Apple Powerbook processor speed question

I’ve finally decided that my next computer is going to be an apple laptop.

I’m looking in various online fora and see a lot of powerbooks at prices that I think I could afford. My question is, what is ‘average’ or ‘fast’ for apple processors these days?

I see a lot of 867mHz computers. My PC-centric brain tells me that that’s awfully slow, but I know macs are running at slower clock speeds than PCs anyway. Am I going to be disapointed with an 867mHz processor? I’m looking to do mildly intensive audio and graphical work, so will probably buy or upgrade to 1 gig of memory; will my processor become a bottle neck at that speed?

Also, any general tips for someone about to purchase his first Apple computer would be appreciated (ie, places to look for good deals and that sort of thing).

There are 1.5ghz powerbooks and 1ghz Ibooks with a range in between.

Now, I haven’t worked with macs for a couple years now. I use to do alot of graphic work. It was my understanding that even though the processors of mac’s ran slower the operating system ran in 64 bits. Where as windows ran in 32 bits. Macs have a slower processor but crunched data twice the size of windows. I seem to recall reading something about Mac OS not being really a 64 bit operating system rather a virtual 64 bit operating system. I can’t quite recall, but I’m sure someone will elaborate further.
You shouldn’t have a problem with the 867 macs. It is slow, but it will work. When I used to do graphic design, my work computer was a 400ish mhz mac. It ran photoshop and illustrator decently.

There aren’t any 64-bit Powerbooks (yet). The new G5 processors are 64-bit native, but most of the software running on them is the same 32-bit stuff. That said, the PowerPC architecture is far more efficient than the x86, which is why you get similar performance at much lower clock speeds.

Apple currently sells two lines of laptops. The fancy ones are the Powerbook G4s, which come in 12, 15 and 17-inch sizes. The less fancy (but still way cool) are the iBooks, which come in 12 and 14-inch sizes.

G3 or G4 processor? You’ll probably want the G4 as it’s noticeably faster, especially for graphics. That said I’m currently using a G3 400 Mhz Pismo, and the only reason that I want to upgrade is that it’s not up to editing 5MB photos with any speed.

As for buying a Mac, go to and follow the links from there. Apple occasionally has deals on refurbs listed in the Apple store.

a) A PowerPC processor gets considerably more bang for every cycle than an Intel or Intel-compatible chip, somewhere between 1.5 times as much as twice as much. (Despite that, the Intel architecture did get so far ahead in megahertz/gigahertz that PCs were faster than Macs. With the G5, the Mac is no longer eating PC dust even if it’s not necessarily the very fastest computer etc). So an 867 is somewhere between a 1.2 GHz and a 1.8 GHz PC-equivalent in performance, not cutting edge but faster than it sounds like to your PC-attuned ears.

b) I’ll ditto what others have said about G4 versus G3. MacOS X makes use of the AltiVec instructions; a G3 processor can grunt along and cope with the instructions but it doesn’t have a dedicated hardware module on the chip to crank through them quickly like the G4, so a G3 of the same processor speed feels downright poky under OS X. (With PowerPC operating systems, including MacOS 9, it may make less of a difference, but you’ll probably be using OS X most of the time).

c) An 867 with a gig of RAM to play with will perform pretty nicely, really, on graphics and sound file editing programs. Not to say you would not notice or appreciate the extra oomph of a faster CPU, but I think you’ll be happy with it.

d) Buy yourself a copy of MacWorld and a copy of MacAddict; turn to the back pages and you’ll find a sequence of small ads from companies, most of them listing 800 numbers or web sites. Window-shop and take down names and prices and comparison-shop for the best prices. If you want to be a bit cautious, post an inquiry hither and yon (Ars Technica Macintosh forums, MaCOSXHints Forums, etc) about the specific company you end up thinking of dealing with to see if anyone has any awful experiences (or any good ones for that matter) with them. You should get prices significantly below list price by pursuing this strategy.

that should be “with OTHER PowerPC operating systems” of course.

An 867Mhz processor will do you fine, so long as you’re not working with video or really intensive graphics (hi-res CMYK files and the like). Like the others said, avoid anything with a G3 processor—OS X is built for the G4 (and the G5), and I have a mild suspicion that the next iteration(s) of OS X won’t run on a G3 at all.

Two resellers that specialize in used and refurbished gear are SmallDog and PowerMax, and both stores have an excellent reputation.

You can’t even buy a new computer from Apple with a G3 any more nowadays. While the G5 is the newest toy, IMO there’s nothing wrong with the G4 – the performance gap between the G4 and the G5 is much less than the gap from the G3 to the G4.

If I were to buy a new Powerbook right now, I’d personally prefer to have as a minimum a 1.25GHz G4, but that’s because I want to (a) do processor-intensive stuff and (b) future-proof my purchase. But that’s just wishful thinking at the moment…

I’m spoiled by my 1.25GHz G4 PowerBook, and I’d hate to think of replacing it with an 867MHz model. But… my desktop machine is a 933MHz G4 with 768MB. It’s my primary machine (more expansion, etc, than the PB). So the 933 isn’t all that different than the 867, and it’s a perfectly, perfectly capable machine. I do everything with it (video, DVD’s, 3D stuff, PhotoShop and other stuff) and have no complaints at all. I’ll assume the PB performance would be the same.

My token PC is a 1.8MHz P4 with WinXP Pro, and I’m not at all satisfied with its performance compared to the “half-speed” Mac. This may have more to do with WinXP than the architecture, though (seems to run SuSE/Gnome okay).

Thanks for the advice thus far, everyone.

I don’t think I’m going to jump into anything, as education is the key to wise decision-making, but it looks at this point like the 867s I see going used are pretty high-priced as used products compared to some new 1 or 1.25 ghz machines. So, we’ll see what happens.

No one knows anything about any imminent plans for Apple to release a g5 powerbook, do you? If so, I’d imagine that’d have a huge effect on g4 powerbook prices.

Balthisar, actually, the ultimate decision to go with an OSX as opposed to a Windows machine is that I’ve run into a lot of problems with Windows XP, especially regarding the speed of the OS.

Macs tend to retain their values much better than PCs do. I know a few folks who claim that they buy a new Mac one year, use it for a year, sell it on eBay for 75%-80% of the original cost, then buy another new Mac with the money plus difference.

The general consensus among Mac rumor-watchers is that there won’t be a G5 Powerbook this year. If one does come out, a lot of folks will be very surprised.

I’m holding on to my 1998-vintage WallStreet PowerBook until the G5 PowerBooks make their debut, my guess being April of '05.

Yeah, Mac users are more likely to hold onto their computers longer, and Macs remain usefully viable longer. Six years in between computer purchases is probably a bit higher than average but not unusual. My previous computer was a 7100 (still sitting three feet to my left and still in deployment as the machine I Timbuktu into if I have to do work at night from home), purchased in 1995. The one before that was an SE, purchased used in 1991 and still in active deployment when I sold it in 1997.

From what I’ve been reading, there are heat issues getting the G5 chip into a laptop. Too confined. Which is partly the reason the G5 iMacs have been pushed back to Sep instead of their original Aug release date.

A good website for daily Mac news, if you’re interested, is As for highly unreliable info on upcoming laptops, try or

They get stuff right some times, and other times the rumors are unsubstantiated. But they let you know that up front, it’s up to you to decide what you want to believe. :smiley: