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It Will Be Mine. Oh Yes. It Will Be Mine.

So said Wayne Campbell about a certain Fender Stratocaster, and that's what I thought when I first saw the 12-inch aluminum PowerBook. What exactly made my geekish heart go all pit-a-pat? After all, the 12-inch model is the least powerful “AlBook” (and I like power!), but I was simply swept away by the size. I have always gravitated toward small computers ever since my first PowerBook, the petite Duo 230. Of course I didn't relish trading power for size, and am used to top-of-the-line models. (My current PowerBook was the top model and cost over $5000.) My requirements have changed, however, and I don't need a powerful “desktop replacement” laptop anymore; size is more important to me now.

The 12-inch AlBook has been available for two years, so why buy now? The main reason is that I am really ready for a new laptop and have been for some time. My current laptop is a G3 Wall Street with a host of problems. Imagine the pain of running OS X at 300 MHz, not to mention intermittent battery problems and a broken hinge. I probably should have bought a new PowerBook when I learned that Panther wouldn't run on my G3, but I wanted to wring the last bit of use out of the ole Wall Street, problems and all, since it cost so much money.

Next question: Having already waited two years, am I so desperate for a new machine that I need one right now when a G5 PowerBook might be just around the corner? Well, let's consider the chances of that. Optimistic forecasters would say that last week's speed bump may be the end of the line for the G4 PowerBooks, but I'm not so sure about that. Apple has been putting G5 processors in desktops since 2003—even the iMac has one—so a G5 PowerBook is already long overdue. What I infer from this delay is that squeezing that G5 fireball into a PowerBook is a tough nut to crack. (Apple has said as much. See Apple on G5 PowerBook: Not so fast on c|net.)

Let's assume that Apple engineering triumphs yet again and releases a PowerBook with a G5. When that does happen, I think I will be disappointed, because I'm imagining a scenario in which the G5 shows up first only in one of the larger PowerBooks or in some new, thicker form factor. In my scenario, if the 12-inch is still available at that time, it will still contain a G4. If I'm right about any of this, then there's no sense waiting if you're in the market for a 12-inch. One final consideration is whether the current generation is “ready” for Tiger. About the only spec that I'm aware is the requirement for CoreImage. Supposedly, the 12-inch has the minimum amount of VRAM (64MB) and, more importantly, a supported GPU, so it should work.

Besides being the smallest PowerBook, the 12-inch is also the cheapest. Because I'm not so heavily invested in it, I feel as if I have more options down the road. If a G5 PowerBook comes along with my name on it, or I need the power only a desktop can deliver, I won't feel so bad supplementing the 12 in a couple of years. If I need the ultimate in portability, I'll always have the 12 (until the hinge breaks or something).

I ordered the 12-inch before reading any reactions from early adopters, so I'm not sure what problems I have to look forward to. Heat seems to be an ongoing problem especially in this little guy, and the increased clock speed and faster 5400-rpm hard drive should only make things worse. Even if the heat itself isn't too bad, it might cause the fan to run more often than previous models, and I don't have a sense how noisy it will be. Only time will tell.

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