Building notes, projects, and occasional rants

Next powerbook upgrade

So my trusted old (30 months today) powerbook is still kicking. I never had a laptop that lasted this long. I’m a 15” TiBook 800Mhz owner, with 1Gb RAM and 40Gb disk.

I’ve been thinking my requirements for my next laptop, what are the things I value the most. This will allow me to choose my next one in the next 6 months or so. I’m expecting some annoucements from Apple in January, or the WWDC, in June at the latest.

The list is in order of importance, most important things to me at the top: * screen real-estate: pixels, pixels, pixels… * battery life; * processor type.

Let me start with the things that are not on the list. Airport Extreme and built-in bluetooth are a must-have. There is no way I’m ever getting another laptop without them. My current TiBook has Airport (the “normal” kind), and it rocks (although TiBooks suck in terms of signal strength). And I’m tired of plugin the bluetooth dongle. Also, the backlight keyboard is at most a nice-to-have. I can keep on using my USB-powered thingie for light.

The current minimum disk drive is 40Gb and I’m happy with that. If it’s bigger, great. If not, that’s enough for me, for now. I always carry a external 40Gb Firelite, and I have a 200Gb Maxtor OneTouch at home for weekly backups.

I did not list the superdrive also. In two and a half years, I think I burned 10 CDs at most, and some of them where not for me. I don’t use DVD or CD for backups, and my line of work does not require a constant use of a burner. A superdrive would be cool to make some home projects with the kids photos, or something like that, but it’s not clear to me if the price difference is really worth it.

Now let’s see the list and each point in turn.

The first point is a tricky issue for me: I think that the 17” PowerBook is very very big, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of buying one. I still have to check if it fits my current backpack. It’s a great backpack and changing it simple to carry the 17” is not an option. I prefer to keep the backpack and buy a 15”. But I can safely say that 15” 1280x854 is the minimum resolution for me.

Battery life is more important than raw CPU power. Apart from games and the occasional compile, I’ve been working with a two-generations old 800Mhz G4 and I can keep on doing it. I would prefer to have a 1.5Ghz G4 with a 67 hour battery life than a 23 hour G5. I think that if the difference is 1 or 2 hours between the two, I would probably go with the fastest one, but more than that, I don’t think so.

My most used applications are:,, Safari, iTunes and NetNewsWire. I also use Quicksilver, iCal and AdiumX a lot. Everything else is used much much less. With regard to games, I play a bit of Massive Assault, and I would like to play Doom3. I also have Apache, MySQL and Jabberd running in the background. I usually have 5 to 9 applications going, so multi-tasking is a must. If you ignore Doom3, I could buy a fast G4 and be happy. Even better, a dual-core G4 would be great. The only reason to buy a G5 is Doom3 right now, and unless they appear in the first half of 2005, I’m not going to wait: if Apple presents a dual-core G4, I’m sold. You can always buy a cheap PC or a iMac to run Doom3.

The CPU question is tricky only if you think that you’ll keep your laptop for the next 2 to 3 years. In that case, buying the fastest CPU you can afford makes a lot of sense, and waiting for the G5 might be a good idea. Yet, I don’t expect my application profile to change in the next years. My laptop is my main machine. I work in a lot of different places and the laptop must be able to do it all. So a dual-core G4 is the most likely step.

Of course, it all depends on Apple. If they launch dual-core G4 and a G5 at the same time, I really don’t know :)…

So, I think I can summarize like this: I’ll probably buy a 15 or 17” dual-core G4, or a G5 if they appear in the first half of 2005.