PowerBook G4 defects

PowerBook G4 defects

Summary: Apple is having some serious, documented issues with the 15-inch PowerBook G4s that were released in October 2005 (a.k.a "High-Resolution" or "Double-Layer SD") and it appears that they are ignoring them.

Apple is having some serious, documented issues with the 15-inch PowerBook G4s that were released in October 2005 (a.k.a "High-Resolution" or "Double-Layer SD") and it appears that they are ignoring them.

1. There are profound issues with audio: it skips and stutters randomly. Apple has posted a Tech Note on the issue ("PowerBook G4 (Double-Layer SD) audio stutters or skips") but the solution doesn't work. Essentially, it implies that this machine is crippled. AppleCare either denies the existence of the problem or admits to it and offers no solution.

An Apple discussion forum article on the topic ("New Powerbook Audio Stutter / Looping / Echo problem") has over 387 replies (9,985 views) and it's just one of many posts. There are literally dozens of related mailing list, forum and blog postings on the matter. And while Jim Heid has posted a possible fix for the "Audio Echo" problem, but it doesn't work for everyone.

2. There are issues with the display: there is horizontal banding of every second or third pixel row over the entire screen. Each pixel row is darker or lighter than its neighboring pixel rows. This is a well documented seemingly ubiquitous issue over the entire line of new PowerBooks and again a problem that Apple does not acknowledge.

Some forum members have sent the computer in to AppleCare for repair for this issue and it was returned without any repair done the technicians claiming that the problem is "WITHIN SPEC" - meaning that the screen is within the model specifications and that it is not a problem. Some techs have even shipped a replacement display that exhibits the same problem.
Again, there are numerous posts about this issue.
3. There are issues with PowerBook (and Mac mini) SuperDrives being unable to burn DVDs at more than 2x regardless of the media used. What exactly Apple is going to do about these serious issues?

Many artists, audio and video producers that purchased top-of-the-line, professional quality notebooks for producing art, music and video aren't getting what they paid for.

More information can be found at http://powerbookdefect.info/

Topic: Apple

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  • Take A Valium

    Apple product buyers are the biggest whiners on the planet. Whether it's whining about sealed batteries in an ipod or not playing 4x dvds or whatever, they seem to feel they have an entitlement to extort from Apple using the threat of a public fuss.

    Don't you guys research your purchase before giving your credit card? I mean when I spend 2 or 3k on something, I go see it at the dealer and make sure the product is what I want/expect. The product is what it is... if someone was too stupid to buy it sight unseen and is now unhappy, then look in the mirror for someone to blame.

    This is classic for our society. No one wants to take responsibility for anything including being a careful shopper. Too bad the same climate prevents Apple from telling these people to buzz off.

    • Caveat Emptor eh Bruti?

      There is an expectation that Apple users have about mac functionality. Sound devices should not skip and echo. Screen devices shouldn't have "banding" issues. And advertized DVD speed ratings should be what the user sees.

      If you bought a new car and the brakes squeeked, and the wipers came on when you turned on the radio - would YOU become a "whiner"?
      Roger Ramjet
    • You've got it all wrong...

      Mac users just expect a lot for the premium price that Apple charges. Like playing multiple sound apps at once and a clear display (which all other macs have). These are assumed when we buy a machine. I think that these are legitimate flaws and not whining.

      - Jason
      Jason D. O'Grady
      • Absolutely

        You're absolutely right. This isn't the whining we heard about "My iPod nano scratches too easily!", this is "My laptop won't burn DVDs faster than 2x, my screen is defective, and Apple is denying it!"

        HUGE difference!
  • Anecdotal evidence

    Does not documentation make.

    Internet forums are nothing but anecdotal evidence magnified and given legitimacy by the internet.

    Apple sold hundreds of thousands of G4 powerbooks and only a handful of forums with maybe a thousand responses by the same 50 people go on about this problem.

    Journalists (and I use the term loosely) should learn a thing or two about statistical sampling before they go off half-cocked on a rant and prove Winston Churchill correct (It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.)
    • Seeing is Believing

      You - or anyone else - do not have to rely on anecdotal evidence
      to make up your mind about this problem.

      Walk to the Apple store and look closely at ANY photo, or the
      standard blue design background that comes with OS X. On the
      PBG4 you will see the horizontal lines.

      That's a fact. A fact which I am sure the author has checked.

      The HD display PBG4 is probably the first mac ever to be
      unusable for image editing work.
  • And here's a problem with the OEM media:

  • The Display Problem is a Fact

    the display issue is easy to see for anyone: go to an apple store
    and load up the numerous example images, or just look closely
    at the standard blue OS X desktop background (the modern-
    artsy image): you can then see horizontal stripes.

    this may be fine for many people, especially if you don't care too
    much about display quality. for others, it's very bad. it's
    unusable for photoshop or doing any imaging work because
    what you see is not what you get.

    i can see the horizontal lines on everything, particularly photos.

    this is not hearsay. this is a fact. a fact that is plain to see
    for anyone who can go to an apple store. hearsay is when people
    say this problem doesn't exist without bothering to check the
  • Odd DVD-R burning speed behavior

    I've got one of the October 2005 15" PowerBooks and have recently seen the DVD-R burning speed issue. The other day I was backing up some data to DVDs. All of the discs I used were seemingly identical Maxell DVD-R media rated at "up to 8x" speeds. The first four discs were grabbed from a spool of discs at work, the other five were from a different spool. When I burned the discs the Finder only offered me speeds of 1x or 2x for the first four discs but offered speeds up to 8x when burning the other five. Same drives, same sort of files (a single 4.3 GB tar file), seemingly the same media, yet different results. WTF?
  • Airport Problem?

    I have heard of the screen problem and now the audio problem,
    neither of which I have experienced but there has been a definite
    problem with my new PowerBook's wireless access. It loses signal
    strength and then drops out altogether after a time. I have seen
    that others are experiencing this problem which Apple has
    addressed with a couple of updates to Airport and the OS. Mine is
    still not fully resolved.
    • You are so right.

      I am so happy to have an article like this hit more than just the Apple forums, where many people can read this.

      These problems (my most annoying is the airport reception) are not just on a few PBs, nor are they software related. They are strictly hardware problems. One need only read through the forum to see not only how frustrated people are, but the complete lack of support from Apple.

      In response to a few comments others have made: this is ONLY the latest PB 15" model. Apple has NOT sold hundreds of thousands of these new models. Therefore, the problem percentage-wise is very high (most new owners have these problems). It is not a few whiners, it is hardware defects.

      My only hope is that getting this more public (thank you again, ZDnet) will prompt Apple to act. However, I have an opinion as a Mac-lover:

      These PBs are essentially phased out. New MacBook Pro is on the way, and Apple has no intentions of improving the G4 PB any longer. I purchased this latest PB for the very reason that it is my last chance to get the most upgraded PB with G4 (I will not purchase a MacTel for at least 1.5 years- Rosetta is a joke).

      Apple's bean counters are all discussing the issue, and have decided it is not economically feasible to place further resources into G4 hardware, especially now that orders for the MacTel are underway. So me and all you other poor saps will continue to get no support on this issue. If anything, there may be failed attempts to mask these problems with software patches.


      I don't have my head in the sand, people. Apple is no different from Dell- don't fool yourself. The only difference is maybe their tech support speaks an improved English over Dell's tech support, but in the end, you get NO SUPPORT.
      • Audio / RAM / Airport

        Airport reception was a big problem in many PB G4s also previously, like, the Titanium Powerbook. Yes of course it's a hardware issue. If you look at the PB antenna they built in, however, you could not possibly be upset with Apple, because that's like trying to receive FM radio with a BOILED SPAGHETTI. In other words, those PB G4 antennas are so poor that you'd rip them out right away and put something REAL in instead rather than wasting time here hoping for someone else to do it for you, or, hoping for that spaghetti to somehow 'start working' or so.

        If you were serious about WiFi, you would require an external client adapter (D-Link etc sell these; or you could try to get one of the Gemtek Ethernet / USB-powered adapters) or (which is my preference) you'd have to install a nice and big external antenna (such as the ones quickertek.com sells). I attached a huge external antenna and my airport reception quality RULES. Airport boosting is easily done by installing a real antenna, but not by writing a forum entry saying Apple needs to do something about it. Apple's Powerbook normally only has a weak little wire loop running inside the metal casing that is not even worth keeping after replacing it with something better, and the Airport base station is set up with some cheap metal triangle as an "antenna" ready to be replaced with some better piece as well; no wonder neither is really strong. However, the sleek 'elegance' of your Powerbook will be somewhat gone once you have turned it into a little WiFi king-book, but that's quite ok. I do prefer the functionality.

        Audio was no problem on my mid 2005 PB G4 so far. I'm frequently running Reason 3.0 (www.propellerheads.se) or other multimedia, and there has been no adverse sound output so far even over several hours of operation. The PB G4 also works with the GT-something guitar effects software, at least as well as that GT sofware is supposed to work. I wonder, however, whether some other software, or hardware running on y'alls Powerbooks, really would cause the problem - because my OS X seems to deal with 1-2 audio apps with no problem whatsoever. Maybe it's an issue between having RAM in two banks AND sound? By and large, I can't see how you can find a single processor G4 with portable computer bus speeds (crawlze..) satisfying at all; if you want to record something, you'll be at the limits of these puppies right there which warrants the question why do quantitative work with what's essentially a technical concession to mobility?!

        About RAM, I do not know. So far, I have is 1 GB of RAM installed (1 chip, other bank left empty); no problems. Maybe problems start when installing RAM into the second memory bay?

        Typically, my Powerbook G4 would freeze up senselessly and beyond all restarting when left alone to 'sleep' with a power-consuming USB device running (such as remote mouse, or optical mouse). Detaching any USB device before putting device to sleep deals with that problem and now the Powerbook is really ok and fine.

        Battery life can be a problem; changing all desktop items and windows theme to very dark grey colors, and changing desktop picture to black, or setting all colors to very bright and simply reversing screen output (see Universal Access in system preferences on how to do that) can significantly help to extend battery life when working in an airplane or on a train.
        • No doubt about it . . .

          you could most certainly increase Airport's functionality by using
          military-type add-ons. BUT Apple is in a Catch-22 position
          where they are EXPECTED to offer a reasonable level of
          functionality wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing industrial
          design. And for the most part, they succeed. I agree, the
          reception was dismal on the TiBook. (What were they thinking
          encasing the antenna in metal?) But they DO learn from their
          mistakes. Today the reception for most on the G4 PowerBooks is
          OK for most, but not stellar. For me it is very good. Speaking of
          structural design weaknesses, the hinge issue has almost gone
          away, whereeas G3 Wallstreets, Lombards, Pismos and TiBooks
          are still being plagued by this error in design. Overall, I would
          say Apple does a good job at paying attention and redesigning
          accordingly, but that is cold comfort and no excuse to some of
          us have to endure their 'lab experiments' they call 'production
          units'. Frankly, they should spend a lot more time testing these
          units before sending them out to the public. So far, I have been
          unaffected by any hardware issues with my mid-2005 12"
          PowerBook. SO far.
          • Test rabbits

            I believe that there must have been a fundamental change in user policy with regard to fault searching in Apple's production line.

            The smaller or more intricate a problematic design feature is, the harder and more costly it is to find. And it pays off to have users be the 'test rabbits'.

            If Apple builds 100 Powerbooks, 10 of which will have a small defect that costs 2-3 hours of testing each until the fault or defective unit is identified, technically speaking, it does not play a role whether Apple employees or users test it if you're looking at it strictly from a 'fault find' point of view. If Apple employees test the units, they may find at least 8 out of 10 defective units, whereas 2 will still make it to the customers. So Apple still will have to rely on a somewhat functional 'customer service'. Now, if customers have to search the defective units, not hard to see that only maybe 2-5 of the 10 will be found, and the 5-8 other ones may be somewhat less likely to be diagnosed and remain in circulation; maybe they'll slowly make it to eBay where they're sold as "only 3 months old and almost new". Out of these 2-5 user identified defective units, Apple dealers, support teams and Apple care will be able to at least deter 1-2 owners from further action, so Apple will end up having to deal with 2-3 instead of 8-10 defective machines - PLUS they can make better use of their 'telephonists' and 'website support', which they have to employ anyway. So they effectively cut their replacement costs down to 30% while saving on in-house unit testing.

            This policy may be cynical and very practical, but it pays off - for Apple's shareholder, and in some way, maybe for those users that own non-defective units. You can do the math yourself and will ultimately see that what they do is cynical but, in a market-driven world, somewhat effective.

            I had two G5-Powermacs delivered "DOA" last year, and after the switch to Intel puts everything into limbo at least until 2007, I waved the "Apple more expensive & reliable myth" goodbye, and went ahead and bought myself a Fujitsu Siemens Celsius workstation that runs Suse Linux 10 with 64-bit. A pity OS X doesn't run on it, but: sh*** in one hand and wish in the other and see which hand's filling up first....

            So I do the same thing as Apple's new cynical production policy, really. Instead of buying the 1.67 GHz G4 Powerbook, I bought myself the 1.5 GHz Powerbook and used the remaining money to (a) buy better Airport signal strength and (b) a subscription to macfixit.com's website and (c) an external DVD writer, seeing as if Apple can't / won't get certain things right anyway. While Apple makes my consumer experience a statistically calculated one, I'm deducting from my "Apple computer hardware budget" to allow for some functionality buffer zone.

            I don't think that this is an issue one should be 'upset' about. But I believe one should be aware of the fact that some hard-to-identify errors in system design or hard-/software interplay may be present, and require a somewhat swift hardware or software exchange. Why not switch to an iBook if the Powerbook can't do it? Why not change the setup to use two pre-owned Powermac G4s instead of one Powerbook G4? Is there another hardware/OS combination that may be up for the task? Stay creative. Stay flexible. Learn to separate data, from application, from software, from OS, and that all from hardware. That's what Apple really wants to tell you by selling you their beautiful looking units for further testing, tweaking and destruction ;-)
          • You've all strayed from the subject at hand...

            the issue is not being 'serious' about WiFi. All I ask is to get reception 15 feet away without having to resort to some stupid external device. If you advertise wireless access, provide it. When it drops out every 5 minutes, that's not access.

            The oddest remark you made is "Why not switch to an iBook if the Powerbook can't do it?" You've got to be kidding. Pay $1000 more and get no wireless reception? And the answer is "shoulda bought the iBook"?

            Dude, what planet are you from? I was a previous iBook owner, which has established my baseline. I wanted IMPROVED performance (not just gigabit ethernet) so bought the PB. And the result was a poor screen and essentially no wireless reception. That's like buying a Hummer and wondering why my Toyota Civic had more power. BTW, the processing speeds between iBook and PB are almost identical. Screw the benchmarks; you can make any case with data if you align it just right.

            Consumers are not being used as guinea pigs, they are being used as cash cows. And the bean counters are getting a bonus this year.

            Summary: wireless design is poor, almost defective, and NOTHING will be done about it.
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