Laptop Quality Concerns

in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
After reading a posting on MacNN, I started thinking about the quality of the PowerBooks I've owned over the years. Most people will say that they've owned their Macs for years with no problems and they usually outlast the 'life' of a typical PC by at least several years. With the desktop Macs, there's little doubt in my mind that it is true.

But when I look at the PowerBooks I've owned, I'm beginning to wonder if they aren't built to last more than a few years now.

The first PowerBook my family purchased was a PowerBook 1400c back in 1996. It had a 133 MHz PowerPC, an Active Matrix Display, and a CD-ROM drive (which swapped out in a drive bay with a floppy disk drive). It also had a PCMCIA card slot which we used for a modem, ethernet card, and eventually a 802.11 wireless card. The only problems this laptop has had (to this day) was a faulty power adapter and the front part of the casing of the CD-ROM module began to come off. The battery also doesn't hold much of a charge any more but that's nothing unexpected.

The next PowerBook I owned was my PowerBook G3 (Pismo, 500 MHz). The 500 MHz Pismo was the last PowerBook G3 that Apple produced. I loved that laptop but it was plagued with problems from day 1. I went through about a dozen power adapters, the hinges on the screen broke twice, the original battery was a lemon, the Firewire ports stopped working, the hard drive died, the DVD-ROM module stopped working, the internal Airport Card had to be replaced, the 'feet' never stayed on for more than a few weeks at a time, and the screen died. In the end, the laptop spent more time at Apple for repairs then at my house. I did nothing but take extreme care of the laptop when I had it but eventually, Apple decided that they had spent enough money fixing the laptop and sent me my PowerBook G4.

I wish I could say things have been great with the PowerBook G4 (Titanium, 1 GHz) but they haven't been. The 1 GHz G4 was the last Titanium PowerBook that Apple produced. To date, the laptop has been sent back to Apple 5 times for repair, and numerous trips have been made to the Apple Store in Salem, NH to get new power adapters. The last time the PowerBook was sent in for repair (just before AppleCare ran out), the keyboard was replaced (keys stopped working), the hinges were replaced, the SuperDrive was replaced (wouldn't burn discs), and I also noted the battery didn't hold a substantial charge (only a few minutes worth of power) and that the paint was peeling off. Nothing was done about either of the last 2 issues.

In recent months, more issues have begun to plague my G4. The power adapter is once again about to fail and needs to be replaced but the most concerning thing is that the battery is unable to stay in it's bay. It no longer 'latches' in at all. When powering on the machine, either from sleep or after it's been shut down, I have to physically hold the battery in place and make sure that the AC adapter cable is connected at a certain 'angle'. Without these 2 things being in exactly the right place, the computer doesn't seem to have enough power to turn on the screen and shuts down automatically. There was one day where I couldn't get the machine to power on at all, very frustrating stuff. I'm also very concerned that the screen hinges are going to fail and there's also the nuisance of the paint continuing to peel. I also forgot to mention that this laptop has gone through quite a few sets of 'feet' (rubber pieces on the bottom). One of the four feet is missing right now as a matter of fact.

People might be saying that I must be literally throwing my laptops around for them to be in this kind of condition, but nothing could be further from the truth. I've done nothing out of the ordinary with either the Pismo or the G4 and it concerns me when I read about issues with Apple's latest laptops, whether it was the iBook problems a few years ago, or the 17" PowerBook problems now. It seems to be a common trend that PowerBooks aren't having near the 'life span' of what they used to be.

Right now, I'm looking at the MacBook Pros and will probably pick one up after the next 'revision' *if* my PowerBook G4 lasts that long. But I'm definitely concerned about whether or not it will last me until I need to upgrade again. These weren't revision A machines that I owned. In fact, these were the last of their line, Macs that should have had all of the bugs worked out by the previous models. Hopefully Apple's Quality Assurance team will be able to ensure a longer 'life' for the portables in the future. I'm sure people will be able to post that their laptops have been great, but I'm interested in hearing stories from people who have owned a Mac laptop for 3-5 years and what their experiences have been.


  • Reply 1 of 4
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,430moderator
    I had an old grey powerbook and it still today looks in amazing condition. No bits hanging off or imperfections in the casing. It looks like a solid machine. However, I owned an ibook for two years and I was really let down by the quality. It got dirty quite easily, the white plastic scratched readily, the keyboard was flimsy and one key was too sensitive from purchase, the battery didn't fit snugly in the bay and after about a year or so, the trackpad actually peeled away a bit from the casing and didn't work despite never really using it as I had an external mouse. It also had the logic board failure, which Apple fixed for free. I sold it on as soon as it got back.

    I've seen the new Macbooks and they do seem much sturdier but recently a friend of mine who has one now has the shutdown problem when the magsafe is pulled out. On the plus side, the Mac laptops are cheaper than I remember but I think quality is definitely slipping.
  • Reply 2 of 4
    pt123pt123 Posts: 696member
    I had a Powerbook G3 Lombard and the cache went bad after 3 1/2 years. I replaced that with a Powerbook G4 12 inch and the LCD backlight went out after 3 1/2 years. I took the laptop travelling a few times.
  • Reply 3 of 4
    chromoschromos Posts: 190member
    Interestingly, I have had a few of the same models that Fran441 has had, so it makes for an interesting comparison.

    My first PowerBook was a 190, old greyscale model but which ran perfectly.

    Next up was a Pismo 400, last of the G3s. I want to say that it didn't have problems, and after 2.5 years it was retired to my mother, who never used it b/c she is afraid of computers.

    Next was a 1 GHz Titanium, the last of that series, and this one had the following problems in the 2.5 yrs I had it: power adapter, DVD drive, hinge. Also a display issue which necessitated a motherboard change. Glad I got AppleCare. However, after all the fixes, there hadn't been any more and the machine is stable (sold to a friend).

    Next was the 1.67 GHz hi-res PowerBook of last year (again, last of the series). No problems. Still trying to sell that one.

    Now I have a 17" MBP C2D and it's perfectly fine so far.

    So in summary, it looks like for me Apple portables have been mostly fine except for the 1 "problem child".
  • Reply 4 of 4
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    I'm quite interested in the responses to this thread. I had, actually still have a 100 series powerbook. It still works although the battery is pretty much shot. It served me well and I was rough on it. I've just gotten a C2D MBP and I'm worried about it's quality of build and reliability. One downside of smaller and lighter is less tough IMO. Already I've noticed a few dents in the aluminum casing and I really try to baby this thing. The keyboard is 'wavy' where the keys were installed without being level. No big deal as the keyboard works fine but it does concern me that build quality may be lacking. Time will tell.
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