PowerBook Predictions

So it’s time to buy a new PowerBook. Soon, I’ll be handing in the one I’ve been using on company time and I’ve gotten far too used to sitting on the couch to get work done, wirelessly, as well as a few upcoming trips.

And now I’m caught in that eternal dilemma: when to pull the trigger when buying a new system. I see that there’s a MacWorld conference coming up in early January, and my instincts tell me there’ll be an update to the PowerBook line.

I hate this game. Buy now, and then a week later there’s a whole new line — for less money. It happens to me every time. Every time. So what’s your strategy? Don’t look back? Wait and see?

37 Comments

  1. Tim says:

    Don’t look back. 4 years ago I bought a Beige G3, only to have the blue models appear 3 months later.

  2. sox says:

    Although there’s no real answer to this dilemma (and never will be), what I normaly do is to take the ‘value’ of a given product and weigh that against ‘what i need it for’. Then it becomes somewhat easier to justify your purchasing decision, or at least stop yourself from crying, when the new models are rolled out. For me, iBook G4 was a good value at $1099, and did all that I would need to do on a laptop for at least a year or two. Hope this helps and good luck.

  3. Abstrak9 says:

    Instant gratification is a wonderful and powerful force. However, I have always been satisfied when I wait and compare the new products vs. the old. It’s hard, but you can do it.

  4. Mats Persson says:

    Dan,
    You didn’t say which PowerBook you want to buy, but if you want the 15inch model, then here’s my suggestion:
    IF you really need a PowerBook now, then buy one, otherwise, stay calm and buy it when Rev.2 has arrived on the shelves. I bought the B&W G3 (rev. 1) , and the PowerBook G4 (rev. 1), so now I would wait until the 2nd or 3rd revision of each product. Although current Mac products are good, there are always some improvements in Rev. 2 models.
    Just my 1 cent worth.

  5. supercrisis says:

    Tough call. About 2 months ago I bought a 12″ G4 PowerBook and got screwed pretty badly by Apple. I bought the PowerBook because I wanted the G4 processor, otherwise I would have settled for the 12″ iBook. Lo and behold, less than a month later Apple releases a G4 iBook, which has almost identical stats but costs half as much.
    If that wasn’t bad enough, two days after I made my purchase Apple releases Panther and declares all new computers bought on or after that day will get a free copy if it is not already installed on it. So I call them up and explain that I purchased mine only 2 days before, but they will not budge. Now I have to shell out $150 just because I didn’t feel like waiting for the weekend to buy…
    And now the rumor mills are churning news that the PowerBook line is gonna be revised early next year, possibly even with double-processors and such. It’s enough to turn a guy of Apple for good. I realize that their business model depends on secrecy and surprising folks… but it becomes really annoying when they don’t offer any retroactive credit to the loyalists who they screw.
    Just thought I’d share my experience. Other than that I’m loving my 12″ PowerBook, it’s light and portable and stylish and has mostly enough power, (256 RAM is a little on the light side if you plan on running anything larger than Office.)

  6. What I usually recommend, for geeks like us, is to buy what you can afford. If money is not the issue here, then buy the latest and greatest when it arrives, just because you can. I mean, for some of us, working on the Internet is not really work. We play, and get paid for it. Personally, I consider my computer systems “Toys that I make money using”. And I never spare any expense on toys.
    Wait for the “eledged” release in January, if there is a major update, purchase it, and have fun! If not, your choice is made.

  7. ste says:

    I definitely say wait until the conference. I made the mistake of buying a lime-flavored iBook a few months before Apple released the titanium ones. The next Apple I bought was my dual 2gHz G5 – luckily that’s still fairly new so they probably won’t be outdated too soon. ;) Instinct tells me that since they just updated the iBook line to be nearly as powerful as the current powerbooks, they’ll probably update the powerbooks pretty soon. (Heck, maybe even a powerbook G5! Keep your fingers crossed! ;)
    On a separate note, I would recommend waiting anyway. I seem to remember quite a few comments about hardware problems with the most recent powerbook updates. Hopefully by now, those problems have been ironed out but waiting another month (to see the newest products announcements from MacWorld) should be a good guarantee even if there are no new powerbook updates. Personally, I have my fingers crossed for an Apple tablet announcement. :D

  8. Dave S. says:

    Same experience as supercrisis – bought a G3 iBook instead, then saw within three weeks Panther being announced, and G4 iBooks being announced. I was a first-time buyer, so the introduction to this world was as realistic as they come, it sounds. sigh.
    My experience with technology has almost always been, if you buy it, you regret not having waited. No matter what, no matter when. But you have to buy at some point. The key is to feel like you’re getting value for your money now, rather than being cheated out of future value. I’m reasonably happy with what I got. Now if they’ll just concede and send me Panther…

  9. Dave says:

    The problem with waiting until the convention is that a few times in the past few years Apple has announced their new products at the convention, then done another release within a month later, knowing everyone who was waiting for the convention and didn’t see a new product would go out and buy. Unfortunatly, you’re within your dangerous window where you’re fewer than 1.5 months to the next convention. Still, being that they did just update the Powerbooks this fall, I’d recommend buying now.

  10. redmonkey says:

    I too have been burnt by this.
    My rule is if there’s a convention less than a month away, then I’ll wait.

  11. Mac Rumors Buyer’s Guide
    This is fairly useful from a “rumored updates” standpoint as they track when products were last released, and have that data going back a year or two, so you can see the way the product cycle is trending. Their buy or wait recommendations are based on these cycles, as well as relevant rumors that they feel are reliable.
    Currently they have a buy recommendation on the G4 iBooks that were recently introduced, and a neutral rating on the PowerBooks, which are currently mid-cycle.
    Personally, I’d wait on a 15″ (I have a new model at work, and there are issues). The 12″ and 17″ are in their second revision and represent decent value for what they are. I also have a rev. 1 12″ at home that I am quite pleased with.
    As to “looking back,” you might be interested in a piece I wrote several years ago when Apple introduced the Key Lime iBooks: No Regrets.

  12. Clint says:

    wait for a week after the conference. buy the most you can afford. then don’t look back. or, order it online today, you can have it by the weekend :-)

  13. Steph says:

    I’ve played the game many times now – to be honest, while I might have felt envious when the new model was announced a week later, I’ve never really regretted buying the machine I did (and I once bought a G4 cube as when I was after a stable publishing workhorse…)
    These days, my approach is to keep a close eye on refurb kit – it means that you get a machine for a lower price which Apple has serviced properly (so it definitely works out of the box), and you get to avoid the ‘should I buy now or later?’ game with the smug feeling that you’ve got yourself a bargain.

  14. Fargoboy says:

    Listen to Mark, he’s got some good advice. I would wait until after MacWorld SF in January to see if they come up with a rev 2 15in PowerBook. The 12in and 17in are great, but out of the three, the 15in has the best mix of power and portability. Unfortunately, rev 1 of the current model has some issues. If you’re getting a little anxious for that feel of scalding-hot aluminum on your lap, then get one now and make sure you slap a few extra bucks down for AppleCare (a must for iBook or PowerBook buyers). If little white dots show up on the screen or it decides to shoot DVDs into your abdomen, you’re covered for three years — on the ‘Book at least, not your abdomen. There will always be a cheaper, faster model down the road, but the current PowerBooks will do damn near anything, so new ones will only do things faster. Best of luck!

  15. Michael Z. says:

    No matter when you buy, there will always be something better sooner or later. There is no right time — the trick is to overcome your future feelings of portable envy.
    Do you “need” it now? Then buy it and be happy. Don’t keep window-shopping once you’re no longer in the market, just enjoy your great new powerbook.
    Don’t really need it yet? Wait until you do, then go for it.

  16. Dan says:

    Thanks for the advice, all. And Mark thanks for Mac Rumors Buying Guide Tip. Exactly what I was looking for.
    I’m looking pretty seriously at the 12″ PB. The way I figure it, if I’m going to have a laptop, it might as well be damn portable. You can always plug in a display when you’re not on the move. Looks like waiting till Jan. for the MacWorld announcements seems like a good idea. If they’re aren’t any updates, it’s time to buy methinks.

  17. Jamie says:

    Wait the month. I bought the 12″ right after last years MacWorld and love it. While I am jealous with the newer 1Ghz 12″ model, I got over six months of use out of this one before the update and don’t feel as if I was burned at all. At the very least it is likely that the configuration you pick today (as long as it is not the most basic) will be cheaper after the Expo.

  18. I say wait. Heck, if the conference is early January, that’s less than a month away. Plus the couple weeks that people say you should wait until after the conference, and you’ve got yourself only a month to wait, so I definitely say be patient and see what hapens.
    I doubt we’ll see a G5 PowerBook this fast, but you really never know with Apple. About a month after I bought my 17″ PowerBook G4, they came out with the first revision and dropped the price about 200 bucks. You can imagine how peeved I was. :P

  19. huphtur says:

    (im prolly gonna get flamed for this) but what about NOT gettin an apple laptop? save yourself some money and you wont get “out of fashion” the next week.
    are there any ‘good looking’ non apple laptops?

  20. alex says:

    From people I’ve talked to, the G5 PowerBooks are a long way away. There may be new faster processors in the PowerBooks from the old G3 line showing up (perhaps in dual configurations) at some point, but I’ve been told the G5s are really hot and aren’t anywhere close to being released.
    I’m ready for an upgrade and I’m waiting for the conference. :)

  21. .sara says:

    Well everyone else already said it, but here goes: I’d wait until after the conference. When I bought my Cube (and monitor), it was a week before the conference. Right after? Smokin’ new everything. Argh. (Of course, they stopped selling the Cube and I wouldn’t give it up, I’m just saying.)

  22. Chad Brandt says:

    Perfect timing for this post: I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to pull the trigger on a 15″ PowerBook (my first apple). I planned to wait a few weeks to see if Apple offers any promotions before Christmas (doubtful). After reading these posts, I think I’ll wait until the conference.
    Hindsight is 20/20: I’m one of the unfortunate individuals who purchased a 15 GB iPod a week before the 20 GB was released at the same price. Not a huge loss, but I’d hate for something similar to happen with the PowerBook.

  23. Lou says:

    My rule of thumb with Apple products is to wait to purchase if I’m withing 3 months of an Expo. That’s less reliable now that Steve made Expos less of a product announcement showcase, but I think it still holds. If you can afford to wait until January, do it.
    Of course if it would make your life easier/better in the mean time, buy now. There’s no point in not being productive.
    There are many rumors surrounding new processors (perhaps even G3s from IBM sporting AltiVec … a psuedo G4 at faster speeds and lower energy/heat). I wouldn’t expect a G5 any time in the near future nor would I anticipate a dual G4 – that’s a lot of heat, and perhaps more importantly, energy.
    Likely we’ll just see a minor speed bump, and hopefully larger batteries (what is the deal with the current batteries having less capacity than the previous version?) We may also see a display bump – Apple seems to finally be leveraging common components across lines – the 20 inch iMac uses the same screen as the 20 inch display, the iBook and 15″/17″ iMac are at the same dpi (same process to create), etc. I haven’t checked to see what we might see, but the speculation is that new stand-alone displays are on the way so we might see better displays across the board.

  24. Dave says:

    Being a frequent Mac rumor watcher, my experience to date has been to never purchase any new computer equipment ahead of one of the largest product launch showcases of the year.
    While it is unlikely that a PB update will happen at MWSF, it’s worth a month to wait and see. Apple is constantly churning out new and innovative products and is full of surprises.
    At the very least, wait for the simple reason that many after-the-holiday specials might turn up some good deals.

  25. Jeff Croft says:

    Normally my attitude is “buy it when you need it and don’t look back.” I bought at 15″ PowerBook back in September with this line of thinking. That said, the January MacWorld is soon enough that it seems silly not to wait. If you can afford to wait, I’d do it…
    Jeff

  26. Greg H. says:

    I just ordered a 15″ PowerBook and it will ship in just over a week. I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope there isn’t some fantastic new upgrade to the line.
    But because I saved $300 on the computer and 10% on the accessories thanks to a student discount, it’s not going to burn me as bad as it might a non-student who ordered at this time. I think I’d feel more burned by a significant feature bump than a moderate price reduction.

  27. Pete says:

    I get asked a lot about when to buy various computer related stuff. This year it’s digital camera. My basic advise: hold off as long as you can until you absolutely need something or want something. Then spend as much as you can and realize that to a certain degree, you’re throwing money away. That’s just the nature of the beast with techy purchases. If you buy based on what you “need” rather than on buzzwords and what seems cool today, you’ll generally end up with a purchase that you can live with for a longer period of time.
    Good luck!

  28. I. G. says:

    Apple’s only competitive CPU is the G5. Don’t waste your money to the overpriced and underpowered crap G4 PowerBooks.

  29. tim says:

    Dan,
    I’m in the same boat — SERIOUSLY considering a 12″ PB. Although I don’t expect Powerbook updates based on recent rumors, I’m going to wait and see (maybe even wait a few weeks after MWSF). It kills me to be stuck in windows, but I been here for so long, what’s another few weeks? Would love to see a cpu bump, backlight keyboard, and 64Mb vram in the 12″, but I’m probably dreaming. Either way, I’ll probably go for the best 12″ PB value I can find, take care of it, and sell it and buy a G5 PB when they’re finally out (next summer?).
    -t

  30. The rule here is: If there is a major Apple related event within the next six weeks (MacWorld would certainly qualify), and you can make it the six weeks before your purchase, hold on. Always a good sporting chance there’ll be something new.
    By the second week of January, you’ll know what’s up, and you’ll also know if it’s gonna take Apple another 13 weeks to ship what it has just announced.
    With this info in hand, you can make your informed decision based on your needs.
    And at this point, you don’t give it a second thought.
    Obviously you want the best tool you can get, but end the end, you know as well as I do that it’s just a tool. How the tool is used is up to the artist. Have fun!

  31. vlad says:

    it just occurred to me that jobs might anounce a g5 powerbook, too distinguish the powerbook line from the now-also-g4-powered ibook line. i’d definitely hold out for something like that.

  32. mboszko says:

    Y’know, I’m not sure that “screwed” is the right term here, for those folks who somehow think they’ve been wronged by Apple. They’re a company who is out to make a profit. When they’re ready with the new product, and they think the timing is right, they annouce it. I’m not sure how this is different from any other company out there. Computers change. They update. Wait a while, and you can get better for cheaper. Wait again, and it’ll happen again. It’s not like it’s unexpected. And it’s not something that’s worth taking personally.
    That said, I always hit the rumor sites when I’m ready to go. If something looks like it might be on the horizon (or a known Apple event is coming up), I’ll hold off for a couple of weeks. Otherwise, I go with what’s available and hope for the best. I mean, it’s not like if they announce something new, the computer you just bought is suddenly a P.O.S.. It’s just as good a machine as it was the day before you knew there was something better.
    ‘Course you could always take out a business lease with a clause to upgrade under your lease at such time as there is a newer model available. Best of both worlds, aside from the fact that if you keep trading up, you’ll never own the older one and have it around for when you need to do a huge video or 3D network render… if you have need of such things.

  33. Bo Salisbury says:

    Here’s my philosophy, which has served me well over the years. I wait until the current model is radically improved in speed and features over my present one. Then, I wait patiently for the new models to come out and, if it’s merely a processor speed improvement, I buy the former top of the line model after they drop the price about $500 to close it out. My biggest concern in the deal is to try to get a new model which will not be obsolete for at least six months or a year and won’t become a dead-end ( you are probably too young to remember the Macintosh IIsi).

  34. brian says:

    i just picked up a new PBG4/15/1.25 this morning and i am not worrying about it. maybe new ones will come in a few weeks, but this one is glorious and if you need it now, i don’t think you’ll be disappointed…

  35. Bruce says:

    Don’t look back. The new models are expensive. Also, I don’t recommend 12″ things.

  36. Anonamous says:

    You know since everyone is saying that a G5 Powerbook would burn up b/c of heat, well MRAM a replacment for a hard drive that can be dropped, boot up instantly and hold 250GB in a tiny space does not give off heat!!! So, that being said it would at least cool a PB off a bit! Why not do it it would be better for everybody.

  37. Nathan says:

    Wait!!! Not that its an issue now, but I bought a new g5 2 months ago and got screwed. Lo and behold, after I got my g5 with production suite, I could have gotten FCP studio, tiger and dual 2.7s opposed to the 2.5s I got. Sure, instant gratification feels good but not when your faced with these stats!