Monday, January 31, 2005

New PowerBook: To Be or Not To Be

Apple's current PowerBook G4 line is currently the longest line without update. I can't remember when the last speed bump was (probably last April ... I remember roughly that it was before WWDC04). I've got one, bought October 2003. The first Alu-PBG4 15" model (with the famous white spots problem).

It had been so long since the last update. Since then Apple had announced a lot of cool products, notably the iMac G5 and new Mac mini (honestly, I want both ... iMac for desktop computer and the mini for being home media center. I will also connect them over the wireless, so I can build my code with Xcode using the distributed build feature and using the mini as the in-home server).... the iPod family had seen a lot of cool updates: the iPod U2, iPod photo, and latest iPod shuffle (waiting for my 1GB one right now). Even the iBook line had seen an update, which brought it up to much the same level as the PowerBook!

Sure, PowerBook deserved an update. The question is: when? ... or may be more: to what?

I believe that because of the G5-hype and marketing, a lot of people (dare I say almost everyone ?) are looking forward seeing a PowerBook G5 out the door. This had been speculated for so long, even before the iMac G5!

However, since the thermal control seems to be the persisting problem for the G5, it still pretty unlikely that we will see one anytime soon, and Apple had admitted this themselves.

What's next? Freescale's Dual-core G4 which was announced a while ago. Since its annoucement, people once again speculated it to become the next generation chip for PowerBook. But since then nothing came close to reality yet.

Else? Hmmm .... Yet-Another-Speed-Bump rumor surfaced before the Macworld Expo. At that time (and still this time), it seems to be the most likely thing to happen, but is surely the least people want it to. After all, 8 months and only 0.17 GHz? You can't kid people like that.

What do I want?

Hmm... I figured I don't really want a G5 in the PowerBook because of the power consumption and heat problem. I want to be able to use my laptop for hours, without burning my hands (or burn something else more important to a guy). One of G5 biggest advantages over other chips is its wider front side bus, and I don't think Apple can engineer the bus that wide in the laptop anyway (see it in the iMac? compare that with the PowerMac's FSB).

Personal Conclusion: I will take the Dual-Core G4 PowerBook over the G5 one anyday, when it comes out (and if it does come out; the rumor had re-surfaced, at least). Also when it comes to performance, I don't think the power-down G5 with smaller bus can perform any better the Dual-core G4. Actually, it can even be outperformed by the dual-core G4.

The only problem Apple might have for making Dual-Core G4 the next generation PowerBook: Marketing. They had created so much hype about one word: G5. Many people I know really believe that G5 is everything and being a G5 making it the fastest thing on this planet. If the Dual-Core G4 is outperforming the G5 ... then Apple has a problem.

However, if Apple (and IBM) can engineer the solution to put the G5 in PowerBook, with reasonable battery life and not making it hotter or heavier than the current line, it won't be that bad too. I might want one, consider that if PBG5 comes out, then the dual-core G4 might not be available at all.