Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch review: Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.3
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 5.0
  • Service and support: 4.0
Review Date:

The Good Excellent design; good productivity performance; solid set of features and connections; great speakers; killer software bundle.

The Bad Lacks external volume and multimedia controls; middling gaming performance; just average battery life; free phone support lasts just 90 days.

The Bottom Line Though pricier than the 12-inch iBook G4 and some comparable PC laptops, the 12-inch PowerBook G4's performance, solid set of features and software, and killer design will overjoy intermediate and advanced mobile users.

CNET Editors' Choice Dec '05

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Apple PowerBook G4

No one can argue that the 12-inch Apple PowerBook G4 isn't attractive; go into an Apple store and just try to resist it. At $1,499, it's priced a touch above some of the PC thin-and-light competition, but you get a competitive set of hardware, including a roomy, 80GB hard drive, a single-layer DVD burner, and a DVI connection, as well as an absolutely best-in-class software package. Though we think the 12-inch iBook G4 is the better choice for basic users, we think the 12-inch PowerBook offers a better combination of power, features, and battery life for the price than any other Apple laptop. As such, unless you engage in video editing on the fly or have some other essential reason to haul around a 15- or 17-inch display, we recommend the cheaper, more compact 12-inch model to the larger PowerBooks. (Use the money you'll save to buy an LCD monitor to use with your laptop at home or at work.) For more information on how the 12-inch PowerBook stacks up against other Apple models, check out our "Down the line" feature.

The 12-inch PowerBook G4's rock-solid, aluminum-alloy case is an upscale adaptation of Apple's less expensive, polycarbonate iBook G4. The 12-inch PowerBook G4 is smaller than the 12-inch iBook G4, measuring a modest 10.9 inches wide, 8.6 inches deep, and 1.2 inches thick; at 4.6 pounds, it's on the lighter side of the thin-and-light spectrum. The PowerBook G4's 0.8-pound, three-prong AC adapter has handy fold-out wings that you can neatly wrap the cord around, as well as a two-prong adapter.

Like the iBook G4, the PowerBook G4 has a comfortable keyboard with rounded keys shaped to fit your fingers; our only beef is the grossly undersize arrow keypad. The spacious touch pad's two-finger scrolling feature, for scrolling horizontally and vertically, is magical (use it for a few days, and you'll wonder how you ever did without it). The display, which actually measures 12.1-inches (diagonal), features a standard 1,024x768 native resolution--not optimal for graphics work but adequate for general use; many 12-inch PowerBook G4 owners use an external display at home or work. We like the laptop's speakers, which hide underneath the central screen hinge yet somehow provide rich, multilayered sound. The 12-inch PowerBook G4 lacks the external multimedia controls found on many other laptops--that's the price you pay for a streamlined design. A note of caution to those who live in cold climates: the aluminum-alloy wrist rest can feel downright chilly until your typing hands warm it up.

All of the PowerBook G4's ports sit along its left edge; they're largely similar to what you'll find on the 12-inch iBook G4. For networking, the 12-inch PowerBook provides 56Kbps modem and 10/100 Ethernet ports. Also onboard are connections for headphones, audio line-in (which the iBook lacks), power, two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-DVI port that accommodates adapters for DVI, VGA, S-Video, and composite video connections. Our test unit also had a six-pin, 400Mbps FireWire port. The opposite edge hosts the slot-loading single-layer DVD burner, which we prefer to a breakable optical-drive tray.

Like the iBook G4, the PowerBook G4 lacks a true productivity suite, but it ships with a very strong software package. You get the latest version of the terrific Mac OS X , nicknamed Tiger, plus Apple's excellent iLife '05 software bundle for managing photos (iPhoto), videos (iMovie), and music (iTunes). Also included are more professional-grade apps, including Art Directors Toolkit, OmniOutliner, and QuickBooks for Mac.

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Where to Buy

Apple PowerBook G4 (12-inch, SuperDrive)

Part Number: M9691LL/A Released: Oct 19, 2005

MSRP: $1,699.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 19, 2005
  • Installed Size 512 MB
  • Weight 4.6 lbs
  • Optical Drive DVD±RW - fixed
  • Graphics Processor AGP 4x - NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200 - 64 MB DDR SDRAM
  • CPU PowerPC G4 1.5 GHz