Union of price and plenitude: Cliff Joseph reports on the LC475 . . . 'Apple of his eye'

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Not even Microsoft supremo Bill Gates could argue that the company's Windows operating system for PC-compatible computers is as elegant or as easy to use as the Apple Macintosh's System 7.

Unfortunately Apple has not done so well in the price and performance stakes. Until recently even the cheapest Mac models were expensive and slow compared to the many low-cost PCs on sale in high street stores. However, Apple has now produced the LC475, a machine as fast - if not faster - than any Windows PC in the under- pounds 1,000 price bracket.

The LC475 uses the same processor chip - the Motorola 68040 - as Apple's top-of-the-range Quadra computers. But, by using a less expensive version of this processor and a cheaper monitor design, Apple has been able to keep the LC475 to a bottom-of-the-range price.

The only limitation of the LC475 is that the processor lacks a floating-point unit, a device used for certain types of complex calculation. That means it is not quite as fast as a Quadra, although it is twice as fast as the Macintosh II/vi I bought for pounds 1,100 less than a year ago. It will handle wordprocessing and spreadsheets with ease and is powerful enough for complex graphics and desktop publishing.

In the PC market, the LC475's closest counterpart would be something like the Compaq Presario. But the Presario has a street price just above pounds 1,000 and uses a modest 486SX processor. It is difficult to make direct comparisons but there is little doubt the LC475 can more than match the speed of PC rivals.

In addition, the LC475 includes valuable extras rarely found in PCs in this price range. All Macintosh computers include a microphone and circuitry for recording and playing sound, whereas to give a PC the same capabilities you need to spend at least pounds 100 on a sound card.

System 7 also includes a piece of software called QuickTime that lets the computer play video files stored on its hard disk. PCs can do this, too, but again you would have to pay extra for the software.

These sound and video capabilities make the LC475 the ideal choice for the home user interested in games or multimedia software. Take into account the machine's high speed, low price and ease of use and Apple finally has the answer to all those cheap PC-clones.

A word of warning: Apple also sells the Performa 475. This version is identical and may even be a little cheaper, but you may not be able to use future LC upgrades.

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