Intel iMac Lacks Speed With Non-Apple Apps

Few major non-Apple programs take advantage of the iMac's Intel chip set--so far.
Few major non-Apple programs take advantage of the iMac's Intel chip set--so far.

Apple's 20-inch iMac with the 2-GHz Intel Core Duo processor looks identical to the 2.1-GHz iMac G5 that we reviewed in February. The primary difference is that while Apple's own applications run faster on the new machine, current third-party software such as Adobe Photoshop CS2 is not yet optimized for the Intel processor, and such programs may run much more slowly than before.

Right now most of the Intel-friendly software is written by Apple, whose optimized iLife programs (iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD) were quicker than their PowerPC counterparts in tests conducted by our sibling publication Macworld. Also, Macworld found that the Intel iMac starts up nearly twice as fast as the previous iMac G5. In my own informal tests, I found using iTunes and browsing the Web with Safari to be much snappier. In contrast, Mozilla's Firefox took twice as long to do the same things.

In a worst-case scenario, software that's not yet optimized for the Intel processor, such as Microsoft's VirtualPC, won't run at all. Most software, however, just runs more slowly, since Apple Rosetta has to translate PowerPC-based software for the Intel processor. In Macworld's tests, Photoshop took twice as long--and Microsoft Word about twice as long--to finish tasks on the Intel Mac as it did on the earlier non-Intel G5.

Apple added a mini-DVI port with second-monitor capabilities. However, you'll need to purchase a $19 adapter to take advantage of it.

Because of the Intel-based iMac's performance handicap with nonoptimized software, I rate this shipping iMac a point below its non-Intel predecessor. Though the move to the Intel platform speeds up natively written programs and opens the door to the possibility of being able to dual-boot with Windows Vista, right now programs that are not designed for the Intel Mac (and that's a lot of them) lose speed on this machine.

Apple iMac

The Intel-based iMac is a full-featured, appealingly priced system, but the new processor currently delivers speed only with software written for the Intel processor.
Price when reviewed: $1699
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