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Snow iBooks G3, G4 not considered collectible? Or all dead?


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There are only few postings about the white G3 and G4 iBooks here, despite they had been plentiful in their days. I remember a time at university when nearly every second student had one. I've seen it advertised in shops for less than 1000 Euros, which is about the cheapest an Apple 'Book can go.

 

There had been issues where the GPU came loose from the logic board because of heat and inadequate solder. Which was "cured" by some people by baking the board in an oven. Maybe the correct repair method of reballing the GPU isn't economical for a relatively cheap laptop.

 

I guess other than the (mostly catastrophic when occurring) GPU issue they are pretty reliable machines. Any experiences here?

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These aren't well liked because of the presumptive reliabiility issues (I helped with that over the years) and because they aren't either older and running system 7 or because they aren't PowerBooks. However, they all have USB, firewire, usually working CDRom drives (they can also all boot firewire and/or USB and netboot from ethernet) and have 1024x768 displays so they're really great machines for OS 9. 

 

If you can get one, I would say, do. If it hasn't died yet, you can use it or preemptively maintain it. I have a friend ( @defor here) who swears by the faster iBook G3s as on-the-go OS9 machines, and, given where all the pre-G3 laptops are these days, if you want something that you can actually take with you, one of these is one of the best possible ideas.

 

The early ones with Rage128 graphics should be totally reliable, as well.

 

If you can't find any within the USA, you might consider importing one as well, for example: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-iBook-G3-M6497-Dual-USB-500MHz-640MB-RAM-20GB-HDD-Mac-OS-X-10-4-11-WORKS/124674379325?hash=item1d072c0e3d:g:FosAAOSwVKFgX4ys 

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I just saw 2 decent looking G4 iBooks advertised for 50 Euros each in my region. G3s seem to be much rarer. 

 

Since you @Cory5412 wrote, you helped friends with iBooks (I assume G3s and G4s): Do they tend to get more _un_reliable with later revisions, higher rated GPUs? Or took Apple care of the issue successfully?

 

Around 2005 I contemplated about a 14 inch (but lost interest when Intels were announced). Do you know, are they less prone to GPU-frying?

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I have a 2005 12-inch iBook myself and the GPU hasn't fried on that, to my recollection the issue with that model was something to do with the power switch or the magnetic switch used to pull it out of sleep. Mine has been fine, but it had an average student life for a G4 - replaced by an Intel in AFAIK 2008. (I got this and a G3/366 from a local friend.) I'm running Mac OS X 10.4 on it with classic mode, but it would also run 10.5 pretty well, just depending on the specific need.

 

The bummer with iBook G4s is that none of them officially support OS 9, I haven't tested that and support will vary from model to model.

 

W/re the later G3 iBooks, it's my understanding that if your usage of the graphics in particular is relatively light, you can avoid or delay having problems. If you're using it as an OS 9 utility/productivity type of machine with things that don't hit the graphics that hard then you should fingers-crossed be fine, basically avoid gaming (I know) and OS X on these.

 

I don't know details about the repairs, but, it seems there's loads of these around in fine enough condition for the moment, but it's definitely a detail worth considering for the future.

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I can speak firsthand about the iBook G4 being unreliable. I had one for a little over two years and was almost relieved when it stopped working. It wasn't a GPU on that but instead a combination of issues. The 30GB Toshiba hard drive died, the computer ran hot all the time, the original battery lasted only a year, and the white case stained a ton.

 

IMO these computers also don't have anything too unique about them when compared to either their predecessors in the clamshells or their contemporaries, the G4 PowerBooks. Plus, OS 9 is supported on a lot of G4 PowerBooks, which give more oomph here even though it's honestly not going to make a huge difference with most OS 9 software, save for gaming. I remember running Photoshop on my iBook G3 (a clamshell) and feeling it was more than enough.

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Yeah, I agree, iBooks are great because they basically have everything you need and they're widely available inexpensively. The problems you mentioned having with yours aren't really showstoppers, you can get new hard disks and, well, so long as running hot doesn't actively desolder any components or fry anything that was specified too low (cough: old hard disks), it's fine, computer equipment has been fine running at 90c for the last twenty years and most of why it doesn't is human comfort factors.

 

(Which, yeah, is a lot of why temperatures on Mac laptops are so often discussed: they both impact the person using them and on newer CPUs, higher temperatures can cause a CPU to slow itself down to stay within thermal limits.)

 

The only real thing special an iBook G4 has over a G3 for OS 9 is existing. Whether or not it'll be fine basically depends on whether you're fine with classic mode and/or how well the given machine runs an unofficial OS9 release.

 

Keep in mind, most of this is why I think it's important to be using and preserving and generally "not skipping" any "Macs for the Masses" kind of Mac, including the LC/Performa series and the Classic series, even the "bad" ones(1) -- it increases the available inventory for the whole hobby and I tend to believe that having these machines around provides a better and more accurate historical picture of what the platform was like when it was new.

 

Plus, let's be real, most people want to run vintage Edutainment and basic productivity software, which is these machines' bread and butter. They were in every possible sense Performas To Go and I'll admit, at least for me, I have a little bit of interest in that aspect of them as well. (But, well, after the word "Performa" had been replaced with "i".)

 

 

(1) and as always the bad ones are usually not "bad" they were cheap and then LEM published a series of hit pieces in the late '90s containing literally zero factual information.

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I think I'm probably one of the biggest defenders of the iceBooks around these parts, which comes from the ~4 years I spent supporting them back when they were a current product (several thousand machines).  I'd argue that the problems the dual-USB iBook and later iBook G4 faced weren't any different than what the PowerBooks and later MacBook Pros at the time faced, they were just a very common sight because loads of schools/universities had fleets of them so any problems automatically got a lot of scrutiny.  Yes, some iBooks had motherboard problems where GPUs broke free through a combination of case flex, heat, and solder issues, and the later white ones had cases that once you breathed on them they started to discolor.  Why Apple decided that white, slightly textured plastic was a good replacement for the earlier translucent and silver plastic is beyond me.  I can definitely say that the earlier machines hold up markedly better visually than the later ones do, and any that are left at this point are likely to either already be on replacement motherboards or not be one of the machines that was susceptible to the problems in the first place.  I've repeatedly run several of the G3s up to the point where the cooling fan turns on (since I do use them for gaming) and had exactly zero issues.

 

That being said, what most folks remember about them is the "iBook Logic Board Repair Extension Program" which originally only covered a small subset of the range until the threat of class action lawsuits made them extend it to cover the whole lot.  I own "many" iBooks ranging from the original 500MHz with 64MB of RAM (mid 2001) on up to the last 12" G4/1.33 (mid 2005) and they've caused me no issues that any other laptop wouldn't also be prone to (batteries eventually dying, HDs needing to be replaced, etc.).  When you look at the PowerBook G4s I'd argue they were just as unreliable what with the Titanium G4s having hinges known for breaking under even light use, cases that had paint flaking off all over, the later Aluminum PowerBook G4s having the whole narcolepsy issue, RAM slots failing, and screens that developed spots and stripes.  Then you get to the '07-'08 MacBook Pros with faulty GeForce 8600 chips and later '11 MacBook Pros with faulty Radeon chips.  Somehow though, those problems get glossed over and the PowerBooks are spoken of fondly but the iBooks with similar issues are derided as junk. 

 

Are they a good machine to pick up?  Depending on what you're trying to do, certainly.  I don't know if I'd go so far as to say they're "Performas to go" since they shared a lot of parts with PowerBooks at the time and even identified themselves as PowerBooks in Open Firmware.  The G3 ones make fine OS9 machines and the G4 ones are a less-expensive alternative to similarly spec'd PowerBook G4s as long as you're fine with a 12"/1024x768 screen.  You just have to cut through all the noise of people who read an article once talking about how unreliable they are and just parrot the same information back, much akin to LEM's trashing of the x200/x300 series PowerMacs.

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I'm really happy I have started this lively discussion. Here is some old/new fuel for it. I finally found the reliability survey the original MacInTouch website conducted around 2005/2006: https://web.archive.org/web/20060423152730/http://www.macintouch.com/reliability/laptops.html

I don't want to comment on it other than that: Even there had been more than 10 000 entries this is of course not a scientific survey, so there are various sources for error.

 

My considerations (many already expressed by fellow comrades):

  • iBooks very often/mostly had been used by students, a consumer group not necessarily known for very careful handling of its belongings.
  • Their plastic cases (mostly) designed in the 500 MHz processor/RAGE GPU era may not be suitable for prolonged use at the upper end of the performance/cooling envelope.
  • But quite a lot of them, probably treated with more care, are surviving in decent good condition today.
  • Noting beats the reliability of the clamshell iBooks. Which is likely derived from a more pedestrian processor speed and a much heavier shell.

 

My own is the longest lasting fully operable Mac I have. Oh, besides battery (died after 3yrs) and a noisy hard drive I exchanged after 5 years. Biggest drawbacks are screen size and that I had actually been laughed at two times because of it. Once by my prof at university and once by the assistant of customer of mine. The second time I finally exchanged it for a first generation MacBook, a black one to look more serious.

 

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I love the white iBooks, particularly the original "ice white" design. I actually ran a iBook G3 (Well, several if we are being technical here) as a daily driver up until 2010 ish when my parents brought me a second hand '08 non-ub MBP, I then continued taking the laptop to school for a couple more years. Yes they had GPU issues (hence the "several") But as others have mentioned plenty of other laptops, Apple and PC, have had similar issues and don't get the bad rep

 

My personal experience is the first gen, 500mhz, ice white iBooks are pretty reliable. I haven't personally seen the GPU issues on a first gen one.

 

Another thing worth noting is that many of the G3 iBooks with GPU faults could probably be revived fairly easily as they are a fairly rare exception where GPU issues are usually down to bad solder joints so reflowing or reballing the GPU should be a fairly permanent fix. (ok, I say "easy" but you will need proper rework equipment, paint strippers and baking boards in the oven doesn't work 99% of the time)

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My 600MHz (ice) iBook is still running strong, and is modern enough to download vintage software from the usual suspects like Macintosh Garden, but still able to connect via AppleTalk to my IIci. As a 68k nerd the PPC generation doesn't interest me much, but my iBook is perfect for bridging the gap between old and new, and it'll neatly fit into a file drawer when not in use, which is great for my not-so-huge NYC apartment! :)

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Must say, you certainly don't see many Snow iBook G3s around these days - most died.  They're great Macs but came in a time when the PowerBook was still king, and to a collector they'd probably look for a higher specced unit than an iBook.  Snow iBooks should remain a well kept secret.

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I've never had any problems with my 12 inch 1.33GHz iBook G4, aside from the fact that it was very slow running Leopard. I did upgrade it to a mSATA solid state drive not long after I got it, though, so that probably helps it some.

 

Weirdly enough, even with the solid state drive the palm area gets really warm.

Edited by EvieSigma
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Working in higher education I recall the release of the original "ice white" iBook design being the gateway, break-through machine that brought Macs back into the mainstream at my university. We had a dwindling number of die hard Mac users back then but PowerBooks of the time were just outside our "Dell budgets" and no one took the clamshell seriously. But combined with Mac OS X finally delivering the performance/compatibility it needed to, WiFi coming into its own, and UNIX underpinnings that where seen as a big plus, the "ice Book" became a popular option (probably related, this is about the time that $$$ Sun workstations fell out of favor with my colleagues that had demanded them for years, the budget folks were happy there too).

 

I for one one would love to find a well preserved early model. I'm sure they usually got a lot of use, I don't recall a serious problem of them not lasting the 3-4 year replacement cycle we had at the time, but by the end of it, folks were ready for an upgrade. Things seemed to be improving much faster back then.

 

I do have a great condition iBook G4 1.33GHz in my collection (last 12' model), driven once a week by an old lady back and forth to church :tongue:, seriously though I think they might have fixed some plastic quality problems by then (only to have new ones with the first MacBooks, I believe my mother had the palm rest plastics replaced under warranty (extended by Apple) 3 times when she had her first MacBook which I think she used for 5+ years).

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Posted (edited)

I finally looked into the 2005/6 MacInTouch user survey (the link I shared:  https://web.archive.org/web/20060423152730/http://www.macintouch.com/reliability/laptops.html ) .

 

It showes horrendous failure rates for all sorts of iBook/PowerBooks. But since this is a self-selected sample it cannot give you true _absolute_ failure rates. But it can give a _proportion_ of failure rates within all 'Books and the distribution of the causes.

 

And when looking into the results G3 iBooks show indeed failure rates well above the average of all 'Books - mostly during 2nd/3rd year of use, and mostly the motherboards are failing. So, no true news, just evidence to the facts their bad reputation is based on.

 

Exemption are first generation snow (little better) and clamshells (much better). And either the G4 iBooks are really more reliable or they had just not been old enough during the times of the survey to show their problems. But first year failure rates are definitely better with G4s.

 

A quick search of my local classifieds site shows more G4 iBooks but also some G3s offered. Actually the G3s don't look bad. Probably because they had not been considered collectible there are still some "undisturbed" originals. Looks like the rarely used ones are the survivors.

 

EDIT: Probably a good time to go for some fine white G3 iBooks!

Edited by dan.dem
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If the Snow iBook G3s aren't collectible right now, they probably will at some point. They were the fastest G3 Macs sold officially by Apple, after all, with the 900MHz model holding the crown.

 

Being the fastest of something in the Mac line tends to bring collectability, anyways.

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Ok, this thread has got me interested in the iBook G3's again, I just brought 2 more on ebay as well as a third I got some weeks ago to do some GPU repair experimentation. Also brought a few Radeon 7500 chips form UTSource in case the chips are actually bad.

I'll have to find a cheap generic hot air nozzle though as Hakko want £75 for the correct one for my rework station!

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