iMac G4 15-inch, iMac G4 17-inch, iMac G4 20-inch

Introduction

For the first time since the multiple DV and DV+ models of G3 iMac, there are now three distinct iMacs from which to choose. If you thought that the 17-inch iMac’s screen was luxurious (it certainly is compared to the rather cramped 15-inch display), the new 20-inch monitor is the height and width of indulgence. Screen You measure a screen in two ways. First, the viewing area is the actual amount of screen real-estate measured in inches. Second, there’s a maximum resolution - the number of pixels (picture elements) that can be displayed from side-to-side and top-to-bottom. The more pixels you squeeze into the viewing space, the tighter the images and smaller the text. The 15-inch iMac offers a maximum resolution of 1,024-x-768 pixels, the same as the old G3 iMac but spread over a larger area (a 15-inch LCD screen is equivalent to a 17-inch CRT, as found on the eMac). The 17-inch iMac can handle a much greater 1,440-x-900 pixels, and the 20-inch a massive 1,680-x-1,050 - that’s more in height than the 15-inch can manage across. Although a lot more expensive than the other iMac models, if you subtract the £1,049 that the 20-inch Cinema Display costs - you end up getting a 1.25GHz G4 iMac for just £700. This won’t attract the budget-conscious eMac buyer, who can pick-up a 1GHz G4 with 17-inch CRT screen for a mere £649 - but it does offer professional layout artists or musicians, for instance, a much-cheaper option than a Power Mac G5 and external LCD. Apple has rightly described the 20-inch iMac as a “boundary system” that will appeal to the less budget-conscious consumer and lower-end professionals who don’t require top speed or expandability. Performance Internally, differences are minor: the top models both sport a 1.25GHz G4, while the 15-inch iMac runs at 1GHz. The 17-inch and 20-inch models boast a 64MB NVidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra. The iMac’s no Power Mac G5, but it’s easily fast enough for most applications. The 1.25GHz G4 is not 25 per cent faster than the 1GHz - but it’s not far off at 19 per cent faster overall. The Speedmark score is made up from a set of 16 everyday tasks. Users of Apple’s iLife digital-lifestyle applications will certainly feel the benefit of the extra processor megahertz - but of greater importance is the screen space afforded by the top two systems. Gamers will definitely appreciate the 64MB of video memory and faster graphics acceleration. Affordable, user-friendly digital photography means that Adobe Photoshop is no longer the preserve of the designer, so artists and snappers alike will gain from the 23 per cent performance boost here. Each iMac comes with 256MB of RAM, which is just enough to run OS X and a couple of applications at the same time. If you use your Mac for more ambitious tasks than email, Web browsing and word-processing, at least another 256MB of RAM is recommended. Beware, one of the iMac’s two memory slots is inaccessible to the humble user - so it’s best to get as much packed into that slot when you buy, so that the other slot can be filled cheaply later. Ports and drives All the iMacs offer the same set of ports and connections: two FireWire 400, three USB 2.0, 10/100BaseT Ethernet, and VGA output for video mirroring. Each is AirPort Extreme ready (card costs £79), and can be fitted with an optional internal Bluetooth module (£35). Each ships with an 80GB hard disk, that can be upped to 160GB for £79 - worth it if you’re a heavy iMovie or iTunes user. The major difference is in choice of optical drive. The 15-inch’s combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive is bettered by the top two’s DVD-R SuperDrive - which, with free iDVD, lets you create DVDs that play in domestic DVD players.
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