Handicapping PowerBook Shopping

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Date: Sunday, June 19th, 2005, 14:48
Category: PowerBook G4

Well, with yesterday’s price cuts and rumors of a new Aluminum 15″ model still raging, the question is, which laptop do you buy and when? (Huh? You don’t plan to buy a new laptop now? What’s that in your pocket — is that a hole I see burning?) Read more . . .

Well, with yesterday’s price cuts and rumors of a new Aluminum 15″ model still raging, the question is, which laptop do you buy and when? (Huh? You don’t plan to buy a new laptop now? What’s that in your pocket — is that a hole I see burning?)
Disclaimer: this is for entertainment purposes only. Trying to read Apple’s future price cuts and model introductions is itching for a fight. But, I’ll try anyway, because I’m putting my credit card down on a new model this week myself. Breaking this down one line at a time, iBooks are up first:
BUY – US$999 12″ iBook (800/CD-R)
BUY – US$1299 12″ iBook (900/Combo)
UNCLEAR – US$1499 14″ iBook (900/Combo)
UNCLEAR – US$1778 14″ iBook Custom (900/Combo/640M/60G)
If your needs are modest and you want a light, portable machine, the 12″ models are fantastic bargains. And these prices are unlikely to go down — the models will probably be phased out first. The safest buys on the list, as usual, are the bargain models; with the smallest profit margins they’re the least likely candidates for price cuts.
The middle models, though, raise an interesting question — when will the iBook go G4, as the only remaining G3 models in Apple’s lineup? Without faster G4s available, I think we’ll continue to see G3 iBooks for a few months. But now the choice between 14″ iBook and 12″/15″ PowerBooks is a matter of which form factor you prefer more than price, thanks to yesterday’s cuts. The iBooks remain more rugged than the Titanium, so the competition with the 14″ won’t really heat up until the 15″ goes Aluminum, but if you don’t need a big screen I think the new 12″ PowerBooks are now a better buy. Which brings us to the PowerBook . . .
UNCLEAR – US$1499 12″ PowerBook (867/Combo)
BUY – US$1799 12″ PowerBook (867/SuperDrive)
WAIT – US$1999 15″ PowerBook (867/Combo)
WAIT – US$2599 15″ PowerBook (1GHz/SuperDrive)
BUY – US$3299 17″ PowerBook (1GHz/SuperDrive)
If you’re more fond of the ultralight 12″ screen and won’t miss the 14″ iBook screen, want to burn DVDs, or want a little more performance, the new price-cut 12″ PowerBooks are now the smartest deal on the board. It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t even get an iBook with a SuperDrive. So these models aren’t likely to get price cuts or speed bumps anytime soon. Let the credit card be unleashed.
With the 15″ Titanium models, I might shop around a little. The Titanium PowerBook is a great, great machine but having owned the 400 since its introduction, I’ve become a believer in more rigid shells than the Titanium alloy material allows. The Aluminum hasn’t been out long enough for good reliability data, but I think it’s a safe prediction that over time it will perform better than the Titanium in terms of protecting the machine’s components and resisting scratches. I’ve had two LCDs develop defects and I have a hard time believing the bendy, thin Titanium housing wasn’t two blame — I never had this problem with my PowerBook G3 Series, 1400, or 5300.
When an Aluminum model comes out, it’s likely to bump the 15″/1GHz model down in price again, occupying the space between the low-end 15″s and the 17″. So it might make sense to check for some open-box specials, demos, or even refurbs that have already started to appear before springing for Apple’s pricing if you want to go Titanium.
What about the 17″? That’s the $3299 question. Here I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it’s going to be until at least the end of the summer, possibly fall, before we see even a modest price cut. There are a lot of expensive components packed into the 17″ model, and I think the Aluminum will replace the previous 15″ models in pricing, rather than giving would-be 17″ owners a break. And this is a classic “Cadillac” model for Apple, and Cupertino likes to keep a few pricey models with big price margins around for those who can’t keep their hands off their credit cards. With new laptop processors likely off in the future, you’re probably safe in the short term at least. I’ve talked to plenty of resellers who don’t even have spare batteries shipping for the 17″ yet.
So where am I putting my money? I’m going with the 17″. This is the most revolutionary portable product introduction for Apple since the original 15″ Titanium because it redefines portable expectations. The combination of the form factor, the company’s success in putting a full-size screen on a laptop without making it clunky, the dual FireWire ports . . . it’s too much to resist any longer. I’m purchasing one this week.
Oh, and my pick for the Belmont has to be Funny Cide with the first triple crown since 1978’s Affirmed. But I’m not betting $3299 on that.
Horse racing or Apple purchases, it doesn’t matter — it’s easy to look stupid in a week.
The O’Grady’s PowerPage Associate Editor hopes the comment system isn’t up in time for people to yell at him for turning out to be — completely wrong.

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