"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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July 29, 2010

Goodbye Old Friend

These days, five years is a good life-span for a notebook computer. That’s how long I’ve had my PowerBook G4. To be fair the computer still runs well (I’m typing on it now) for a 1.5GHz processor. The RAM is a modest (by today’s standards) 1.25GB and the aftermarket upgraded hard-drive, at 160GB, is enough […]

These days, five years is a good life-span for a notebook computer. That’s how long I’ve had my PowerBook G4. To be fair the computer still runs well (I’m typing on it now) for a 1.5GHz processor. The RAM is a modest (by today’s standards) 1.25GB and the aftermarket upgraded hard-drive, at 160GB, is enough for basic use.

However, the G4 won’t run the current versions of the audio and image editing software that I use. On my recent trip to Adelaide it was frustrating not to be able to fully edit photos till after I returned home. With trips to Taiwan, India and Japan coming up in the next few months I’d like to able to develop and post more photos while on the road.

My initial thoughts were to opt for a super-powerful 15inch MacBook Pro (the 17 inch MacBook Pro is so large that it doesn’t qualify as portable). The latest revision, with the i7 processor is an impressive beast that, with the appropriate upgrades to RAM and hard-drive, has the potential to perform solidly as part of a Digital Audio Workstation.

However, the key function driving this purchase is photography, not audio. Moreover, when I’m on the road the audio work I do is simple, basic and honestly not all that processor intensive. I tend to work on ideas and fixes more than composition and mixes.

Travelling also highlights the issue of portability. While the 13.3 inch Macbook Pro is significantly less powerful, it is quite a bit smaller, lighter and has longer battery life. Sadly, the smaller Macbook Pro does not have the option of a 7200 RPM drive (de rigueur for audio), but I can upgrade to an SSD drive for better speed and lower noise. Expensive, but tempting.

So, as I did with the 12inch PowerBook, I’m again going for portability over power. Hopefully the 13.3inch Macbook Pro will make it a little easier for me to write and edit photos on a mountain range in Kashmir or a cafe in Kyoto.

Responses
Javier I. Sampedro 12 years ago

Five years was the same time that lasted my old notebook and after all that time was fair to make the change. In my case, I am PC user but may do the change into Mac one day, never know, but my HP nx9005 15″ (you can guess not light at all, around 3 kgs) during that time performed quite well. After some time, battery died so no longer “portable” at all, becoming into desktop replacement pc.

Sure with your new purchase, your need will be fullfilled. And long life to the new machine, at least for another five years, no? 😀

Cheers!

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Javier – thanks! BTW, I’ve been having a look at the new iMacs and they are rather awesome as a light desktop machine.

Can'Tell 12 years ago

Wow! 5 years for a notebook is definitely respectable! I guess that counts for Macs anyway, because of the robust aluminium body and OS. I can’t imagine that a plastic windows notebook would last that long.

Regarding the 7200 RPM drive and music production, I’m also thinking of updating my new MBP 13″ with one, and I was looking forward to the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, which should be almost as fast as an SSD. But reading reviews, the cons is that it’s of course louder, and shortens the battery life. So I still can’t make up my mind, if I should rather get an external HD. Some say that it’s better anyway to store the sound library on an external HD.

I think in the long run, a 15″ i5 or i7 is a good decision (considering the notebook lasts for 5 years or more). It’s a good investment in my opinion. Though for absolute portability, and long life battery, a 13″ is a great option. It all just depends on what your purposes are.

All in all I have to say, that I am overly impressed with my Apple products and I’m glad I made the switch last year.

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Can’Tell – Storing sample libraries on an external makes sense simply because of their size. Even a modest collection of sample libraries can run over 100GB and many people have a lot more than that. The big question becomes were do you record to and store active projects. That’s where a fast internal drive comes in handy – but as you rightly point out, that can mean shorter battery life.

gregorylent 12 years ago

portable, has to be 13 … it is slow, like all macbooks (click on systems preferences, a full beat before it opens? etc) but glad to have it in the bag … sometimes lightroom lags, especially if anything else is going on (4 gigs ram) .. but what the heck, life is one big tradeoff.

Toni 12 years ago

Interesting that your 5 YO macbook is only slightly less well specified than my 18 month old version: 2Ghz/2Gb/160Gb.

Given the choice on hard drives I’d probably take the SSD, but buying aftermarket rather than Apple, for the sake of battery life and robustness.

@ Can’Tell – my experience of Lenovo/IBM laptops suggests that 5 years is quite normal for PC based laptops, although a couple of re-installs may be needed to keep things running quickly. Battery life is largely dependent on the user taking care and ensuring the battery is looked after properly, rather than leaving it plugged in 24/7. When it comes time to replace the Macbook I’ll review things, but it’s fairly unlikely I’ll buy another Apple machine.

    Fernando Gros 12 years ago

    Toni, yes as Iook back on it, the PowerBook really was a good buy. My father has a G5 iMac that is still rather zippy for all the day to day kind of stuff as well.

    I’ve made my mind up to go with the SSD. The recommendation has come from a few users I respect now.

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