New, improved iBook: Advice needed (sorta techy)

So, Panther is out tomorrow and it seems Apple have beefed up the iBook as well as their OS.

I’ve been looking for a laptop for a while and this looks like a deal right in my price range. My gripe with the old iBook was the G3 processor, which felt dated, but with this upgrade you essentially get last week’s Powerbook, processorwise. I know that they are very different machines, but I can’t really afford even the low-end Powerbook (for the record, I’m looking at the 12" iBook).

I’ve been researching PC laptops as well, and am currently a PC user with some experience with OS X. Neat little OS, by the way. The iBook wins on size, noise level and battery life, which are high priorities as I want real portability if I am to pay for a portable computer. I haven’t been able to find a 12" PC for less than around one-and-a-half the price of the iBook and then it’s usually a Pentium II or III - that would feel like a step down the ladder from my current desktop AMD 2000+ (800MhZ G4 might be as well, but the OS and sheer style of the Mac would make up for it). Larger models, 14" and 15", especially the cheaper ones, are quite noisy as well.

But I have a couple of questions.

  1. I’m working a great deal with graphics and I’ve noticed that both the new and the old iBooks are locked at a screen resolution of 1024x768, even with an external monitor. This doesn’t make sense with 32 MB of video RAM. I’ve read of hacks and workarounds for the old iBook models to this limitation that seems imposed by the manufacturer. Can I expect to be able to do something about it, preferably a software patch, sometime in the future? A Linux partition, perhaps, for critical graphics work so I can use my 19" monitor?

  2. Should I delay my purchase (further than the month I’m looking at now) to allow Apple to weed out the bugs in the soft- and hardware?

Your thoughts on these matters and anything else I might need to know are appreciated.

  1. There is a hack for the older iBooks to do video spanning. Not sure if that can be done for the new iBooks, though. There is no known way to increase the iBook’s resolution beyond 1024 x 768. If you really need the video spanning capability, you should consider the 12" Powerbook instead.

  2. I don’t expect any real problems with the new iBook – it’s a tweaked version of the earlier design, and should have the earlier issues ironed out. Panther may have a few glitches with older hardware, but since the iBook is so new, I don’t expect them to conflict. At worst, any compatability problems should be fixed in a free patch from Apple within a week; they’re very good about that.
    Other comments:

  3. Running MacOS X on 1024 x 768 is not a deal-breaker, IMO – I do it every day on my iMac, even with Photoshop and iMovie and other imaging/multimedia applications. With Panther’s new Expose feature, I expect this to be even less of a problem.

  4. Never ever ever buy RAM from Apple, as their prices are exorbant. Get the minimum amount of RAM for your computer, the buy third-party memory instead. 256 MB is the absolute minimum you should have, though I’d recommend 384 or 512.

  5. Get Applecare before the first year is up. Three years no-fuss protection is highly recommended for anything with an LCD screen.

Just FYI, Averatec makes a 12" with an Athlon XP 1600 for about a grand (the 3150 series). The video and keyboard aren’t up to Apple standards, but they’ve got integrated wireless, if you’re keen on that kind of thing. It might be worth taking a look at… I know I’m torn, right now…

rjung, thanks for your informative post. I know about the Powerbooks having troublefree video spanning, but as I said, I can’t afford one. I’d just like to use my monitor, and I’ve gotten used to working in 1600x1200 which is great. But you’re right, resolution is more of an issue in Windows than OS X.

As for the RAM, I thought I’d go for 384 (256 is standard), but maybe you’re right, 50$ is a bit much for 128 Mb extra. Can I use any odd laptop DDR-stick? And will this affect my warranty if I install it myself?

You’re not the first to tell me that Applecare is a must. I’ll definitely get it sometime next year. That and suitable protection gear, like a sleeve and this screen-protector. Probably a lock, as well.

black455, I certainly see the appeal of that machine. It’s even smaller than the iBook! My main problem is with the processor. In my experience, every AMD chip, even the mobile varieties, generate a lot of heat. This means three things: A hot case, noisy active cooling and low battery life (you’ll notice that the listed time is half that of the iBook - and both are probably somewhat exaggerated). Intel’s chips generally run cooler and especially the new Centrino-platform seems impressive. But those are still too expensive, IMO.

Another thing is, I’m in Europe and don’t know where I can find a reseller. That’s a problem as I’d like to see any laptop up close before buying it. There’s just no way of knowing what you get otherwise. And Apple, being one of the largest computer manufacturers, have some credibility to their name. I know and have used (the older, admittedly) iBooks and have a general idea of what they’re about and their stability etc. And when I need a closer look, there are plenty of Apple resellers around.

So I’m playing it safe, and as I said, real mobility is a high priority. But I have to say I’d be reluctant if I didn’t have first-hand experience with OS X.

As long as it meets the required specs (I don’t have a reference handy right now), you should be fine. Adding your own memory does not void the warranty.

And I’m running with 384 MB myself and have no complaints. :slight_smile: