First Look: Apple's Slim New IMac G5
At a Glance
Apple's new IMac G5 is all about the screen. The computer is built into the IPod-white monitor, which is only about 2 inches thick. The 20-inch, wide-aspect screen of my shipping unit just begged to display video and photos.
Of course I took the bait, and I was quite happy watching movies in the name of "research." The IMac's clarity and detail in displaying DVDs and photos was quite impressive, and QuickTime movies that I streamed from the Web appeared only slightly less so.
The generous screen size allows you to comfortably watch a full-screen movie from a distance of about 5 feet. The display's native resolution is 1680 by 1050 pixels, which makes for great-looking images, but rather small font sizes. The upside: If you're comfortable reading tiny text, you can easily put two documents on this screen, side by side.
Function Follows Form?
The new IMac has the same sleekly curved, brushed-aluminum base as Apple's current line of displays, and it has the same strengths, including a minimal, modern look that makes the system appear to float while offering a full range of tilting options.
However, the IMac also shares the displays' single weakness: It offers no height adjustability. I'm on the short side of average height, and even I found myself looking downward at the display. While the previous IMac's claim to fame was the extreme display adjustability afforded by its unique design, with this model we're back to stacks of phone books to raise the screen height, which kind of ruins the whole aesthetic.
Apple plans to offer a $40 accessory that lets you attach third-party stands with more adjustability and wall-mounting options. But I don't think you should have to pay extra for such a basic feature--especially when many inexpensive, plain-Jane LCDs offer adjustable stands.
My review unit had a 1.8-GHz G5 processor and plenty of computing muscle. I was able to open and switch among 11 applications (though I wasn't running tasks in the background). Each program ran without a hitch, including the demanding GarageBand music recording software, streaming QuickTime, and a DVD played full-screen.
The system I tested came with 512MB of RAM; the base 20-inch model comes with just 256MB (you can order it with as much as 2GB). My system also included a 160GB hard drive, a side-mounted, slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW), and an 802.11g wireless networking card. With the extra-cost RAM and wireless, my system priced out at $2053. The standard 20-inch model will run you $1899. Models based on a 17-inch display start at a reasonable $1299.
The unit's stereo speakers sounded surprisingly good, despite being mounted in the bottom of the case and pointing downward. One small annoyance: OS X wasn't adept at detecting when I switched from listening to the speakers to using the headphones.
Worth the Price?
My other quibbles include Apple's curious decision to place all of the ports on the back. Not only does this mar the unit's pristine appearance (nearly perfect for reception areas and other places where the back of the monitor faces customers), but it seems placing them on the side would have made them easier to reach.
Aside from the lack of height adjustability, though, these are minor annoyances. Overall I enjoyed using the machine. I would, however, like to see Apple offer the 512MB RAM and Wi-Fi as standard at the $1899 price point.
Beyond that, I could easily see the lower-priced, 17-inch IMac making a great college computer. The unit's thrifty use of space and excellent screen would feel right at home in a dorm room. A built-in TV tuner is the only feature I could wish for to make a college kid's--or media maven's--life complete.
Apple IMac G5
Another high-style revamp from Apple, the new design looks great but lacks some basic functionality.
Street: $2053 as configured