Should you get an iBook or a PowerBook?  Monitor mirroring vs. spanning

“It’s a nagging question for which there is seemingly no correct answer, akin to the ‘paper or plastic’ query at the grocery store: PowerBook or iBook? Aluminum or polycarbonate? Twelve-inch or 14-inch? Ever since Apple Computer Inc. released the iBook G3, Macintosh users have debated the relative merits of the company’s entry-level laptop and its pro line of sleek PowerBook G4s. Until last fall, when Apple finally plopped a G4 chip into the iBook, the answer seemed pretty clear. If you wanted speed and had the bucks, get the PowerBook,” Ken Mingis writes for ComputerWorld. “That advice is no longer as clear-cut as it once was.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If you want the ability to do monitor spanning instead of just mirroring, the choice is clear: PowerBook. That’s how we use our PowerBooks – stuck with just the PowerBook’s screen while mobile, but with both the PowerBook’s screen and an Apple display while docked. That additional screen real estate potential makes a big difference between Apple Pro laptop and Consumer laptop offerings. An iBook would be of very little use to anyone used to having monitor spanning capability.

Spanning vs. Mirroring:

Monitor Spanning: When an external monitor is connected to the video port of any of these systems they will appear as a separate second monitor. What appears on it is separate from what appears on the other monitor attached the system. The second monitor’s resolution can be set independent of the first monitor’s resolution.

Monitor Mirroring: When an external monitor is connected to the video port of any of these computers then whatever appears on the built-in screen is also visible on the external one. The external monitor will only display at the same resolution as the internal monitor.

Mingis seems to miss this important distinction as he writes, “the PowerBook comes with a 64MB Nvidia GeForce FX Go5200 video card that allows you to easily hook it up via Digital Video Interface to an external monitor. The iBook, with a 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 card, still offers only VGA for external monitor hookups.” And, yes, there are firmware hacks floating around to enable monitor spanning, but going that route carries a certain level of risk that some may be unwilling to take to make their iBook (and iMac, eMac, by the way) capable of monitor spanning.

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