iMac, Therefore I Am...

I love my job. Apple held a media event on August 7 to introduce the new aluminum iMac, iLife '08, iWork '08, and the new and improved .Mac. The following week a rather large box containing a new 20-inch iMac, iLife and iWork '08, a Panasonic HDC-SD1PP High Definition Video Camera (with onboard 5.1 surround sound recording, no less), and an SDHC memory card reader, landed on my doorstep. How could any Mac fan not love that?

And so, in this episode, I shall offer my thoughts on using the new iMac. I don't feel I've spent enough time with the software or the HD camcorder yet to express an opinion, so you'll have to wait until next time to hear about iLife '08 and iWork '08.


The Facts

There are two new all-in-one iMacs--a 20-inch and a 24-inch. Both have widescreen displays and are encased in thin new aluminum and glass enclosures. Here are the details:

All models include:

  • 1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 4GB;
  • built-in iSight video camera;
  • built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR;
  • a slot-load 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVDR DL/DVDRW/CD-RW);
  • mini-DVI out (adapters for DVI, VGA and Composite/S-Video sold separately);
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone; and
  • the new Apple Keyboard, Mighty Mouse and infrared Apple Remote.

The new 20-inch 2.0 GHz iMac (from $1,199) includes:

  • 20-inch widescreen LCD display;
  • 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
  • ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB GDDR3 memory;
  • 250GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 RPM.

The new 20-inch 2.4 GHz iMac (from $1,499) includes:

  • 20-inch widescreen LCD display;
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory;
  • 320GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 RPM.

The new 24-inch 2.4 GHz iMac (from $1,799) includes:

  • 24-inch widescreen LCD display;
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor;
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory;
  • 320GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 RPM.

One last thing: While the new iMac's appearance is completely updated, the technology inside is quite similar to the white iMac it replaces.

Features that remained the same:

  • 1GB of 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
  • 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support (DVD+R DL/DVDRW/CD-RW)
  • built-in iSight video camera
  • built-in AirPort Extreme wireless networking & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
  • 250GB Serial ATA hard drive running at 7200 RPM
  • mini-DVI video port (adapters for DVI, VGA and Composite/S-Video sold separately)
  • built-in stereo speakers and microphone
  • infrared Apple Remote control and Mighty Mouse

Features that have changed:

  • SDRAM now expandable to 4GB (vs. 3GB)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo choices
  • Video subsystems
  • FireWire 800
  • New thin Apple Keyboard
  • iLife 08 digital lifestyle software suite (formerly iLife 06)
  • Big Bang Board Games, Comic Life, and Omni Outliner no longer bundled

For more prices and build-to-order options or technical specifications and features, check out the Apple Web site.

The Opinions

OK, so Ive been using this spiffy new 20-inch iMac every day for several weeks and I think that it's better than the 20-inch white iMac it replaces in almost every way, for $300 less. For the most part I recommend it without hesitation. While I have a couple of gripes, neither of them should be a deal breaker. If you're looking for an all-in-one desktop Mac system I think you'll be quite pleased with almost everything about the new iMac.

Before I offer my thoughts, I want to remind you to take them with a grain (or several grains) of salt. All of the things I'm about to discuss are ever so subjective. You may absolutely hate a feature I absolutely love. The only way to know is to see and touch a new iMac for yourself. So I implore you to get your fanny down to the Apple store and check one out in person if you haven't already.

Now, on with the show...

Rave: First and foremost, the new aluminum iMac is stunning--perhaps the most beautiful iMac of all time (and thats saying a lot considering there have only been two iMacs--Blue Dalmatian and Flower Power--that I didn't think were gorgeous.

Everyone who has walked into my office since it arrived has commented on how beautiful it is. And I couldn't agree more. The slimmer enclosure, the way the display is surrounded by an elegant black border, how the glass sits perfectly flush with the aluminum around it, and the total lack of seams anywhere on the outside (it appears that the entire enclosure is fabricated out of a single block of aluminum), add up to a tasteful, sleek, and (at least in my opinion), stunning package.

Rave: I absolutely love the new glossy display. I think it is exquisite, with vibrant, richly saturated colors and deep dark blacks. While some users report that its higher reflectivity compared to a matte-finished display bothers them, it doesn't bother me at all. In my eyes (pun intended), the bright, rich, beautiful colors and blacker blacks more than make up for the little bit of added reflection. I suspect that if your work space has bright lights above and/or behind you, reflections could be vexing. But my office doesn't so they aren't.

Rant: The new super-low profile aluminum keyboard looks great. It's less than 1/3 of an inch thick at its front edge with super low-profile keys that look and feel a lot like the MacBook (not Pro) keyboard. But beauty is only skin deep and this keyboard just doesn't cut it for me. Key travel is too short for my liking and tactile feedback and key bounce are almost non-existent. My typing speed and accuracy were reduced by it and that was annoying. If you decide to buy one of these otherwise awesome new iMacs, I strongly suggest that you to hang on to your old keyboard for a while, in case you dislike the new one as much as I do.

About the only thing the new keyboard has going for it is that its USB ports are now USB 2.0 so you can use them to sync an iPod or iPhone or other USB 2 devices. Even so I swapped it with a third-party ergonomic keyboard and was a much happier camper thereafter.

Rant: What's up with Big Bang Board Games, Comic Life, and Omni Outliner not being bundled anymore? As a long-time Mac user, I knew they were bundled third-party applications but many white iMac buyers consider them part of the package. I know at least one person who was sorely disappointed to learn they weren't included with the new iMacs. Most (if not all) iMacs included a nice bundle of "consumer" applications that, at various times, has included World Book, Quicken, AppleWorks, and the aforementioned bundle. The new iMacs come with no bundled third party software whatsoever. (The Office 2004 For Mac Test Drive is the only third party offering you'll find in the Applications folder, but as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't count.)

Everything else was as you'd expect from the latest and greatest iMac. Performance was zippy in every application including iMovie '08, which is known to be a resource hog and slow lesser Macs to a crawl. So I was quite impressed with its performance, especially for the price.

And, of course, it's a Mac so setup was drop-dead simple. It took me under 15 minutes to unpack, connect, and get it up and running.

My conclusion is that the new iMacs are terrific machines for the money even if you hate the new keyboard as much as I did.

And thats all he wrote