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Why are PowerBook 3400s (and especially the power boards) so unreliable?

3lectr1cPPC

Well-known member
After months of searching, I finally found a 3400c up for sale for a price I was willing to pay. It turns on and works, but I've seen so many threads about these being dead. Before anyone tells me, yes, I know about the leaky PRAM batteries (which I've dealt with before in Dell laptops), and I will be removing it the minute it arrives, so I'm not talking about that.

The main thing in these that I hear about being dead all the time is the DC/Power Board found under the trackpad. Apparently these things end up dead all the time for no discernible reason. They've got 2 electrolytic capacitors, but the 3400c is from 1997, which seems a bit new to have so many failures. Under that logic, the 1400c's logic board (which has many more caps than the 3400c) would be just as unreliable, if not more so due to it being a whole year older, yet they seem to be really solid and reliable. Is there anything else that makes these die, or do they just have more bad caps for whatever reason?

I'm also wondering about how strong the display hinges on these are. I'm planning on lubricating the hinges and strengthening the standoffs before actually using the hinge much, but are there any major structural differences compared to the 5300 that make the hinges on these tougher and less prone to breaking? I believe the one I'm getting has a functioning battery, so I would like to take it out of the house from time to time, which would be rather inconvenient if I couldn't close the display hinge.

While not related to reliability at all, I'm also wondering about two other things, being speaker quality and keyboard feel. I know these have a subwoofer in the display housing, but are the speakers in these actually any good? I'm not looking for amazing sound or anything, but how do they compare to the G3 Wallstreet speakers, for example (which are actually really good, and very loud). Finally, the keyboards in the 5300 (and 500) series PowerBooks tend to be quite stiff and just bad in general to type on in my experience. Seeing as the 3400 shares a lot in common with the 5300 series, does it have the same key mechanism that goes stiff with age and wear?

That's all I've got for now. I'm super excited to finally get my hands on a laptop I've been after for a long time!
 

Byrd

Well-known member
They’re no less reliable than other PowerBooks of the era, depends on how much use and abuse the unit has received. Being a heavy unit with a heavy screen, the hinges can weaken from overuse.

The speakers are magnificent, not bass thumping but easily the loudest and clearest sound for portables of this era. Enjoy!
 

3lectr1cPPC

Well-known member
Thanks for the reply! Hopefully a full recap (don't think there are that many, shouldn't be that tricky) will get it running as reliably as it will get. Glad to hear that the speakers in it are good quality. It's coming with the stock 2GB HDD, I've got a spare 6GB drive that I can stick in it right when it arrives, and at some point I'll throw a beefy SD card in it, both for the speed and the space. I honestly can't wait until it arrives, assuming I can get the hinges strengthened, it should be a great PowerBook to actually take as a portable around and about.

When it arrives in a week or so I'll update my conquests thread with more information and plenty of photos. It will be interesting to see the condition of the PRAM battery, considering it's working as is right now.
 

Trash80toHP_Mini

NIGHT STALKER
3400c has a more advanced battery technology than the 5300 with which it shares the same form factor, no?

ISTR folks being able to use a higher capacity 3400c Battery in a 5300 series 'Book, but that they couldn't be charged in those machines, only in a 3400c or its charger?

Sure as rain, with new battery tech comes new problems, with the batteries themselves and the infrastructure that supports them. Tired as I am, that's my WAG and I'm sticking with it. :sleep:
 

3lectr1cPPC

Well-known member
From what I know the 3400 batteries don’t work in the 5300 - I can’t test either way because both my 5300 power boards have damaged contacts. The 3400 uses Lithium Ion chemistry while the 5300 uses NiMH. The 5300 was supposed to ship with lithium but early pre production units famously lit on fire and they had to fall back on NiMH. I’ve heard the earliest production 5300s may work with later Lithium batteries to some degree but I’ve seen zero proof.
 

just.in.time

Well-known member
I have a 3400c with a working battery and a 5300ce. I had heard that the 5300 could run from, but not charge, the 3400 battery as well. However, when I try it the 5300 shows no sign of life.

That said, my 5300’s pram battery is removed. Not sure if it needs a working one present for the battery swap to start it up. Runs fine on the AC power adapter.
 

3lectr1cPPC

Well-known member
All 4 batteries that came with my 3400 ended up working - the system in general has been amazing and it instantly become one of my favorite vintage laptops! I can't really test with my 5300 because the negative battery pin is bad from a leak, so I can't check on mine. Both of my 5300 units were stamped with "AA" on the white bottom sticker, which from a video I saw means that it was serviced in Apple's repair program meaning they likely both have later revision parts.
 

Papichulo

Well-known member
That powerboard is the issue on mine. It starts squealing and wont boot up. The last one i had worked until one day the display wouldn’t turn on. At least i made a bunch of money selling the parts.
 
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