium PowerBook G4 Unboxing & First Impressions

Originally published in 2001 by editor Steve Hildreth After using a 1999 Lombard PowerBook G3/400 for the past two and a half years, I finally took the plunge and purchased a new Titanium PowerBook G4/667. My Lombard has been a wonderful machine, and I just couldn’t bring myself to upgrade to a Pismo or revision A TiBook when they were introduced (not enough performance gain), but Apple’s recent update to the TiBook line pushed me over the edge. My reasoning was as follows:

1. I wanted the larger display. I’ve always been a fan of screen real estate, and the more the better. I only wish that Apple would include some sort of ADC connector so I could use one of their 17" flat panels as a second display.

2. I needed more memory capacity. Lombard tops out (officially) at 384MB, and that just wasn’t cutting it. My new TiBook comes with 512MB, and I see myself going to 1GB within a year.

3. I needed more horsepower. The 66MHz bus and 400MHz G3 processor in the Lombard are more than enough for basic tasks (e-mail, web browsing, office applications, etc.), but are somewhat lacking in more intensive applications (parsing large HTML tables in GoLive, for example). My new TiBook flies in comparison. Going from a 66MHz to 133MHz bus and 400MHz to 667Mhz processor basically doubles the performance, in my mind, and that’s about what I was after.

4. I needed the better ATI graphics card. I use an LCD projector to give large PowerPoint presentations to a class of 160 three days a week. The Lombard is able to drive the projector at 1024×768, but screen redraws are slow. No so with the TiBook. I used it on Friday for the first time, and screen redraws were instantaneous.

Why a PowerBook and not an iBook, you ask? Several reasons. First, I wanted the larger screen. Sure, the 12.1" LCD on the iBook is nice, but it’s still 12.1", and my eyes aren’t getting any younger. Second, I use the infrared eye and PC card slot almost daily, and those are not present on any iBook. Lastly, the 667MHz PowerBook is significantly faster and shouldn’t become obsolete as quickly as the internal architecture of the iBook.

I purchased the PowerBook from ClubMac. At $2895, including their online instant rebate, it was a steal. You’ll pay more at the Apple Store, and they’ll also charge you sales tax. Better get on over to ClubMac and purchase one of these PowerBooks while they’re still offering the instant rebate option.

After using the TiBook for the past few days, my first impression is that this machine rocks. Great display, and no dead pixels. Much better keyboard than the one on the Lombard. Applications open much faster, and the TiBook feels quicker overall than the Lombard. I also purchased one of the new AirPort Base Stations, and well, AirPort is very cool. Basically, even with all my reservations about losing the expansion bay with dual-battery capability, my Lombard instantly became antiquated.

The TiBook is not without its quirks. The internal fan runs much more frequently than the fan in my Lombard. Over two and a half years, the Lombard’s fan ran only half a dozen times (if that much). The TiBook’s runs a couple of times an hour. There are a couple of fan speeds, but ‘high’ seems to be most common. I don’t mind the fan, but I can see how it could annoy some people over time. It’s definitely intrusive if it comes on while you’re listening to a DVD or iTunes without headphones. The rear port door seems rather flimsy, and it can be quite difficult to remove RJ-11 and RJ-45 connectors, as well as the power cord, with the way the screen hangs over the ports. The trackpad is overly sensitive, and the curser sometimes jumps around when I’m trying to use it. This may just be me – I had the same problem with the trackpad on the Lombard until I got used to it. I have a love/hate relationship with one other feature. Pushing the button to open the lid automatically wakes the PowerBook from sleep – no button pressing required. While this feature is very convenient (the PowerBook is ready to go once you get the screen adjusted to the right angle), I worry that the display release button will get accidentally pressed while in transit, and that could be disasterous for the hard drive. Fortunately, you can turn off this option in the Energy Saver control panel. In OS X, I’m not sure.

I’ll be running some speed tests between the new TiBook and my Lombard G3/400. Many Lombard owners will be approaching the three-year mark soon, and since three years is a common time for PowerBook owners to think about upgrading, some of my numbers might be relevant.

Since unboxing new product is becoming something of a must-do on the Mac web, I hereby present the unboxing of my PowerBook G4/667 (click on an image to see a larger picture):

ClubMac box Apple box inside PowerBook box
inside PowerBook box power supply PowerBook
sealed PB PB front ports
PB open keyboard inch thick
length width power supply
power supply power supply

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