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Ask Max: Was the PowerBook design flawed?

Asked on 12/02/2008:

Just over 3 years ago my workplace got a 17” Powerbook G4.

It’s been a rotten Apple from the start, first requiring a keyboard replacement, developing some strange screen flicker, the battery going belly up and the various and numerous connection cord inconveniences. However the latest, and last, is the Video chip, which has completely fried. Needless to say, it was just out of extended warranty. Our IT guy says “bad design.”

Was this just a bad crop of Apples or was mine particularly afflicted? If I were to buy a used motherboard, would my risk be as great? Has the design been changed in later Powerbooks?


That is an unfortunate history with that PowerBook 17™ computer. I never saw an epidemic of problems from the 17™ PowerBook line, but I do remember some issues with USB / Display backlight problems. I think you would probably be at a risk buying any used parts. If you have the work done at an Apple Computer Authorized Service Center, there is often a 90-day warranty on the replacement parts. That would be the safest repair process for you.

For your money, investing that repair money in a newer Apple computer system would be a good idea. I like the design changes made to the MacBook Pros, so if you can stand a 15™ screen I would steer you to that computer as a replacement. It is the most substantial change to the Apple laptop design since the retirement of the Titanium PowerBook.

The previous used MacBook Pros are well designed on the inside and I think you could get one without the fears of a repeat of your PowerBook experience.

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