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Apples 24-inch iMacBig screen, bright picture, and power make for quality system
It is certainly nice to have a powerful computer that has a small footprint to fit in nearly any space. The problem with anything other than a laptop is you have all those cables and connectors that lead from the CPU to the monitor, speakers, and so on. If you have space in a home office or dorm room for a 24 display, then you have room for the entire iMac system.
For this review, Apple sent me its 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo system with 4 MB of L2 Cache and a 500GB hard drive. The base system comes with 1GB of RAM, but this can be upgraded all the way up to 3GB of RAM, which was included in this unit. With an optimum resolution of 1920 x 1200, the iMac was powered by the NVIDIA GeForce 7600 GT with 256MB of video RAM. This isnt the base system Apple sells, and with the upgrades the system has a retail price of $3402, which is comparable to PC based system similarly configured.
Without getting too geeky, the iMac seems to fill a nice hole between a MacBook Pro and the monster Mac Pro system. Using the Geekbench benchmark test, the iMac scored 220.2, 28 points better than the MacBook Pro (192.3), and 64 points better than my old G5 system (156.2). According to the posted benchmarks at Geekpatrol.ca, the Mac Pro naturally trounced the iMac by 163 points.
The first thing one will notice when getting the system out of the box is its huge. My 21 inch Cinema Display Ive been using the heck out of for the last four years seems puny in comparison. Besides the size bonus, the display is significantly brighter than older displays, making text and images easy to see regardless of the light level in the room.
|Even with the flash from the camera, the brightness of the iMac 24? is quite noticeable compared to the 17? MacBook Pro, and the 21? Cinema Display.|
With other systems, you have to buy a lot of add-ons to make your system complete, but with the iMac, the built in iSight camera, integrated speakers and microphone are welcome additions. There are three USB 2.0 ports on the back of the system, with two USB 1.1 ports on the standard Mac keyboard.
One of the things I really like about the iMac is it is well suited for the college student. With the high performance of a 2.33 GHz Core 2 Duo Intel processor and the large screen, a student has enough power to handle any homework an instructor may throw at him, but also a system to handle entertainment needs.
Included on the iMac is Front Row, which allows the system to play DVDs, videos from the hard drive or shared network device, music via iTunes, and even slideshows from the images folder. The remote works well, and to ensure it isnt lost, the side of the iMac is magnetized to hold the remote in place providing you remember to put it back.
Why would you forget? Since the screen is large and bright, its very easy to sit across the room and still be able to enjoy what is playing on the screen. The 24-inch size is perfect for viewing in the average dorm room.
The one thing keeping the iMac from being a great entertainment replacement is the lack of a TV tuner. Fortunately, there are third party solutions that are reasonably priced. Also, while the sound is good, I doubt it is audiophile good, so an external speaker system might be needed for those hardcore types.
With integrated Gigabit Ethernet and built in Airport Extreme, connecting to a network is easy too. For someone who wants to put this system in a non-office space, the Airport connectivity is a blessing.
Aside from student use, professionals looking for a solution that isnt as expensive as a Mac Pro might want to give the iMac a try. When reviewing Aperture 1.5.1, the large screen real estate and bright screen really helped in tweaking images. Photographers who dont have a 30-inch Cinema Display will find the iMacs screen the perfect size for every day use, or even as a demo system when reviewing shots with clients
For video professionals, this system is more than enough to handle Final Cut Pro. Two FireWire ports (400 and 800) are perfect for DV or HDV editors, although an external hard drive is recommended for video storage. The 24-inch iMac handles Motion with ease, and the 8x SuperDrive with double-layer support ensures DVD Studio Pro burns discs quickly.
I didnt test this system with Adobe After Effects 7. My previous experience using After Effects on an Intel based Mac (MacBook Pro) at this point suggests the iMac is good enough to do everyday work using Rosetta, but wont make motion graphic artists very happy once the Comp gets uber-complex. Until Adobe updates After Effects to support Universal Binary, these kinds of tests dont reveal much.
The only hardcore gaming I did with the iMac was playing World of Warcraft. The Universal Binary version yielded a solid 60 fps with my normal graphics settings, which is good enough for the quests I partake in.
As far as downsides go, if you are putting the iMac in a tight space, make sure you can still access the DVD slot on the side of the system. Even with easy access I found myself having to look directly at the slot in order to get the disc in correctly. Ill blame getting older and diminished eyesight on that problem though.
In the early stages of working with the iMac, users are going to quickly forget where the power button is, and in the case of a firmware update, not having a built in power light may cause some confusion in how long to hold the power button.
Im not a huge fan of the standard Mac keyboard and Mighty Mouse, so for me, switching those out for a keyboard that can handle the stress of 300,000+ words annually, and a two button mouse for graphics and animation work are a big deal for me. Others I know though are completely happy with the standard keyboard mouse combo.
The form factor makes the iMac quite functional in any environment, while the power behind the screen should meet the needs of all but the most extreme video and animation professionals. If you are looking for a computer for home office or for the dorm room, the 24-inch iMac is a great solution. I give the 24-inch iMac a Strong Buy Recommendation.
Stephen Schleicher is a well known writer, visual effects artist and media guru! You can see more of Stephen at
www.majorspoilers.com and www.stephenschleicher.com
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