Can a MacBook Replace a 12-inch PowerBook?

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About a month ago, I finally had to let go of an old friend. After a couple years of propping him up, it was time to retire my 12-inch PowerBook. No, you didn't read that wrong: I was still using a G4-powered Mac.  Sure, there were a lot of things I couldn't do anymore, but it was still fulfilling the requirements I set before it: primarily e-mail, Web browsing, and writing.

But it was small and it handled all those tasks. However, after replacing the screen and the hard drive, the battery decided to give out while I was at Macworld Expo. I limped by, trying to justify to the very amused Scott, Dan, and Aayush that I could still work. It was then I began to realize it was the beginning of the end. How could I sanely justify purchasing a new battery for the aging laptop, pumping over a hundred dollars into a machine that was able to do less and less of what I needed?

The virtual gun was put to my head when I had to head to Hawaii for several weeks. I couldn't get by with a laptop that had a faulty battery and a screen that would sporadically give out (also much to Scott's amusement as I tried to coax it back to life). I bit the (again, virtual) bullet and bought a MacBook (a very fine 2 GHz unibody model that I promptly outfitted with 4 GB of RAM). Overall, I'm thrilled with my purchase, but a few things took me by surprise.

First, the speed simply blew me away. I shouldn't be surprised that a machine with over three times the RAM, twice the clock-speed (the G4 was a 1 GHz), and double the cores is that much faster, but the speed was still startling--particularly startup and shutdown. I don't dread restarting anymore, which is good, considering my second observation.

My second observation is centered around sleep battery usage. With my PowerBooks, I became accustomed to the idea that sleeping my laptop was nearly as good as turning it off. I could sleep it, leave it unplugged for days and lose maybe a couple percent of the charge. Now, I sleep my MacBook, unplug it and leave it overnight or over the course of ten hours and open it only to find that it has dropped by about 12% of its max charge. It's maddening.

Third, I find it hard to believe that it's so inconvenient to replace the RAM, but so convenient to replace the hard drive. Yes, I will only max out my RAM once, but undoing all those screws was a practice in delayed gratification when compared to both my Pismo PowerBook G3 and my 12-inch PowerBook. Meanwhile, the hard drive (the one piece of equipment I paid to have swapped in my 12-in) mocked me. To my face.

Fourth, though I think I like it overall, the ambient-light-sensing backlight is a little disconcerting when you don't know that it exists. I began to think I was slowly going insane (and perhaps I still am).

Finally, the form factor is taking a little time to get used to. I love the newfound menu space afforded by the wide screen. At the same time, I miss the squat proportions and size of the 12-inch.  In reality, the MacBook isn't that much larger, but that little change is just enough to notice. I won't be going back to my 12-inch, but it will always have a special place in my heart--a very small, but important place.

This story, "Can a MacBook Replace a 12-inch PowerBook?" was originally published by Macworld.

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