Review: Apple's new 24-inch iMac (aluminum)
Conclusions and Reservations
Having to choose computers from only one vendor means that many buyers won't have much choice: for now, the iMac is still Apple's lone choice for a mid-range desktop. That said, most home customers will find a lot to like in what Apple has to offer. The speed-up is undeniable and is by and large competitive with conventional Windows PC desktops that even the lack of RAM is (somewhat) forgivable. Setting up the iMac is as easy as it's ever been, and the pseudo-professional look may help it infiltrate a few businesses where the candy-white plastic may have earmarked the iMac as a "toy" rather than a work system.
It's similarly easy to recommend the new keyboard bundled with the computer, though Mac users eager for that alone will only have to spend $49 at an Apple store for the privilege. That keyboard was used to write this review, and in hours of heavy typing it was at least as comfortable but slightly quicker for high-speed typing.
Unfortunately, there are signs that Apple is headed down a questionable path for its design choices. In his press event announcing the iMac, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs claimed that customers "loved" glossy displays; we respectfully disagree. The benefits it provides are useful primarily under controlled lighting and for marketing the system in a store. If your home has bright spot lighting that can't be moved or you're a professional who has to judge color accuracy on the fly, the gloss could be troublesome and a potential deal-breaker. Apple should have at least offered matte screens on some models or as a custom option.
We also wonder if the company is emphasizing CPU speed over a more balanced approach to performance. Most Mac users won't complain about the slightly underwhelming graphics; many will wonder about the low memory on such a large and otherwise fast system. These have both been problems in the past, but Apple today has fewer excuses for its old habits — especially when the 24-inch iMac is supposed to bridge the gap between everyday consumer machines and the flagship Mac Pro.
Still, for most buyers, the new iMac is still an easy recommendation for Mac veterans and most switchers. It's just that a few key decisions may have robbed Apple of some potential customers who would have otherwise been within close reach.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
- Slick new design
- Screen is gorgeous in specific circumstances.
- Very fast, especially for converts from PowerPC Macs.
- Keyboard is a tangible improvement over the old model.
- One RAM slot is finally free for an upgrade.
- Less expensive than the old model.
- Glossy screen can be distracting; no option for matte.
- Only 1GB of memory standard.
- Radeon HD 2600 Pro is underpowered versus its NVIDIA alternative.
- No Apple Remote magnet or sleep light.
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