The new iMac G5, launched back in September, is guaranteed to shock pretty much anyone who sets their eyes on it. It's all-in-one design completely hides the computer from view, because in fact, the entire computer is the monitor. It would be pretty hard to guess that the computer was behind the display by looking at the system, but I assure you, that's all it is to it. In fact, my iMac setup has one cable. Yes, thats right, one cable. The iMac is the definition of sleek, but does sleekness alone give a reason to buy the iMac over another computer? Lets take a closer look at the iMac G5.
It's clear that Apple, put a lot of time and thought into the design of the latest iMac. Clearly resembling their new Aluminum LCD displays, the iMac G5 looks more like a display then a computer. It's stand is aluminum, and holds up the entire unit, which weighs around eighteen pounds. Besides the stand, the system is entirely white. The 17" (or 20") screen is quite big, and is sufficient for pretty much any home user.
My favorite part of the design? The lack of cables. My current system has one cable for the entire unit, which is for power. My keyboard and mouse are both Bluetooth, my Internet is wireless and I sync my PDA via Wifi. When I need to put songs onto my iPod, I just connect the cable to the back of the unit. Sometimes my iSight is plugged in, so at most, I have two cables for the entire unit, which is quite impressive compared to virtually any PC box.
Where are my speakers? They too are built into the computer, but unlike other built-in speakers, they are actually on the bottom. The sound bounces off from your desk, and is projected to you. Skeptical? Don't be, they actually sound very decent for built-in speakers, and for the normal user, they suit just fine. Don't expect very loud volumes or pumping bass; if you want that, I'd recommend a external speaker set.
What about design gripes? Theres only one. The bottom area of the front of the system is huge, and makes it unproportional. There are two reasons for this. The power supply is actually installed in the system itself, and takes up more depth then any other component, so it needs the extra room. Also, since the display is widescreen, it cannot entirely fill up the front of the unit. Still, it looks kind of awkward.
Another gripe is the port placement. All the ports are located on the back right side, in a vertical line. While it looks nice when nothing is plugged in, when you have three or more components plugged into the system, it looks a bit cluttered.
However, despite these gripes, the iMac G5 is by far the cleanest system I've ever seen. It also manages to be extremely stylish, and while it isn't Apple's best, it rates up there for sure.
The iMac G5 comes in three models: a 1.6GHz 17”, a 1.8GHz 17”, and a 1.8GHz 20”. For the purposes of this review and our target audience, we're reviewing the lowest model, the 1.6GHz and 17” display model, which also features a combo DVD/CD-RW drive. The other two models feature a Superdrive instead of the Combo.
So what else does the system have? There are three USB 2.0 ports, two Firewire 400 ports, VGA optical out, Ethernet, and a 56K modem. Two big problems with this: where's the Firewire 800? Apple is demonstrating how fast Firewire 800 is, yet they don't put it in one of their best selling machines. VGA out is the other issue, it's mirroring only, meaning you can't have dual displays that span, giving you more real estate. As to why Apple would do this, I'm not too sure, probably to reserve this feature for their Pro line. The iBook has the same restriction, but can work with spanning after applying a hack, though I am not sure if the hack supports the iMac G5.
Specs wise, the 1.6GHz model is iffy. You get 256MB of RAM, a 80GB SATA hard drive, a nVidia 5200 Ultra video card, and a Combo drive. Apple needs to start realizing that 256MB is simply not enough anymore. OS X eats up RAM, and 256MB is completely insufficient for any computer designed for music, photos, and video. 512MB should be standard, and even more should be included on the higher end models. The 5200 Ultra video card is outdated, old, and pretty much useless for games. A 9600 Pro, at least, is in order for the iMac G5, and I expect this will be updated once the second revision comes.
The 17" LCD included in my model was surprisingly sharp and clearly was a good choice for the iMac. Mine arrived with no dead pixels, which was a pleasant surprise.
I also think that Bluetooth should be standard, as should Airport Extreme (802.11g). A system like this is a perfect candidate for both. They can be added to the system, but costs a pretty penny. Internal Bluetooth can only be gotten via built to order, but you can install Airport yourself. A Airport Extreme card will set you back $80, and Bluetooth (internal) costs an additional $40.
But then you need to look at the price. The lowest iMac G5 costs just $1299. For a 17” LCD, a G5 processor, and a Combo Drive, this is not bad at all. The price point is great, and it's clear that Apple is really targeting the average home consumer.
We have decided not to include actual benchmark numbers in this review. The OS X platform, in our opinion, does not have any accurate benchmark utilities, and real-life performance is hard to measure in numbers. However, with 768MB of RAM, OS X felt snappy, and I was able to easily use iMovie, iTunes, iPhoto, Safari, and Adium (AIM() simultaneously with no speed issues. You can tell that the G5 really is quite a snappy processor.
Final Cut Pro is also quite nice on this system. Of course, it's no comparison to the Power Mac, and if you plan on using a lot of pro apps, such as Final Cut, Shake, Logic, and DVD Studio Pro, I'd really recommend shelling out the extra cash and get the Power Mac, which feature dual processors on 3 out of 4 of their models, which really help out on programs such as the above.
But, for home use, the iMac G5 is perfect, and even works great with certain pro apps, and you pretty much won't have a problem running any program you throw at it. Gaming is also quite nice. Halo was playable, as was UT2004, on medium graphics settings on the top resolution. It's no gaming system, but that's not the iMac's intention.
When the system is used with 256MB of RAM, you really don't get the potential of the G5 processor. The system feels sluggish when you have two or more programs open, and it just isn't really a joy to wok with. Apple is really risking it with including such a paltry amount of RAM standard, as the system is almost to the point of being unusable for it's target programs (iLife) with 256MB.
Noise, Upgrading, Support
The iMac is quiet, much quieter then I would have thought, for such a hot processor in such a small case. Much like the PowerMac, the fan speed is adjusted based on CPU usage. If you are surfing the net, the computer is almost inaudible. When you load up Final Cut Pro, it gets significantly louder, and you can definately hear the fans working. It's nowhere near as loud as any PC I've ever heard, even at top speed.
The iMac G5 is also the most accessible Mac ever. Virtually every part in the computer is user-replaceable, meaning if something breaks, chances are is that you can fix it yourself. Everything from the LCD to the power supply is able to be taken out and replaced by anyone.
Upgrading is a different story. Like every other iMac in history, this thing isn't really upgradeable. As far as I know, you can only upgrade the hard drive, memory (up to 2GB), and Airport. I'm not sure if you can upgrade the optical drive, however. If you plan on having this system for a long period of time, it might be best to step up and get the Power Mac, which lets you have up to 8GB of RAM, multiple hard drives, swap the optical drive, and change the graphics card. With the current upgrade path, it looks like this system has a life under three years for the normal user.
Support is weak. You get 90 days free telephone support, and a one year limited warranty. After that, you're stuck. AppleCare, which is an extended warranty plan, is available for $169, for three years. I'd recommend grabbing this if you'll have the system for more then a year.
The iMac G5 is by all means one of the stylish computers I've had the privilege of working with. But as we all know, beauty is only skin deep. While the iMac G5 is pretty fast, it's upgrade path is weak, and its standard RAM and graphics card is even weaker. If you plan on playing lots of games on this system, stay away. If you plan on using programs like Motion, stay away. If you plan on using word processing, the Internet, and iLife, this system is perfect. This is a home user system, not a power user system.
That said, the iMac is a pretty sweet system. The price point is great, and the fact that an LCD is built-in is even sweeter. If you are looking for a solid home system, the iMac G5 should be on your short list.
You should keep in mind that the iMac G5 has had issues with power supplies, and loud fans. Only a few machines are vulnerable, though, but be careful when purchasing. We advise going to an Apple Store to purchase, and request to see the unit out of the box before purchasing.
SLRating: 9 out of 10
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