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Entry no.: 204

10 Aug 2007, 11:44 AM

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments: 16

Apple MacBook Pro vs. PowerBook Titanium

The good, the bad and the different

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — name and logo — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

My story with Apple portables [see PowerBooks post on my old] begins in 1999, when I bought my first PowerBook Lombard. God, that was a sexy beast! In 2002 I switched to a PowerBook Titanium and last week I bought a new MacBook Pro, to which I'm still adjusting.

This is hardly a showdown — the title could be a little misleading — the PowerBook is to old to engage in such a competition. Apple portables improved much in 5 years and the new laptop is hands-down better than its five years old ancestor — in fact, it's for sure the best Apple portable, but unfortunately I tend to be harsh with the ones I love, so I'll go on and depict here a subjective yet merciless comparison.

The good

The good is one hundred percent insanely great.

Faster two-core processor: Intel Core 2 Duo has three times the clock speed — 800MHz to 2.4GHz makes a huge difference, obviously;
New technology and overall evolution: 4MB L2 cache, 667MHz DDR2 memory (the fastest portable computer memory on the market), 800MHz frontside bus, 16-lane PCI Express graphics, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT, 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM, 802.11n wireless, USB 2.0, Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), Gigabit Ethernet, DVD writer etc;
LED backlit screen means the display weighs less and is more power efficient than the cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs). It is very bright;
Improved enclosure and build quality: not a revolution here, but a great deal of evolution;
MagSafe magnetic power connector, on the other hand, is a truly revolutionary item. Insanely great! This is how all plug-and-socket connections should work;
Larger: trackpad, screen resolution (1440-by-900-pixel), speakers. It accommodates more memory — 4GB of RAM — which may seem excessive today but it'll probably barely make the cut in five years (Adobe Illustrator CS8 will probably need all of that);
Lots and lots of new additions: integrated iSight camera, remote control, internal Bluetooth, illuminated keyboard, sudden motion sensor, scrolling function for the trackpad, optical audio I/O — all more than welcome. Great.

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — open — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

The form factor is slightly different, because of the new screen aspect ratio and the new hinge.

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — closed, top, bottom — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

Hinge no longer exposed, the new battery is much larger.

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — MagSafe vs old plug — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

The new MagSafe power connector attaches magnetically vs. old plug-and-socket connection.

The bad

Design compromises, a lost arts, some broken habits and a bug.

New hinge limits screen's maximum tilt angle: if both the Lombard and the Titanium could tilt back almost fully (~180°), the new hinge on MacBook Pro severely limits the tilting angle. For tall people using the laptop... well, on their lap, tough luck. Yes, the new hinge is far more solid, but I feel it improved on my spine's expense.
Keyboard: oh, this is a difficult one. The keyboard not only looks gorgeous, but is gorgeous after nowadays standards. It is also light-sensitive and illuminated. Unfortunately, keyboard standards are declining as they are getting cheaper and cheaper: their click (tactile feed-back) gets more and more anemic and hesitant. The Lombard had the best keyboard, the Titanium's was worse but still better than this one. Keyboard click is a lost art.
I/O ports placement: the ports are not only exposed and visible now, but their placement on the sides can become — for heavy users — fairly anti-ergonomic. For instance, a thick FireWire cable mounted in its slot may impair mouse operation;
No S-video out: using the laptop to output signal to old television sets means buying new adaptors. Ok, the S-video era is over, I can get that. Let's move on.
New ExpressCard slot — ExpressCard is the PCMCIA standard replacement for the CardBus PC Card slot — but I haven't seen a single ExpressCard until now, let alone owning one. My old PC Card doesn't fit, obviously;
No iSight settings: average user does not have any control over iSight settings (brightness, contrast, hue, saturation etc) and in some situations, like contre-jour or white walls as backgrounds, compensation is needed;
Large and heavy charger: thew MacBook Pro charger is much larger and heavier than Titanium charger. I know there is available a newer, more compact charger, but the one included in my kit is the older, bulkier one.
Tilde missing on the Romanian keyboard1: "~" (tilde sign) and "`" (grave accent) are missing from the "Î" (Latin letter I with circumflex) key — or should I say that the Tilde is missing from the Tilde key? — although the key works as per normal keyboard layout.

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — lid angle — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

The new hinge design limits the lid's opening angle.

PowerBook Titanium — I/O ports — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

PowerBook Titanium I/O ports were out of the way and masked when not in use.

MacBook Pro — I/O ports — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

MacBook Pro I/O ports are exposed and placed on both sides of the enclosure.

MacBook Pro vs PowerBook Titanium — charger — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

MacBook Pro's charger is enormous compared to PowerBook Titanium's.

MacBook Pro — keyboard engraving error — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

Tilde sign and Grave accent are missing from the "Î" (Latin letter I with circumflex) key.

The different

MacBook Pro name seems awkward to me, although I fully understand the marketing reasons. I miss the PowerBook name, though. It was a great name.
Screen format is wider now.
Self-adjusting screen luminosity to ambient lighting may be annoying if not accustomed to, but fortunately it can be disabled.
Reaching inside is more difficult now as the keyboard is no longer easily removable and the access area moved now to a hatch placed near the battery.


The many improvements, the formidable performance and the awesome general quality transcend the drawbacks, by far.

It is obvious that Apple made serious efforts to keep it cool and a few design decisions (ie. ports placement) were influenced by Intel processor cooling requirements. The new hinge design is probably based on a history of faults so that's understandable, too. The less responsive keyboard impression is based upon my subjective experience with really high-quality keyboards on more expensive machines (Lombard was almost twice as expensive at the time), and that's probably an area where Apple tries to reduce costs in order to keep the machine affordable. On the other hand, although I hate it, the soft-click or clickless touch may well be a trend in keyboard design.

PowerBook Titanium — scratched hinge — Cristian Kit Paul, 2007

The exposed PowerBook Titanium "external" hinge was vulnerable to scratches and damage.

The many improvements (both evolutionary and revolutionary), the formidable performance and the awesome general quality transcend those drawbacks, by far.

All in all, the new MacBook Pro is the exceptional machine that I came to expect from Apple and I'm sure it'll not only to hold up for a long time, but also to age gracefully.

1 I already filed a bug report with Apple (Problem ID: 5400784) regarding this issue.


Reply no.: 1

10 Aug 2007, 5:12 PM

Randy J. Hunt:

While it is one more thing to buy, Apple recently released a scaled down 85w power adapter for MacBook Pros.

Reply no.: 2

10 Aug 2007, 5:32 PM


That's a welcomed improvement Randy, but until their distribution reaches Romania (and until I'll decide to spend more money) I'm stuck with the brick. Carrying it probably is a good workout, at least. :)

Reply no.: 3

12 Aug 2007, 10:22 AM


Tilde is also missing on the Romanian desktop keyboards. Maybe it's a feature, not a bug. :)

Reply no.: 4

12 Aug 2007, 11:46 AM


Thanks for the tip, Tudor. I will write a post about this and ask people what whether on their computer the error is present or not.

Update: I've posted The missing tilde, with pictures.

Reply no.: 5

16 Aug 2007, 1:55 PM


How much for the Titanium? :)

Reply no.: 6

23 Aug 2007, 7:12 PM


Kit, are you ok with the new lcd screen? i heard they have a yellowish white.

Reply no.: 7

23 Aug 2007, 8:08 PM


Catalin, I don't think I'll sell it. One cannot have too many PowerBooks. :)

Even, the screen is very good quality, very bright and clear, without any color cast. I didn't calibrate it yet, so it's in the native gamma, probably close to D65.

Reply no.: 8

16 Sep 2007, 3:58 AM


Kit -
Thanks for your time and research/photos on the comparison. It was just what I needed to help me decide to keep or buy new. I don't HAVE to have fast right now, and the design differences are enough to make me wait more. Good thing, I need to hang onto the little teacher pay I get. I'll stay true to the TiBook for now - 3 years later .....

Reply no.: 9

16 Sep 2007, 11:46 AM


Michele, keeping the PowerBook for a while may be the best decision for you.

Also—since you're on a budget—you might want to have a look at the new MacBooks (the consumer portables, not the Pro line). They're not only cheaper, but probably faster than your old TiBook.

But than again: three years is not much for an Apple portable, in my opinion. And good things come to those who wait...

Reply no.: 10

3 Feb 2008, 1:05 AM

david Rubenstein:

that's a really old powerbook G4

Reply no.: 11

27 Aug 2008, 3:37 AM

Patrick Mlekusch:

I think sthe soft click is a trend.
Nokia launched it years ago on their VERTU line. Saying they've spend thousangs of dollars to find the "perfect click" nowadays they put it in some normal Nokia models and I can say there isn't even a click anymore... But I got used to it and now I love it!

Reply no.: 12

29 Sep 2008, 3:52 PM


Picture a quiet university library...
Everybody's focusing, concentrating, studying...
Then a guy comes, bringing his old notebook with a 'CLICKING' keyboard... and as he starts typing his notebook goes like CLICK-CLACK-CLICK-CLACK-CLICK...
Clickless keyboards are a blessing!

Ps.: KIT, thanks for your interesting post. Oh, and I'm still using my 12" Powerbook G4 bought in 2005... Macs rule!

Reply no.: 13

19 Nov 2008, 12:29 AM

Tony Wright :

I am still using a G4 15" powerbook that I bought second hand in 2002. Running OSX 10.3.9 It is brilliant and has never let me down. Titanium's are great.

Reply no.: 14

8 Sep 2009, 1:07 PM

Robin :

I have a Powerbook G4 Titanium 867 MHz RAM 512 MB from year 2002 whit Mac OS X 10.4.11.
It works brilliant! It runs all the latest updates whitout any problems. The G4 processor must be one of the best processors in the world.
Think about it. A laptop that have runs in almost eight years whitout any problems. Isn´t that amazing?

Thank you Kit for this intresting post. It makes me wounder if I sould by a newer Powerbook instead of a MacBook Pro.

P.S I apologize for my bad English.

Reply no.: 15

21 Aug 2010, 1:30 AM

Dan Sniadoski:

As someone who owned a TiBook, I need to say that the over-all form factor of the AlBooks/MacBooks is VASTLY improved in durability.

The hinges on my old TiBook FAILED twice... Both of them...

Reply no.: 16

4 Jan 2011, 8:05 AM


I've not used the Macbook Pro but the Powerbook Titanium is a completely new thing to me and this article have me much interested. I'll definitely check once.

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