A look back at Apple's last 12-inch laptop

I'm really looking forward to the new MacBook for a whole host of reasons. The 12-inch Retina display is one of them. For Mac users of the current era, 12 inches sounds like an odd size — everything's either 11, 13 or 15 inches these days. But Apple's had that particular size in its roster before. The last time Apple made such a beast was a decade ago: The 2005 12-inch PowerBook G4 model was discontinued in 2006, as Apple migrated from PowerPC to Intel processors.

In his Think Retro column for Macworld.com, Chris Phin fondly remembers the 12-inch PowerBook G4.

Before it was announced in January 2003, anyone buying a laptop realistically had to decide between capability and portability, but with the 12-inch PowerBook G4, you felt for the first time like you could have both: a powerful machine easily able to be your main Mac, in a tiny, chuck-it-in-a-bag frame.

I never had the pleasure of owning a 12-inch PowerBook. At about that time I made a conscious decision to do all of my work on a laptop, so I decided that the 17-inch was the right size for me. I still prefer larger, heavier-duty laptops like my current daily driver, a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

Having said all that, the 12-inch PowerBook G4 was a great little machine, beautifully designed — like an alyoominium-clad iBook, but considerably better-equipped.

One feature of the 12-inch PowerBook G4 (and other machines of the era) thing I wish Apple included with its MacBooks today: A removable battery. If you've ever taken a modern MacBook model apart, you know why it's not feasible: Apple crams almost every bit of open space inside the chassis with battery, rather than making it a module you can just remove. And yeah, the new MacBook won't be any different on that count. Apple's designed new battery cells that are layered and sandwiched together to fit inside the new design.

Peter Cohen
12 Comments
  • Man, those 17-inch Lunchtrays were the best. I am still using my 2007 SantaRosa 17-inch LuchTrayDeluxe (HD screen) as my main computer. Just wish I didn't put Mavericks on it. 4GB of RAM does not cut it. Have loved that screen for years.
  • You can always do a clean reinstall back to Mountain lion if you really want to. I find it's best to keep my vintage gear configured with the software that it runs the best, because there are always edge cases. Wish I had that flexibility with iOS, but as it is I have a third-gen iPad that's damn near useless with iOS 8 on it.
  • Also with ipad 3 here. I know what you mean, i went through the same thing, it got insanely sluggish. But for me the latest update really sped it up. Its not what it once was but is still totally useable again at least Sent from the iMore App
  • Yeah, but i have upgraded too much software and I don't want to go backwards. The main problem is slow (I could put in an SSD and bump RAM to 6GB but that would set me back at least $500) and sleep is broken (screaming hot fans blazing or battery drained beyond recovery). It…just…won't…die, even though it is probably on its last legs (been saying that for a while). Still has an amazing screen after all these years...
  • I'm so disappointed that you didn't include a picture of the 12" PowerBook but instead went with one of the new MacBook. A picture of the two side by side would also be interesting given that except for thickness, they are quite similar in layout.
  • You can see the older PowerBook in Chris' piece. Since he has one, maybe he'll be able to compare the two at some point.
  • I loved that machine so much.
  • That 12 inch PowerBook was my very first Mac. Sent from the iMore App
  • That 12" Powerbook was one of my favorites - I held off until I could grab the 1.5GHz and loaded it up with RAM, and it was portable, light and could do quite well for gaming! Yet another one I sold off as I hopped back on the 'more power' treadmill ;)
  • I still have 12" iBook G4 from 2005 (with 1.5GB of RAM) :) Sent from the iMore App
  • I still have 12" iBook G4 from 2005 (with 1.5GB of RAM) :) Sent from the iMore App
  • Such appealing little computers. I never had the pleasure of owning one, but I did a little maintenance on my sister's and loved the keyboard.