Review: The new iMac
Tuesday 10 November 2009
It's a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM and a shiny 21.5-inch monitor.
Some photographers hate this shiny screen, but I appreciate every one of its crisp 2052000pixels (at 1920x1080). I mean, what photographer worth their salt works in a glary environment anyway? I think this is seized on as one of the few things to beat on Apple with, myself.
Compared to our older family white 20-inch iMac, there's much less frame below the monitor, giving this much more pleasing proportions. With its all-aluminium body, it's a little heavier than the previous aluminium-front, black plastic-backed model, too.
And it comes with the new wireless Magic Mouse and a wireless keyboard. The keyboard is little, with no numeric keypad. It is aluminium on top and shiny plastic underneath, with the same easy-clean design as the last couple of generations.
This is certainly easy to fit on a desk, and even easier to put aside. Connecting via Bluetooth, the new keyboard can be used with any Bluetooth equipped Mac running OS 10.5.8+.
The keyboard requires two AA batteries which fit under a coin-rotated cover at top left of the keyboard. The battery compartment is an integral part of the rolled-over rounded rear edge of the keyboard itself, which serves to both strengthen and angle the top plane of the keyboard slightly upwards.
On the right, opposite the battery compartment and in the corresponding place, is a button that, pressed, turns on a tiny green light I didn't even notice until it lit up. This turns on and ‘connects' the keyboard to your Mac.If you hold it in for a few seconds, it powers down and turns off (a semi-transparent dialogue turns up on your monitor to tell you so).
It's not exactly ergonomic, but it's comfortable enough and very handy. It actually speeds up my typing, probably since the keys are almost flush. You certainly don't need to bash 'em.
I'd prefer the wired version with the built-in numeric keypad and no battery requirements. This is only £28 but, since the numerals coincide with the Apple Calculator layout, it's perfect for doing my books.
The new mouse
Ah, but who cares? I imagine you saying. What about the Magic Mouse?
It's beautiful. It fits the hand very well and feels solid enough for luxury, but light enough for comfortable mousing.
The Apple logo goes to the palm of our hand, since there's no obvious rear-front shape to help you orientate the mouse. The base is in aluminium-look plastic, but the top is a curved glossy white. Underneath is a power switch and the metallic plastic plate between the two plastic glide-strips pops off when you apply fingernail pressure to the catch to reveal two AA batteries.
Straight away, I just tried to use it like an ordinary mouse and sure enough, that works.
A swipe where a scroll-wheel should be scrolls vertically, except it feels nicer on your finger than a wheel or Apple's Mighty Mouse nubby-thing. This rather negates the point of two-finger swiping to achieve the same result, for me, as I hold the mouse stationary with my other fingers. Besides, a one-finger side-swipe also scrolls side to side - much easier than the also-available two-finger side-swipe, which does the same thing.
A new-look System Preferences>Mouse pane lets you configure it. I found tracking a bit slow, compared to most mice, and had to put it on the fastest to get the kind of speeds I'm used to.
This was set at about two-thirds for other mice. You can add ‘momentum' to the scrolling action if you wish, which works a bit the grabber-hand whizz-slide you get when navigating around inside zoomed-in images in Photoshop CS4 using OpenGL.
Left-handers like myself can also switch the clicks - this might suit new users but older users who are left-handed will be used to the way the buttons work by default.
In fact, the Magic Mouse lets you make circles on the top with a finger to sweep around in circles on a zoomed-in document.
After a day's work, the battery level indicator was down to 92 per cent.
The left- and right-clicks felt natural and performed as expected. The real test will be playing something like Call of Duty, but without being able to press the scroll-wheel to lob a grenade, I can see myself swapping back to my trusty old wired Microsoft laptop mouse.
Some may also miss the same functionality to launch Exposé, although I doubt anyone will miss the weird and silly extra side buttons you had to squeeze on the Mighty Mouse. (Most turned these off. I certainly did.)
However, in normal daily use, this mouse is a delight to use and I didn't find it tiring at all.
And what about the iMac itself? As I said before, it's the most attractive iMac so far, proportionally. Under the hood there's a 7200rpm 500GB hard drive, a 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 9400 (I can hear scathing PC-user comments already, but the 9400 drives this beautiful screen just fine).
Bluetooth 2.2.3f8 and wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n are built-in, and on the back there's one FireWire 800 port, 4 USB2 ports, a video-out port for an additional monitor and Ethernet.
The display is bright and crisp and viewable from all sorts of angles thanks to technology called in-plane switching. This seems very effective. I have grown to love these glossy screens, by the way, even for heavy Photoshop work (I have 20+ years in prepress behind me).
I'm not sure what the built-in speakers are exactly, but they sound a lot fuller than the older models'.
Speed-wise, I don't have much to compare it to. The 13-inch MacBook Pro I tested a few weeks ago clocked 2879 in a one-CPU render, 5489 in a two-CPU render and 4661 in Open GL.
This iMac's figures were: 3474 in a one-CPU render, 6390 in a two-CPU render (a multi-processor advantage of 1.84 per cent). The figure for OpenGL was 4913. That's faster all round. I note that Photoshop CS4 loads in just five seconds.
All told, this represents great value for Apple fans, for £949. This is the base model.
It's a significant leap in specs for something that'll handle anything you throw at it, and spend more for a 1TB hard drive and the 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics or go bigger to the 27-inch model if you wish (the stock options are £1,199, and the 27-inch is £1,349 or £1,599 for the Quad-Core 27).
I like it a lot. But note that you can get a much uglier PC for less. It will get viruses and doesn't have great bundled software. Your choice.
Source: NZ Herald
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