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Whilst in a psychiatric hospital, my trusty old IBM ThinkPad fell off the arm of a chair. A ribbon cable broke, and the poor thing packed in. A close friend came to the rescue, sending me his old iBook G4, and, despite its age and incompatibilities, it's served me incredibly well
The iBook G4 has a white lacquer-effect plastic case, with an Apple logo on the lid that lights up when in use. There's a 14" matte screen, and a keyboard not unlike modern Apple keyboards, with white keys with rounded edges, low profiles, and elegant grey lettering. The sides are populated by three USB ports, a subtle, slide-in optical drive, a headphone jack, and an external video port. It's a remarkably pretty laptop; it was one of the first to follow the current Apple design ethic, and it shows. The iBook G4 is meticulously designed, down to the radius of the rounded corners to the little push switch to open the lid.
The iBook G4 comes with the usual suite of Mac OS software - the Safari browser, a command prompt, a mail program, an address book... Visually, the OS is extremely similar to that of modern Mac OS X versions, with a bar of programs along the bottom of the screen that appears upon hovering; a silver toolbar, with embossed black icons and lettering, along the top; and little traffic-light buttons to control individual windows.
The iBook G4 has a PowerPC processor, with the result that it is physically incompatible with the great bulk of Intel PC software in the world. That is a shame, as it's a fast, remarkably robust computer. Groups still exist who support PowerPC as a superior architecture and catalogue software built for it, so finding one of their websites helps immensely. Alternatively, looking through old versions of Mac OS X software will soon turn up something PPC-compatible.
A 1.5GHz processor may not sound like much, and this computer does struggle with long, repetitive logical tasks - I tried to generate a certain string according to a certain algorithm, and it took some time to hit even a million strings generated. Still, in daily operation, the G4 zips along.
A 14" screen allows for a nice view of your computing world. It would have been lovely if Apple had made it a glossy screen, rather than the matte, which is prone to accruing marks. However, the iBook was intended as an entry-level range, not as a luxury product, so this is understandable to keep down costs.
512MB RAM doesn't hold this computer back. One thing I've noticed about this laptop is that it punches well above its weight. It consistently seems to outperform its spec.
I don't know very much about the iBook's graphics card, but it runs the fading, growing, etc. effects of OS X without a stutter. However, it has been known to choke on video at or above 720p; but this could be a processor issue.
The keyboard, like all Apple keyboards, doesn't have a delete key, and I find this surprisingly irritating. In most environments, the effect is obtained by hitting Cmd+Backspace, but a delete key, never mind Steve Jobs's opinion of the things, would have been an asset.
The iBook G4 is a beautiful machine. It's pretty, it's efficient, it's flawlessly designed, and it runs smoothly and elegantly. However, it's not Intel PC-compatible, which rather impacts its modern usage. Also, its video playback can be faltering.
I'd recommend the iBook G4 to anyone to whom design and price are more important than widespread compatibility. It pains me to give such a beautiful machine three stars, but the powerPC processor really does constrain it in today's world.