A few months ago I reviewed the new G4 flat-panel iMac for Inside Mac Games. Although I didn't actually let on at the time, the machine was in fact not mine: it belongs to a relative, and I was sharing it while my own new machine was on order. And my own new machine, which I've now been using for several weeks, is a top-of-the-range PowerBook G4.
I knew I was going to have to buy a new Mac in order to run Mac OS X well, and do the things I want to do, as my G3 wasn't really up to the job and would have needed a lot of upgrading. But despite possible appearances to the contrary in view of recent hardware purchases, I'm not exactly made of money, so deciding which machine to buy wasn't as easy as it could have been. I knew I wanted a fast G4 that would last me for a good few years before I needed to replace it. Because I want to use the machine intensively for several years, it needed to have a really big hard drive, as they fill up alarmingly quickly, and I knew I wanted a bigger screen than a 15" monitor would provide (having been cramped at 1024x768 on my G3 for the last few years). So that meant that an iMac of my own was out of the question (though I'd have thought long and hard about the 17" wide-screen model if it had been available when I was ordering the PowerBook).
The choice that faced me was therefore quite a hard one, and it's a decision that I think an increasingly large number of people are having to take seriously these days: whether to go for a new desktop computer or a desktop-replacement laptop. The new Apple PowerBooks have now reached a standard of performance which really does rival desktop machines; in fact, it exceeds desktop machines in some cases. Traditionally, people tend to buy laptops as a supplement to their more powerful desktop computers, but if you want just one new machine, and find that a laptop can actually out-perform the desktop you're considering, then the additional cost of buying the luxury laptop may be worth paying.
Therefore, in this review I'm taking the rather unusual step of comparing the PowerBook with the iMac. Logically, in terms of Apple's product range, that's a really silly thing to do. iMacs are consumer machines and have portable equivalents in iBooks; PowerBooks are the professional laptops and should therefore be compared with Power Macs. But there's method in my madness, as I'll explain later on when I talk more about the desktop versus laptop question.
Work hard, play hardNow this may come as a shock to readers of IMG, but I didn't actually buy this PowerBook primarily for the purpose of playing games. It's a hard reality of life that I actually have to do something constructive from time to time. Anyone who buys a machine like this just in order to play games presumably has more money than sense, but equally well, a fair proportion of people who use computers for work do actually like to play games on them too, and if you're reading this then the chances are that you fall into that category.
So let's make something clear from the outset: the 800MHz PowerBook is a seriously powerful machine in all respects. It's fast; it has a huge screen of superlative quality; it has a big hard drive even by desktop workstation standards; and it has a high-performance graphics card: the ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 with dual-screen support, AGP 4× and 32Mb of video memory. The previous version of the PowerBook had a Mobility Radeon, but the 7500 is a lot more capable and has twice as much video memory.