I'm updating this review and will be putting my updates in italics.
I'm writing to give my impressions of a recent purchase, the 12" iBook. I purchased the iBook after a great deal of research for a small laptop.
I’ve decided not to post any pics as they are readily available @ the Apple website. Thus far I have had my iBook for 3 weeks.
1st off let me say that I have not used an Apple system in quite some time. The last time was in my undergrad, nearly 8 years ago doing graphic design on public computer lab systems which were indeed fraught with many a hiccup and lockup. Notably however the Wintel machines in the lab were no better off and were simply used for email, surfing, and word processing by in large. Since then I have built my last 3 desktop Wintel/AMD systems.
Ultimately I came down to the Sony S170/260 and the Apple iBook and Powerbook(PB). All have some level of discrete graphics which is all together missing in lappies w/ a screen resolution of 13.3” or less it seems. Retail prices for the Sony models are around $1600-2000.
I decided on the iBook given that it has the same 32MB Radeon 9200 as the Sony and it’s sparse 133mhz speed difference from the 12” Powerbook. As a student I qualified for an educational discount which is $200 off the PB and $50-100 off the iBooks. After a failed bid on ebay for a new 12” PB I decided to take the plunge with the iBook. I found an awesome deal on Amazon, which had the 12” iBook listed at it’s normal $999 retail price, w/ free ground shipping, tax-free, and w/ a $100 rebate. Total cost w/ 2nd day air was $922!-which was around $100 less than the Apple educational deal w/ taxes…well, without the extra 512MB of RAM I got for $94, and $151 7k60 drive I got for it.
1.2Ghz G4 Processor
768MB RAM (256MB Stock)
60GB Hitachi 7200rpm Hard Drive (30GB 4200rpm stock)
32MB Radeon 9200
Airport Extreme built-in (802.11g)
V.92 56k Modem
2 USB 2.0 slots (w/ dedicated channels 480mb/s each)
1 Mini Firewire 400
Microphone: Built-in to screen bezel
For later comparisons I wanted to give my desktop configuration.
Athlon XP 3200+
Windows XP Pro SP2
160GB Western Digital w/ 7200rpm & 8MB cache (boot drive)
80GB Western Digital w/ 7200rpm & 8MB cache
512MB DDR 400 RAM
Creative Labs Audigy
Overall I’d say, as others have, it’s understated and elegant, you won’t truly begin to appreciate it till you’ve had it to work with. Seeing it in the Apple store or online doesn’t clue you in to how nice it is to have around. Looking at it all around you get the impression that it is a well designed/engineered product. There is only one panel on the bottom created by the battery which disturbs the sleek white surface. The white outer casing is very slick to look at. I’ll admit sometimes I wish I could be using it and viewing it on the other side of the screen to truly appreciate it. The Apple logo on the back of the screen glows white when the LCD is on. The laptop feels solid through out. As I pick it up from the front corners I don't feel any flex in the case whatsoever. As such the palmrest feels solid as well w/ very little flex even when pressing hard against it.
- The interior (palmrest) is even more understated than the exterior. It is a soft light gray, which I like. It’s not as muddy looking as the dark grays you might see on the Averatec machines and others, and is nice to have if you’re typing in a low-lit area as the keyboard is more visible than on previous black lappies I’ve had. I’m a regular at checking my email 1st thing when I wake up and last thing before I go to bed.
- All ports are on the left side of the machine. It might be nice to have them spread out a bit, but thus far it hasn’t felt crowded having an Ethernet cable jacked in along w/ 2 USB devices and my headset. For the most part I mostly just have my headphones plugged in so it’s not an issue. I imagine that if I were to have all/most of the ports taken it’d be because I had the machine setup in a desktop configuration w/ KB, mouse, monitor, external drive. In this scenario I don’t see the machine being crowded, as the use of the external KB, mouse, and monitor just feels less claustrophobic for any lappy IMO. I picked up a USB to keyboard/mouse adapter, very nice as this allows me to have the 2nd USB port open for other devices. No setup was necessary. I plugged it in, plugged my Windows keyboard and logitech mouse into it and it works fine. Windows KB as noted works perfectly, the windows key simply functions as the command key in OS X.
- DVD/CD-RW slot-loading combo drive is on the right side of the machine. Very nice to work with…no tray button getting bumped and such. I can’t use mini-CD/DVDs, but the one 10-pack I bought over a year ago for my desktop has yet to be opened.
- Internally, this machine is well put together. I’ve read some comments about peoples’ reactions to the iBook along the line of it feeling like a toy. (Also another reason as to why the Apples beat out the Sony. The s170/270 feels flimsy, particularly on the palmrest area where little pressure is needed to flex the case.) Anyone who thinks that the iBook is a toy hasn’t taken one apart. For example the hard drive is rubber mounted. The hard drive isn’t even directly mounted to the internal frame. It is instead mounted via peg screws which sit snugly inside rubber tubes which are mounted in the frame. Until I had seen this kind of construction the iBook’s “durability” hadn’t quite sunk in. I imagine this is similar construction to Twinhead ruggedized models which are so highly touted. I found a pic which gives you an idea of how the drive is mounted to avoid unneeded shocks and broken IDE pins.
No dead pixels!!! Good overall. The lower corners are slightly lighter than the rest of the screen, mostly notable when a solid color is on the desktop. With an image set as the background it’s a non-issue. I’m going to pop the case open one of these days just to see if there’s any adjustments to the casing which might eliminate the issue. I had hoped for better viewing angles, but now that I have it I understand the issue a bit better. Squeezing 1024x768 into a 12” screen is likely similar to 1400x1050 for a 15” LCD screen. You get more real estate, but the viewing angles are reduced. So, there is definitely a need to find the sweetspot, but nothing which has been distracting from getting work done. DVDs look good, no pixelation or blockiness like I’ve seen on integrated video setups.
I have yet to wait for a page to redraw on the system when tabbing between 10-20 windows and many an application. Very nice to have the discrete video on a machine like this. DVD playback is sweet as noted. I haven’t really tried a great deal of games on it aside from Unreal Tournament 2004 just for kicks. It was playable in CTF w/ resolution and effects turned down. I was getting 20-40+ fps, which for me is sweet as I may need to game in a pinch while on the road and this performance will get me by till I get home to my 19” desktop PC rig. I’ll try and get some benchmarks done when I can. I tried getting a UT2k4 benchmark utility installed but the install failed I'll keep trying and report on the update.
I've installed the Screen Spanning Doctor script which allows one to not only mirror, but to extend the desktop onto another monitor. It has worked flawlessly thus far. I chose not to enable clamshelling due to heat precautions as well as a number of nuances in using it. Mirroring is still at 1024x768, which makes sense. Having this system hooked up to my 19" monitor gives me urges to use it as a primary desktop system. I can just plug the monitor, mouse and keyboard into the tower when i want to game right?
Typical, speakers are good for listening nearby and have little bass to speak of. Headphones and speakers are another matter all together, and sound sweet. One drawback of the iBook is it’s lack of a line-in/microphone jack, the mic is built into the upper right side of the screen. Thus far it hasn’t been an issue, but for those who may be doing a lot of media input to your system this might be a stumbling block. There are USB audio input dongles available which solve this, but it would have been nice to have this built in.
Very nice. This was actually another deciding factor over the Sony, which just felt cramped to me. The iBook KB keys are full sized aside from the F-keys, arrow keys, and the spacebar. Response is crisp, and depth of the keystrokes feels good.
Fine. Takes some tweaking. Had to download a 3rd party driver (Sidetrack) to get the usual functionality out of it that comes in most Windows machines. But then again I don’t know whether most wintel lappies have all of the Synaptics perks accessible on a fresh install either. My old Compaq needed the official Synaptic drivers, not the Compaq ones, to get all the tweaks enabled on the touchpad when I got it. I initially missed my 2nd mouse button on PC touchpads, but since the Sidetrack install it is a non issue. Also, KB commands make navigating the OS pretty slick. You can alt+tab through various programs, and alt+~ to rotate between the windows within a program.
Even with the 7k60 drive installed I’m getting similar battery life compared to when the 4200rpm drive was installed. Overall I’m getting 3-4 hours depending on use, and usually get 3.75. Having the wireless turned on doesn’t seem to really matter unless I’m streaming video or moving large files over it, music and internet use seems to impact it minimally.
For the most part the palmrest area on the left side can get warm and the laptop by all means is lap usable. Underneath and on the palmrest, it can get toasty if I’m doing anything processor and/or hard drive intensive, which if that’s the case I usually have it parked at the desk in desktop configuration.
Great reception thus far. I get 100% signal strength in rooms where my PC lappy would drop to 70-80%.
OS load up is 1 minute. The Mac actually loads faster than my Athlon XP 3200+ system, which isn't done churning away w/ the hard drive until a minute and 10 seconds. Windows XP Pro would get me to the desktop at around 45 seconds, but wasn't useable until the mentioned 1:10. My standard of the load being done for Windows is essentially when windows gets done loading all of the task tray applications. The one which takes the most time and is last to load is Norton Internet Security. Irony? If I try and run anything during this time it takes a while to load anyway. I've tried loading outlook express during this "churning time" to see what happened, at the same time launching Entourage as soon as the OS X desktop was up (Microsoft's Office version of Oulook for the Mac). Entourage loaded faster than Oulook Express did, which is what I expected given that Windows was still trying to finalize the NIS load.
- Programs by in large load as fast as my windows machine. Load times are based off of a fresh boot for both machines.
Entourage loads about 1-2 seconds slower than Outlook Express but DEFINITELY loads faster than it’s comparable molasses-in-January-like PC sibling, Outlook.
Photoshop CS loads ~3 seconds faster than my desktop.
I just installed Acrobat Pro 7.0 which loads wicked fast. I only have 6.0 on my desktop which is still working away more than 5 seconds after 7.0 is loaded on the Mac.
Firefox (and Camino) load in 5 seconds vs. 7-8 seconds on my PC. (But I’ve found that it’s not yet fully optimized for OS X. Camino, Mozilla’s OS X designed browser is as smooth as Apple’s Safari browser and has all of the functions of Firefox that I love and a few extra. i.e.-move tab to new window, without the need for plug-ins). Internet explorer loads faster on my PC than on the Mac, but I've found it can be pretty pitiful w/ re: to speed at rendering pages, and it just looks horrendous, like some design out of the 80s.
MSN Messenger and AIM load up and log on more quickly than my PC counterparts. Word loads just a tad slower than my desktop PC, by maybe a second or 2 because it brings up the document/template options each time.
Despite the great debate about loss of functionality when “switching” I can’t think of a program or function that I haven’t been able to port over. MP3s, AVIs, Divx/Xvid, office documents, web pages, bookmarks, etc., all have been accessible. One of the sweetest options which also sold me on the iBook was OS X’s ability to network with windows machines. Thus, aforementioned files can all be opened directly (and copied to my iBook) from/to my PC over the wireless (or wired) network. So far I have not had any issues with accessing my windows machine from my Apple, while my wired PC actually is hit and miss w/ seeing my lappy on the network, even when the Apple can access the PC shared folders.
Navigating OS X is pretty slick. I don’t find that I use the Finder for navigating as much as I use Explorer in Windows for getting to certain files. That is, I don’t spend as much time clicking through directory after directory to get at what I want. This likely is due to being able to create links in the finder window to any folder or application. This window of links stays open regardless of where you are in the OS. Kind of like the additional links on the side in explorer, except they don’t change from window to window. i.e.-music, movies, documents, system preferences, etc. are all available in the Finder at all times, something I’ve found is useful. The dock is nice and adds to this which is where I launch most of my preferred software.
Thus far one of the greatest surprises of this machine is its ability to multitask. Not switch-between-your-MP3 player-then-to-word-then-to email multitasking people. I’m talking Multitasking like, hey I’m encoding a 32GB Raw AVI to Divx or MPEG-4, authoring a DVD w/ different files, AND THEN also being able to tab between my email, browser, Word, etc and actually being able to do what I need to do multitasking. And this was before I put in the extra 512MB of RAM and the 7200rpm drive! Doing even one task like converting a video file in Windows eats up my system resources like a mofo and lets me do little else unless I manually lower the priority of the program, and even then gives me hiccups and staggers when switching between programs and working within programs. In fact I’m typing this up in Word as I’m encoding an MPEG2 file to MPEG-4 AND listening to DMB as I’m copying music into my iTunes library baby, and I’m not waiting for the system to catch up to my typing due to system resource bottlenecks! (I’ll actually try and get some time benchmarks between the two systems for encoding a movie to Divx when I can.)
The 'Book continues to be a tenacious little work horse w/ regard to multitasking. I've watched the Activity Monitor (comparable to the Task Manager in Windows) as I open and close various applications while encoding an mpeg-4 file. The system seems to do a very fluid job of allocating system resources through out, which explains why the multitasking feels so easy. With a number of apps open about 60% of the CPU cycles were dedicated to the encoding. As soon as I would close an app it would adjust and increase the CPU cycles for the encoding up to 85-95%. Vice versa for starting a new app. This tends not to happen so easily in Windows in my experience.
So overall I’m quite impressed with this little guy. It has given me exactly what I was looking for, a compact thin and light w/ 3+ hrs of battery life, and dedicated video. It has given me more than what I was expecting in regard to construction, durability, ease of networking with Windows machines, cross-platform use, and has blown me away with how well it is able to multitask.