Don’t let the fruity flavours fool you: Apple’s latest iMacs offer more than just a new colour scheme. Sure, the hot-selling consumer Macs are now available in strawberry, blueberry, grape, lime, and tangerine. But they also sport a faster processor, a larger hard drive, and a smaller price tag than the original iMac. There are no breakthrough technologies here, and the iMac still suffers from limited expandability and an unergonomic mouse. Nevertheless, Apple has taken the most popular computer of 1998 and made it even more attractive.
The original, Bondi blue iMacs sold for £999 including VAT with a 233MHz G3 processor and a 4GB hard drive. The new, £779 iMacs feature a 266MHz G3 and a 6GB drive. Apple has also eliminated the iMac’s IrDA port and the undocumented mezzanine port, but otherwise the new model is nearly identical to the old ones. It comes with a built-in 15-inch, 1,024-x-768-pixel display; 32MB of RAM; a 24x CD-ROM drive; 10/100BaseT Ethernet; a 56Kbps modem; an ATI Rage Pro graphics accelerator (with 6MB of SGRAM); and two USB ports. (The latest 233MHz iMac included a Rage Pro; the original 233MHz iMac used the slower Rage II.)
Macworld Lab testing found that the new iMac delivered predictable performance: a little faster across the board than the original iMac, but not as speedy as our 300MHz reference system (see the benchmark in the feature ‘Your perfect Mac,’ elsewhere in this issue).
Aside from the extra speed, the new iMac has the same strengths and weaknesses as the old one. On the plus side it’s easy to use, features a striking industrial design, and offers lots of computing power for the money. The new iMac also benefits from the wider availability of USB peripherals, which were somewhat scarce when the original model debuted.
But most of the commonly heard complaints about the original iMac also apply. The new iMac features the same hard-to-handle mouse, and there’s no built-in removable storage; no PCI slots; and no serial, SCSI, or FireWire connections. The new iMac is even less expandable than the original, which included the undocumented mezzanine port on the flip side of the motherboard. Apple made it clear to developers that this port was off-limits – you can void the iMac warranty by using it – but at least two companies, Formac and Micro Conversions, have announced boards that plug into the slot. Still, you can’t blame Apple for dropping a port that it never intended for third-party use.
The new iMac builds on the success of the old one with faster performance, a lower price tag, and, yes, a choice of five colours. It’s an affordable entry into the next generation of Mac computing.