Apple 15-inch PowerBook G4 review: Apple 15-inch PowerBook G4

The PowerBook G4 now ships with Mac OS X Tiger, highlights of which include the incredibly cool Spotlight search utility and the customizable Dashboard, a collection of handy desktop tools. Our review unit also came bundled with the robust iLife '05 software suite, which includes iPhoto 5.0, iMovie HD, iDVD 5.0, GarageBand 2.0, and iTunes 4.7; the PC equivalent could easily run hundreds of dollars more. The software package does not include the new iWork productivity suite, which costs $79 extra and isn't necessary unless you make a lot of high-end newsletters and presentations.

Priced at $2,299 (as of August 2005), this 15-inch PowerBook G4 features a 1.67GHz processor, 512MB of slowish 333MHz DDR SDRAM (with an open memory slot that provides room for expansion up to 2GB); a zippy 80GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 graphics with 64MB video memory and Dual Link DVI functionality for use with a high-resolution monitor such as the Apple Cinema Display. In CNET Labs' iTunes tests, the 15-inch PowerBook G4 matched the performance of its 17-inch sibling, which has the same-speed processor and RAM; it ran only 11 percent slower than a PowerMac G4 desktop with a 1.25GHz processor and a faster 7,200rpm hard drive. However, the 15-inch laptop lagged behind both systems when it came to graphics tasks in CNET Labs' Photoshop CS tests and our Unreal Tournament 2004 game test. The 15-inch PowerBook's battery lasted only 2 hours, 42 minutes, or 12 minutes less than that of the 17-inch PowerBook G4, which has a larger, battery-draining screen. Neither model could match the 14.1-inch iBook's 3 hours, 24 minutes; if you're looking to work away from the wall socket for extended periods, the iBook may be the better buy.

The PowerBook G4 ships with an industry-standard one-year warranty that covers parts and labor, but toll-free telephone support is limited to a mere 90 days--well short of what you'll typically find on the PC side. The $349 AppleCare Protection Plan extends phone support and repair coverage to three years; by way of contrast, you can upgrade most PCs' warranties to three years of support for around $150. Apple does offer online troubleshooting, and its Web forums are a good resource to get tips from other users and download the product's printed manual.

iTunes MP3 conversion
(Shorter bars indicate faster performance)
In seconds  

Photoshop CS
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In minutes  

Unreal Tournament 2004
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In frames per second  
PowerMac G4-1.25GHz
22.49 

DVD movie battery-drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In hours