posted by David Adams on Tue 11th Feb 2003 19:42 UTC
IconWe've had quite the Powerbook-fest here on OS News over the past few days. I also ordered a 12" Powerbook, and I would have received it several days before Eugenia if Airborne hadn't sent it to the wrong state and then lost it somewhere between Ohio and my house. But it finally arrived, and mine is the hot commodity, a 12" Powerbook with Superdrive (DVD Burner), 640 MB RAM, Airport Extreme (802.11g), and a 60 gig HD. My impression is a little different than Eugenia's and I'm approaching from a different angle.

First off, every time we post something on OSNews that isn't strictly "OS news" there are always a couple of people who post and complain about it. Note to these people: yes, I know this is off-topic, but since so many people have been interested, we're temporarily changing the name of the site to "OSNews: Exploring the Future of Computing and also 12" Powerbooks." If you don't want to read about Powerbooks, please skip to the next story. And yes, someday when two OSNews people order the same dishwasher, we will probably treat you to dueling dishwasher reviews.

12 inch Powerbook - Click for a larger view
Click for a larger image view

I was able to review it with my new airport extreme base station, which I have thanks to the attentions of a sympathetic customer service representative at Apple who sent it to me for free when Apple refused to let me return a computer I bought online at the Apple Store because I had upgraded the hard drive, when the terms and conditions were not clear on that fact at all. So remember, if you customize your system you can't return it, but Apple will go to great lengths to make you go away happy anyway. I sold the computer in question on eBay, and only lost about $100, while the new Airport is worth $250.

All I can say about the Airport Extreme card and Base station is that they work just as well as the old Airport, but faster. That's a high complement. The new base station also has a couple of nifty features: a print server that uses Rendezvous to share a USB printer with all the computers on the network and an external antenna port that's very welcome since I had to hack a hole in my old Airport to plug an antenna in when I needed more range. I also love the built-in modem, because I take the Airport with me when I travel, so I don't have to sit at the desk in my hotel.

Let me preface this review by dispensing with the ridiculous notion of an "objective" review. There is no such thing. A review is an exercise in subjectivity, otherwise it would just be a recitation of specifications. My bias is that I am a hard-core laptop user, who has carried laptops on over 250,000 miles of plane travel and 50,000 miles of road travel, and used them on four continents, and countless networks, wired and unwired. I have also owned more Powerbooks than anyone else I know. I have owned every major version of the Powerbook since 1995 (except the 2400). I have owned the following Powerbooks: Duo 2300c, two 1400s, three 5300s, two 3400s, G3 Wallstreet, G3 Lombard, two G3 Pismos, G4 Tibook 400, iBook 500, G4 Tibook 667. I have also owned two Dell Latitudes and four Sony Vaios, two 505s and two 540s. I ran Windows 98, NT and 2000 and Red Hat Linux 7 and 7.1 on the PC laptops. So this view of the 12" and its suitability for me is subjective, but also based on a lot of experience with laptop computers.

I have spent the afternoon transferring files from my old machine, a 667 Mhz Powerbook 15" Titanium with 768 MB RAM. If you embark on this, be sure to check out Carbon Copy Cloner, a little Applescript-based app that makes "cloning" your system from one machine to another a snap. With the built-in Firewire connection, it's easy as pie. One of the major advantages to the Mac platform (that has miraculously been mostly preserved from OS 9 to OS X) is that for the most part you can drag an app from one machine to another and launch it and it will work, without having to be "reinstalled." Applications that install kernel extensions are the exception, but in some cases, the application merely prompts you to install the appropriate bits once it is launched for the first time on the new machine. This is the way that things should work, but you don't always notice how nice it is when it does.

Funny that I would call the 12" Powerbook at "hot commodity," because one thing I notice after having it running for a couple hours, copying files, is that it's HOT, particularly in the lower left-hand corner, top and bottom. It's not hot enough that it actually hurts my palm to rest on it, but it's certainly a little hotter than I want it to be. I will probably need to install some kind of insulating palm rest on there for all-day use. Now, most of the laptops that I've used have been heat producers, particularly on the bottom. My Tibook heats up down below, but since I keep it on a desk most of the time, it doesn't bother me too much.

Table of contents
  1. "My Powerbook History"
  2. "Compared With Other Laptops"
  3. "Aesthetics"
  4. "The Monitor Controversy"
  5. "Conclusion"
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