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August 9, 2003

PowerBook Crashes to the Floor (for the 3rd Time)

Three times now my 12" PowerBook has taken a hit falling from 2-4 feet to the floor. In each instance the PB comes up with another dent/bump/mark/warped panel, but continues to function properly. The casing has protected the laptop internals, but has definitely changed with each fall. I have noticable curves where there shouldn't be.

I guess now is a good time for some of my thoughts on this little machine. Overall the laptop has met/exceeded my expectations. A lot of what I like about it has to do with OS X, but that's for another entry. I had wanted a smaller laptop for awhile so I could work on the same machine everywhere I went, just couldn't find anything in the market that really met my needs. Had thought about the 15" PB, but it would have been bigger than I was hoping for, so bided my time until the 12" PowerBook was announced in January, 2003.

A few things I think really stand out:
1) The screen clarity and brightness are excellent. In many cases I have to dim it down to make it comfortable (working at home, on the plane etc).
2) Battery life is excellent. I can get a good 4.5 hours of work done (dimmed screen, no airport).
3) Dual video display and mirroring is wonderful. I operate in dual-display mode most of the time at work, using the laptop screen and an external 19" Viewsonic VX900. The clarity on the Viewsonic is as good as I've seen anywhere. I use the 19" display primarily for Emacs, Safari and iTerm, nothing moving fast or requiring exceptional rendering.
4) I rarely hear the fan come on, making the machine virtually silent. I keep the PowerBook on an iCurve at work, which must keep it cool enough to never need the fan. Even with it on my lap for 2 hours the fan might come on for 1 minute total.
5) L3 cache was a concern. The 12" has none. I was worried I would notice slowness and be unsatisfied with the speed. I have yet to do something where I though the speed was slower than acceptable. Again, I am primarily coding, browsing and working on remote machines.
6) The speakers are in the back of the laptop, where the screen hinges up. I think this is clever design; the screen drops down as it hinges up, making the screen in the right position to reflect the sound from the speakers out to the user. Nothing like headphones or a good set of speakers, but the best idea I've seen for getting sound out of such tiny speakers.

A few things to improve:
1) The little rubber legs which keep the laptop off the desk fell off shortly after I got the laptop. Have to see if Apple has a suggestion/replacement for that.
2) I need a docking station, so far I haven't seen one.
3) It can get a little toasty when working for hours with laptop on lap. I've never had it "burn" me, but have had to move it around a bit as it became warmer than compfortable.
4) The SuperDrive works well, but inserting and ejecting CDs is not up to Apple's standard. Both on the way in and on the way out the SuperDrive jerks and makes sounds like it's eating or barfing up the media. It scared me at first, because most of Apple's mechanics are smooth and quiet. It gets the job done, but not with any grace.

Overall, after having owned this puppy for 4 months (to the day) I would make the same choice I did back then to get it. Until Apple comes up with a newer model, I'll be sticking with this.

Specs:
12" PowerBook
867 MHz G4
640MB ram
60G drive
SuperDrive
Airport Extreme

Posted by mike at August 9, 2003 10:12 PM