Yesterday, the laptop wouldn't run off battery power at all. A bit of investigation has suggested that the problem is simply that the battery has absolutely hit the end of its life. This was determined after talking with the guy at the local Apple Store's "Genius Bar," as well as describing some of the other problems. The blocked CD-ROM drive is the most egregious; it also has problems with the paint on the plastic bezel around the keyboard, which is completely wasted, and a slightly more serious (although not critical) problem in that the lid no longer locks shut.
In theory, all of those repairs are one single "Tier 1" repair. That, plus a battery--which will have to be special-ordered, as they're no longer stocked by the Apple Store. (In fact, I think I have to special order it from someone other than Apple!) The battery is absolutely critical to make the laptop go; the other problems are ones I could live with, although without being repaired they make the laptop less functional and sharply reduce what resale value it has.
So what is that resale value? From a little investigation, my guess is around $800, if everything's fixed. It's hard to tell because asking prices seem to be all over the map. TiBooks from the later revision, with 867 MHz processors, DVI output and higher screen resolution, can still easily break $1200; ones from my revision in slower speeds sometimes seem to max out around $600. (I have a 550 MHz G4.) I'm watching a couple eBay auctions to see if their selling prices match my estimates.
The dilemma there is that I'd be spending about $450 to get there. And if I spent that much, I'd be inclined to keep the laptop for (at least) another year, at which point the resale value will drop even more. Given that the laptop's already been in for one $300 round of repairs about a year ago and that it's over three years old, I'm obviously approaching the point of diminishing returns.
So. The question becomes: do I want to repair this, or do I want to buy a new--
No, actually that's not the question. Of course I want to buy a new PowerBook. The question is should I buy a new PowerBook.
So, framed as a multiple choice the question becomes:
* Just buy a new battery and limp along; or
* Do all the repairs, too, with the new battery; or
* Buy a new laptop! and,
... Sell the old one as-is; or
... Fix the old one and sell it before more depreciation.
I've poked around a little and I'm trying to determine what I really need, as opposed to what I really want, from a laptop. What I really want is $2068 (a 15" PowerBook, with the backlit keyboard option); what I really need could be found for around $1100, with the 12" iBook (ideally bumped up to a 60G hard drive--in both cases, I'm assuming I'd find my own memory for upgrading).
Of course, the $450 option is going to beat any price--even used--for a laptop worth upgrading to. It's easy to take this as an excuse to trade up--but budget-wise it's not an excuse I can follow through on without a lot of forethought.