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PowerBook or iBook: Which is best for you.
September 24, 2002

I've had this discussion with many people lately and thought I would document the reasons here. I spend so much time with my mind wrapped around these things that I tend to forget that not everyone lives and breaths this stuff… in other words, they have a life and I don't.

So why would you need a PowerBook over an iBook?

Reason #1: Screen Size

If you are one of those people that think that size matters then you may choose the wider aspect ration of a PowerBook over the iBook. Currently as of September 2002 the PowerBooks offer a screen with a 2:3 aspect ratio. Two units high by 3 units wide, or, the images from my digital camera totally fill the screen when I look at them with my image browser software. However, on my wife's iBook she gets black bars on the top and bottom of the screen because a digital photo is typically 2:3 aspect ration.

In Final Cut Pro you get a little extra width to keep your dock visible on a PowerBook. In Photoshop as well, you get some extra space to put your palettes etc. The extra screen space may be of extreme value to you. If so, you need a PowerBook.

Reason #2: Number of Screens

If you are like me, whenever I get a chance I hook up a second monitor to my PowerBook. I love spreading things out and having room to work on documents and keep all my palettes and bins open at all times. Although you can hook up an external monitor to an iBook, which is good for sending an image to a projector, you can't have a SECOND desktop. If this kind of functionality is important to you, you may be in the market for a PowerBook over in iBook.

Reason #3: Processor Speed

Although the fastest PowerBook and fastest iBook have almost the same processor speed the PowerBooks are G4 and the iBooks (currently) are only G3 processors. So if you are doing anything that can take advantage of the Alti-Vec processor then you want a PowerBook. Things like rendering in FCP, rendering in After Effects, doing complex filters in Photoshop, these things will definitely benefit from the G4 processor in the PowerBook. Otherwise, if you are just typing in Word, or browsing the internet or 'occasionally' editing a video in iMovie, Stick with the G3 iBook, you'll save money.

Reason #4: PCMCIA

Huh? PCMCIA, which some say means, "People Can't Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms" is actually that little slot on the side of the PowerBooks that many people think is where the AirPort card goes. In actuality that slot is the PCMCIA card slot, or PC slot. One of the most common uses for that slot on a Mac is to accept flash card from digital cameras. I use an IBM Micro Drive in my digital camera and with a small adapter can load images from the Micro Drive WAY faster thru the PC slot then I could using the USB connection from the camera.

Reason #5: Ethernet Speed

Granted not a lot of folks are gonna take advantage of this feature BUT… the PowerBooks have Gigabit Ethernet while the iBooks are just 100 Base-T. What this means is, if you deal with REALLY large files AND are on a network that is made by the most forward thinking engineers AND you have other machines on the network that also support Gigabit Ethernet then you may prefer a PowerBook over the iBook.

Chris Fenwick