Game Companies, Analysts Excited by Beefed-Up Video of New G5 iMacs

Game developers and analysts are both singing the praises of the of the updated iMac product line introduced Tuesday morning by Apple Computer. Faster video cards with more video RAM make the new iMacs capable of playing the latest games on the market, which in turn should make the units more attractive to consumers.

When Apple announced the G5 iMac last fall, many in the Mac gaming industry privately grumbled about the included 64MB NVIDIA FX5200 video card, which Aspyr Media director of development Glenda Adams told The Mac Observer "had several performance problems from the start, and has really been a challenge to get games running well on."

When the company debuted the second iteration of the consumer-oriented machines on Tuesday, however, Adams said she was "blown away. Having been in the Mac business for 17 years, these new iMac G5s are the single best consumer Mac Apple has ever released, especially for games. Having 128MB of VRAM and a Radeon 9600 across the board is a huge step up in performance. And the increase to 512MB of system RAM is another big plus."

Exponentially Better Video

The move from the NVIDIA FX5200 to the ATI Radeon 9600 is about more than simply doubling the video RAM, Adams pointed out. "The 9600 is a faster card than the 5200," she said. "It also handles OpenGL shaders better. I think weill see much better performance on the new iMacs."

A representative from Feral Interactive, a British Mac games publisher that began distributing its titles in the United States in recent years, agreed. "By adding the 128MB [of video RAM], newer games with larger textures will not limit the speed of the game. The older cards often did not have enough video RAM on the card to run higher-resolution options. You either had to run with low graphics or get a big performance hit sending new data to the card constantly. This new card should currently run most games with the graphics settings maxed."

The downside, of course, is that the new iMacsi video cards arenit upgradeable, which means theyill eventually get long in the tooth, but Adams said: "When they put good cards with plenty of video RAM in every model, like they just announced, it makes me much less worried about upgradeability. These should be good-performing Macs for all the games weire shipping in 2005, like The Sims 2, Doom 3 and Stubbs the Zombie, and should continue to work well on the games we are looking into for 2006."

Feralis representative agreed. "In a perfect world, we would love upgradeable cards, but we understand that iMacs are not just designed for playing the latest games as fast as possible. I would expect us to start hitting performance issues in about 18 months or so, as game and graphic card designs increase in complexity."

Whatis Not to Like?

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox responded "Whatis not to like?" when asked for his reaction to the new iMacs. "These are loaded consumer machines," he said. "When you consider that Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme are now built into the two low-end models, that equates to a inon-price tag price cut.i You can buy a pretty good Mac gaming machine for US$1,300."

He added: "The only thing I would have done differently is put the standard 4X SuperDrive in the low-end model, instead of a Combo drive. But otherwise, these are near-perfect configurations with appropriate price points, which doesnit factor in the software. You get iLife -- a similar package on the PC side would add more to the price."

He pointed out that the new machines feature upgrades almost everywhere, such as double the hard drive space and RAM, as well as one spot that gamers may not always consider: Gigabit Ethernet, which he said "is great if youire a gamer on a LAN."