IntroductionReaders will remember my plea a couple of months back (Read me first, Macworld, July 2000) for Apple to upgrade its iMac range of personal computers with larger screens, CD-RWs, more colours and faster chips. This proved to be wishful thinking following Apple’s announcement of new iMacs at New York’s Macworld Expo. The new iMacs offer improvements in speed, price and colours, but otherwise remain the same. Macworld readers responded to my opinion column in their hundreds (see Letters, August 2000). Some wanted the G3 processor replaced by a speedier G4. Most thought the best improvement would be to remove the 15-inch built-in screen and replace it with a flat-panel LCD display. Apple might have left the iMac virtually untouched, but it has created the G4 Cube (see page 72) especially for these power-hungry, screen-starved consumers. For all my advice on how to make the iMac even more tempting to potential customers, the new iMacs are still top-dog consumer PCs offering easy setup, fast speeds, high-end features and super software. A 17-inch screen would have persuaded many people that an iMac is enough for them, but many more would have rejected it as way too large and cumbersome. Apple has subdivided the iMac line-up into four models, each available in various colours. When choosing your model, consider exactly what you want to do with it and what you want it to do for you. Then ponder your possible learning curve and future needs. Email and Internet access might be all you need now, but is there a chance that desktop video editing will interest you once this computing lark is second nature? All the iMacs share the same built-in 15-inch screen, which is enhanced for full-screen digital video by a Theatre Mode that automatically brightens the screen when necessary. This feature marks some clever, commonsense thinking by Apple. An 8MB ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics accelerator card is also standard across the range. iMac – entry level
The original iMac launched two years ago was a revelation rather than a revolution. It stripped the personal computer of legacy components (ADB, SCSI, floppy drive) and concentrated on compatibility with tomorrow’s technologies (USB) and innovative design. Its number-one focus was Internet access – hence its name, the iMac. Apple’s latest iteration of the entry-level PC is still called an iMac and still focuses mainly on the Internet. If all you want is a computer so that you can browse the Web, create a Web home page, send and receive emails, and use business applications – such as a word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentations programs – as well as play the latest games, then the basic iMac is for you. If producing digital home movies or making music is in your mind (or might be), it is not. The iMac hardly changes at all from the previous low-end model – except on three points. First, Apple has changed its colour from the rather murky Blueberry to a rich, deep Indigo blue. In my opinion, this is Apple’s finest iMac case colour yet. Second, the hard drive is now a capacious 7GB – up 1GB from the previous model. Third, and most importantly, Apple has slashed the entry-level price by £150 – the basic iMac model now costs just £649 including VAT. For a fully loaded PC this proficient, that is a real bargain. The 350MHz PowerPC G3 processor is easily fast enough to handle all the tasks this computer is built for, so don’t worry yourself on missing out on speed ratings (see page 74). The iMac ships with AppleWorks 6 application suite (word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentations, basic drawing and painting), both major Web browsers and email clients, and a couple of games. As it ships with Mac OS 9.0.4, it has access to Apple’s wonderful free iTools services: KidSafe, Mail, iDisk and HomePage. Register your own name at Mac.com, exchange documents on iDisk, and make your own Web site photo gallery without touching a piece of HTML code. The entry-level iMac, however, has no AirPort antennae, and so is not compatible with Apple’s wireless-networking technology. Unless you’re planning on linking up several iMacs via AirPort (see Macworld, July 2000), this shouldn’t bother most of the people that this PC is aimed at. iMac DV
The second-level iMac DV also has slight variations on its predecessor. While the DV can link to your digital camcorder via its two FireWire ports, the drive is now CD-ROM rather than DVD-ROM. This isn’t a big loss, as the number of DVD-ROM titles is still small, and you should watch DVD movies on your telly not your computer. The £200 that Apple has cut from the DV’s price tag would buy you a decent DVD player for your TV. £799 is a great price for a PC that lets you make your own desktop movies. A video-mirroring port enables external devices to display an image identical to that shown on the built-in iMac display, which will prove invaluable for education users. The 400MHz iMac DV is available in two colours: Indigo (see above) and Ruby – a superb deep, cherry red. Apple’s excellent iMovie 2 video editor joins the software bundle. iMac DV +
This new model of iMac is actually pretty much the same as the old iMac DV, with FireWire and DVD-ROM drive as standard. It now runs at 450MHz and boasts a 20GB hard drive. The only reasons for paying the extra £200 that it costs over an iMac DV are the twice-capacity hard drive (handy for space-hungry desktop movies), DVD drive (not such a big deal, but certainly future safe) and a third choice of colour (the pale-green Sage). iMovie 2 and video mirroring also come as standard in the £999 price tag. iMac DV Special Edition (SE) The top-of the-range iMac has everything the others contain (FireWire, DVD, iMovie 2) plus a healthier amount of memory, a larger hard disk (30GB), and a 500MHz G3 processor. It is available in two colours: the popular Graphite and new all-white Snow. Opinions are divided as to the merits of the look of the Snow model: it’s not as clear as the other colours, but not a solid white either. Get yourself to an AppleCentre (list on page 142) for a quick look before deciding that this white is all right. The DV SE costs £1,199 – that’s a whopping £550 more than the entry-level iMac.