posted by David Adams on Tue 11th Feb 2003 19:42 UTC

Overall, though, I think the 12" Powerbook is a nice-looking machine. The Aluminum skin gets a little smudgy, but it cleans up easy. Frankly, I think that the purple magnesium skin on the Sony Vaios was a pretty nice finish: light, strong, resistant to smudges, scratches, and dents. As I recall, the newer Vaios are more plasticy than the older ones, so maybe it turned out to be a little too expensive. On the Powerbook, the grey plastic trim around the edges is not quite of the same quality and fit and finish that I expect on a Powerbook. There are small gaps, and the gaps aren't totally even. The plastic trim is a good idea to protect the edge, but the execution isn't 100%.

The recessed screws, the battery, and the RAM door on the bottom are all very nicely engineered, though. I also like the ports on the side. The rear ports on the 15" Powerbook with their flappy little cover were always an annoyance to me. It made plugging things in a chore. Truth is, some ports are better on the side, and some are better on the back, and that preference changes depending on how you use the laptop. The move of the ports from the back to the was certainly a hinge-design decision, and the hinge on the 12" Powerbook is very nice. The location of ports can really be a sore point for me. That's one of the reasons I hated my Dells. The power cable always got tangled up with my mouse cable. And Sony just stuck ports all over the place. Sloppy.

I'll also echo everyone else and say that the speaker placement is a neato idea (on the back edge with the sound bouncing off the screen), and the speakers sound pretty good for a laptop. Some companies put big speakers into their laptops to make them sound good. Apple still saved space and made it sound good anyway. Not that I care. I keep my sound very muted and use headphones for music, but I appreciate the effort.

Now let's talk about Performance. In the days and weeks following the release of this machine, we've been up to our ears in benchmarks, so I won't do any new ones. Suffice to say this is not Apple's fastest Powerbook, and Powerbooks are not the fastest laptops. We were all disappointed to learn that Apple was not putting an L3 cache into the 12" Powerbook. However, this is not a slow machine by my standard of judgment. Truth be told, it's pretty hard to find a machine these days that is slow by my standard. Processor speed is no longer near the list of the computer industry's problems, except for the fact that computers are now so fast that they'll have to think up some other reason to get us to upgrade (not that it's a problem for us consumers).

Now, the machine that this Powerbook replaced, the iBook 500, that's a slow machine. It simply did not run OS X with acceptable speed. OS X is still a resource hog, and although I have grown to love its beauty and usability, you need a really fast computer to really live with it. My 15" Titanium Powerbook 667 is a perfectly acceptable performer, and the new 12" Powerbook is quite a bit faster, though the only place I've noticed it so far is in VirtualPC performance. The 12" Powerbook runs Windows98 on VirtualPC 6 at least as fast as the last computer I ran Windows 98 on, probably a 450 or 500 Mhz Pentium. The new Powerbook is almost fast enough to do a search of a large Entourage email database (not really). Entourage is slow, and until Microsoft ports it to some mainframe OS so I can use 128 processors, I think the search will always be too slow. Nevertheless, I still find Entourage to be the best email client for my needs on any platform, but that's only because all the email clients suck so much. Too many sucky ones available for free or "included" to make it worthwhile for someone to make a really good one you'd have to pay for.

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