Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The New iMac

Ok, it's finally out. Apple has released all the details on the new iMac G5 and it's basically what I expected. Far more conventional than the previous "lamp" iMac G4 design, the new iMac looks like a two-inch thick LCD display. On closer inspection however, it's less conventional than one might think.

Take the insides for example. This is the first all-in-one Mac to be anywhere near this accessible. The only thing that came close at all was the PowerMac G3 AIO (also known as the "molar" Mac.) The layout of components reminds me mostly of the old Macintosh LC "pizza box" design, but those weren't all-in-ones. Every major component is easily accessible for upgrade or replacement. I've upgraded the HD in my old iMac DV (the Fall, 1999 model) and that was a nightmare. For an LCD-based AIO, this new iMac really can't get much easier. Apple's engineers should be commended.

There are other interesting aspects of the design. The headline on Apple's iMac page is "Where did the computer go?" and that's actually more insightful than marketing jazz.
1) They actually squeezed the power supply into the computer so there's no extra power brick between the computer and the outlet on your UPS. (You do have a UPS, don't you? ;-)
2) The optical drive is a slot-loader, so there's only a slit on the right side of the screen for that.
3) Upgrade with the internal Airport Extreme card (802.11g), the Bluetooth module, Bluetooth keyboard & mouse, and you now have exactly one cord coming out of your computer: the power cord.

That leaves you with only an LCD monitor and a wireless mouse and keyboard on your desk, kinda like this. "Where did the computer go?" then seems like a pretty valid question doesn't it?

In this image you can see that the iMac G5 smoothly carries on the design tradition started with the first iMac, which in Steve Jobs' words is "Our butts look better than their faces." On the back you'll notice the slit running across the machine near the top. This is the vent output with the intake in the vent/speaker grill on the bottom. The cooling design follows Apple's usual convection technique with several low-speed fans assisting.

The iMac G5 can also use Apple's $29 VESA mount adaptor which opens up all kinds of fantastic professional workspace options which have never been available to the iMac before.

Of course, there are the usual complaints. The graphics card is not what some gamers would like but it must be noted that modern GPUs put out a fair amount of heat themselves and with that G5 in there Apple probably had a lot of problems getting the cooling to work out. Also there is the standard RAM issue: Apple never puts enough ram in its machines and this practice continues. Buyers should plan on adding more RAM.

Although it doesn't fit into my current purchasing plans I have to say that this is the first iMac I've actually wanted to buy since I bought my iMac DV. Congratulations to Apple on a job well done.


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