View Full Version : Graphic Designer Powerbook (12" or 15"?)

2005-02-03, 04:20
Hello AN Members, I'm not a switcher yet, but I hope to be in the next few weeks!

Barring all the flaming, whining, etc. abou tthe new powerbook update, to me, its a good thing because I want to switch and I need a laptop now, and what appears to be the last revision of the powerbook before another "step" makes me feel like its a bit more solid. Anyway onto the question:

I'm a graphic designer just starting out of school, and I need to learn the OSX operating system and do real graphics and web dev work on this laptop. I'm wrestling between the 12" powerbook and the 15". My current situation is that I will be using this laptop very much on the go, and just starting out, I've decided to travel via bicycle instead of car. I plan on biking 3-6 miles a day to work, depending on the job, and want to be able to bring the laptop with me every day. Needless to say, battery life is important to me at these times. Most of the work I do will be in Flash, photoshop, illustrator/freehand. I plan on getting around 1GB memory on the machine I end up getting, I'm just having trouble deciding between the two.

The 12" would seem to be the best bet for portability, but I'm wondering if I will be able to competantly do my work on it. Flash is a bit crunched feeling on my current monitor res of 1280x1024, I don't know if I will be able to work well with a 12" res, but the 15" res doesn't seem much better in that regard. The graphics card worries me a little, but not much since I don't do video or 3d rendering (yet).

15" seems great, only its more expensive, and bigger. I can probably do my work on the powerbook sufficiently on the 15", but will I regret having the screen while biking that far? Also, battery life on the 15" seems to be much less than the 12" (my friend seems to only get 2.5 hrs at best), will that be another problem? Otherwise, features are great.

What would you all advise? I'm almost positive that switching will be great, either way, but what should I go with? I like the idea of a 12" now, having a super portable, and then when I become a more employed designer and a bigger machead, I can keep the 12" for portability and have an additional powermac tower or 15" powerbook that is the next revolutionary step for laptops that will be able to handle anything. If it doesn't go smoothly though, I'll have a 12" portable that I really cant do anything with on the go, and I'll just be waiting for another mac to come around. The 12" seems great, but it definitley has its downsides and doesn't get as much of a boost from this last update as the larger models. The 15" seems to have all the features, but would I be better off with a super-portable when I will want one in the future for light work on the go and I get another apple machine that has newer hardware? Will the battery life be able to handle the long days as well as the 12"?

I'm looking at a future setup of 4 machines: 1 PC tower, 1 ultra-portable laptop, 1 bomber laptop to handle work on more extensive trips, 1 powermac tower. Is this all completely ridiculous?

What do I do?!? Please help me decide!

2005-02-03, 05:01
Well, 1024x1280 seems crunched?
and a 9700 with 128vram on a notebook is top notch even against pc notebooks..

15" is still very portable.. a 12" seems like it would not be enough for graphic editing.. you need as mch workspace as possible, in most cases... i see the 12" more bussiness oriented.. for typing/browsing etc..
15" is for portable media.. 17" being desktop replacement media.

anyway.. I would go 15" .. if battery life is very important to you.. you may want to consider a pentium m system.. adobe photoshop and all the other apps neccasary for graphic design are avialable on a pc..
just without os x..

mama's left eye
2005-02-03, 06:19
Go 15# and pack yourself bigger lunches! You'll have the legs of an NFL kicker in no time at all.

Seriously, though. I think the weight difference isn't going to be noticed. The that that will make the most difference is what kind of bag you carry it in. But if you are going to get a mac tower anyway, maybe save the money you would spend and get a 12".

2005-02-03, 09:24
You forgot that he's carrying it with him ON A BIKE. It's not the weight, it's the size. A 15" won't easily fit in a small to medium sized backpack, but a 12" will easily. I'd be afraid of damaging a 15" if I were to carry it with me in my backpack.

The problem seems to be that you need portability and screen area over all else. That kind of makes it difficult, huh? You can connect the 12" to a large monitor at home, but while you're on the road you're stuck with the 1024x768 screen. Do keep in mind that OS X has Exposť, which is really good at managing windows. It won't give you more screen area, but it'll let you use what screen area you have more effectively. If you don't know how it works, basically it makes all the windows on the screen resize and move temporarily so you can see each one in its entirety, with no overlap. Then you can select the one to bring to the front and they snap back in place. It's great for dragging and dropping between applications and it makes even 1024x768 perfectly usable for OS X. You'll probably still feel cramped on a 12", though.

2005-02-03, 09:58
Bigger is always better when it comes to screen real estate. 15" is the one to get and you will face alot of screen pallete window that will cruch up space on ittty bitty 12". I personally like more screen and especially when using Flah on the 17" all the palletes are placed neatly on to one side of the screen; a minimal amount of pallette moving & closing.

2005-02-03, 09:58
I've biked to work every day with 15" powerbooks for years now. In my experience, I just can't get used to the XGA resolution on the 12" even though I have had periods where I'll use an ibook for weeks straight. It's just way too little screen space for me, but YMMV.

If you are doing graphics work, I say definitely go with the 15". You don't really have to worry about size if you have a good bag. I have a Spire bag (http://www.spireusa.com/) that's still like new after three years of constant use and my 15" powerbooks have always fit perfectly in there as does any and all other books, etc, that I put in there.

In fact, the 15" is a little more comfortable. If you have the powerbook in a laptop bag, then it's in its own compartment, which basically negates the benefits of the smaller screen. It's not like you can stuff a book in the saved space in the compartment. And in the bag I've been using, the padded compartment is against my back, so when I have a 15" machine in there it covers my whole back and is, therefore, unnoticeable and comfortable.

The one thing you should be aware of is if you live in the city, the bumps and such might take a toll on your machine. I don't know if it will, but I've had issues with my powerbooks that I suspect may have to do with that. I've always had applecare, so it's not really a problem. Of course, whether the powerbook is 15" or 12" probably doesn't affect this.

2005-02-03, 10:02
I use a 15" as my primary workstation at my current job. I find the size to actually be completely acceptable, I haven't really needed a second display, but I do use one occasionally. I'd find that 1024x768 is simply too small to accommodate all of the palettes that the apps you're going to use require. I can't remember the last time I had to use a 1024x768 display, but I do recall being upset about it. As for carrying the thing on a bike, I've found no problems whatsoever fitting it into my courier bags, but even if you had a regular backpack, get a sleevecase for the PowerBook and slide it in vertically. Problem solved.

I think getting a 12" would be a mistake. Go for the 15".

2005-02-03, 10:30
Thanks for all the great feedback! Is the battery issue still prevalent? Would I find after long hauls the 12" would suite me better for use on the road? I get reports of 4.5hrs as opposed to 2.5 on the 15"? Am I wrong to assume this?

I plan on getting applecare, that way I have my bases covered for having it with me on a bike.

It's a hard call between battery life, screen size and portability. Any more feedback you have would be great! Thanks again.

2005-02-03, 10:40
That depends on whom you ask and what they do.

If you turn off AirPort and Bluetooth, dim your screen, aren't using the CD/DVD drive, throttle your processor, and aren't constantly hammering the CPU, you'll probably get the 4 hours of battery life that Apple advertises. However, if you leave everything running full-tilt, you'll be lucky to crack the 2-hour mark. It's all about smart usage habits.

Of course, you should always bring your power adapter so you can plug in whenever possible.

2005-02-03, 11:30
I just bring the power adapter around. Essentially everywhere I go, even the most luddite cafes, have outlets within reach.

Be aware, however, that if you use the battery a lot you'll need to get new one about once a year. I do.

2005-02-03, 11:54
Yeah, I have three power adapters and two batteries for my 15". I keep one adapter at home, one at the office, and one in a briefcase for when I travel. I usually bring the second battery when I travel as well. The battery life between the 12" and the 15" will be comparable, and I doubt you'll see much difference between the two; negligible at best.

2005-02-03, 15:05
A suggestion.. How about going w/ the smaller laptop and with the $ savings get a display that you keep at home or office? Now that's more screen space. Yeah, it might feel funny to your eyeballs switching between screens, but set the same resolution and keep documents off the borders, maybe it's more than workable.

2005-02-03, 15:56
Battery life on the 15" is pretty poor. This is a sad, but blatant fact. I get around 2.5 hours with "medium smart usage". iBooks kick the ass of PowerBooks in terms of battery life, as do Centrinos. I assume the 12" is appreciable better. Battery life really is the only thing that I am actively not happy about with my PowerBook.

AFAIK, third-Party manufacturers have only been able to increase the default battery capacity on the PB G4 15" by 11% (http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/powerbook/batteries/) compared to 42% on the last model.

You will need to take a power adapter/extra battery with you if you intend to work intensively away from home for over 2 hours.

2005-02-03, 16:37
In this case... is the 12" powerbook worth it, or should I just go with an iBook then? I'm worried the iBook won't be able to handle the applications, speed difference between the PB hardware and iBook hardware being more noticeable in the type of applications I'm using. The battery life and screen size are pretty much the same with both though...

Should I be considering an iBook instead if I go with a 12"?

2005-02-23, 13:00
My wife and I are graphic designers and we just purchased a high-end 15" (should be shipping sometime today... :D)

I would strongly recommend avoiding the iBook unless you're planning on doing some extremely light graphic design; I don't know about you, but when I do web development, I've usually got Flash, Photoshop, Thunderbird, Textpad, and two or three Firefox windows open. There's no way an iBook could handle this gracefully; Photoshop CS alone would be a tall order.

When looking for a Powerbook for graphic design, we discussed two options:

a 12" model with plenty of RAM, a big external monitor, and a wireless keyboard/mouse (so when we get home we can just plug the pb into the wall/monitor and have a decent desktop machine)
a high-end 15" model

The reason we broke it down into these two choices is mostly because of price. We definitely couldn't afford to spend more than $2000, and both of these options turned out to cost roughly that.

If portability is a really huge issue, I would go for the 12", but you're going to regret it if you do any serious graphics work. The 12" just isn't suitable for heavy duty graphic design, purely from a real-estate standpoint.