Out with the Old...

Saturday, 2005-10-01; 18:02:00

New Mac smell!

Say hello to the newest member of the computers in my house:

New iMac G5
So... yeah. That's my old iMac and my new iMac sitting next to each other. (Guess which is which. :) )

Man, though, is this thing a big improvement. Like, all around. I suppose that's to be expected when comparing a 3-year old iMac (it went out of the extended warranty on August 29th) to a new iMac. But I'll bet this will last me at least another 3 years, after which I'll buy a Mac after the Intel transition is complete.

Seriously, though. 2.0 GHz vs. 800 MHz. 667 MHz system bus vs. 100 MHz. G5 vs. G4. 7200 RPM hard drive vs. 5400 rpm. 160 GB hard drive vs. 80 GB. ATI Radeon 9600 w/128 MB VRAM vs. GeForce 4MX w/32 MB VRAM. Dual-layer 8x SuperDrive vs. single-layer 2x SuperDrive that doesn't work with as broad a range of media. Built-in Bluetooth vs. none. Built-in 802.11g networking vs. 802.11b only.

Besides the specs, there are many functional improvements that you don't really realize until you start using it. The most notable improvement is regarding the optical drive (i.e.: DVD/CD drive); since it's located on the top-right of the computer, discs that are ejected don't interfere with the keyboard. On the iMac G4, the tray would pop out and hit the keyboard since the drive was located at the base. (It also looks crazy cool when the disc just slides out of the slot.)

Another functional improvement regards the iSight. The iSight ships with four different stands: a traditional clip that involves twisting a knob to tighten it against a surface, a magnetic stand, a plastic holder that adheres to the back of your computer, and a stand that just sits on your desk. I wanted to have my iSight perched on top of my computer rather than on my desk, so my only option with the iMac G4 was the adhering stand. (There's a plastic lip around the screen of the iMac G4, but you can't use the tightening clip with that because it's too short. There's also no place where you can really stick the magnet.) However, the iMac G5 is a bit thicker AND there is a place right in the middle of the top of the screen to which the magnet strongly attracts. So the magnetic stand is perfect for this case (and it doesn't affect LCDs and/or hard drives, in case you were wondering).

The iMac G5 provides a convenient little "slot" to store your keyboard when you're not using it (this was kind of advertised by Apple). The G5's screen/innards hover enough above the ground so that you can just place the keyboard on top of the metal stand to put it out of the way. With the iMac G4, you couldn't do that because its base was a hemisphere.

Another minor improvement is the fact that the iMac G5 uses as standard power cable rather than the weird three-cylinders-arranged-in-a-triangular-shape one of the iMac G4. The one that Apple ships has an extra bit of plastic so that it hides the connector and makes it flush with the back of the iMac, but you can still use standard power cords if necessary.

About the speakers on the iMac G5: they're built-in to the computer, rather than being separate like they were on the iMac G4. The speakers are actually on the bottom (literally the bottom side rather than on the front side at the bottom), and the sound is projected down and is supposed to bounce off the table and to your ears. It works fairly well, although the iMac G4's speakers, I admit, were a bit more powerful since they were separate. However, I regard this as an improvement because I really hated having separate speakers to cart around when I moved the computer. I can always buy speakers that are better than the iMac G4's, if I need to. (Some models of the iMac G4 -- including mine -- actually had a small internal speaker, but it was definitely not adequate for listening to music.) The headphone port is also marginally improved: I can listen to music at a comfortable level at only one notch above completely mute. The port is a bit more accessible but it's still on the back of the machine, which is the weirdest decision ever that Apple continues with its iMac line. They need to move it back to the front like on the original iMacs. If Apple is worried about marring the clean look, just put it on the bottom side where the ambient light sensor is, and no one will notice except those that actually use headphones. :P

There are two other improvements in terms of service and support. Supposedly, the iMac G5 is almost fully user-serviceable. According to Apple, I can replace my own hard drive, optical drive, inverter, upper fans, lower fan, memory, and power supply. (AppleInsider's original article about the iMac G5 also said that the LCD and modem card were also user-serviceable.) Apple also allows you to chat with a support agent (this is only available for iMac G5's as far as I know), so that would be an improvement over a phone call. (I opted not to get the extended warranty this time, but I have 11 months to change my mind and it's only $119, as opposed to $249 -- I think -- that I paid for my iMac G4's extended plan.)

Besides the less powerful speakers, there are two other disadvantages of the iMac G5 over the iMac G4: first, you can't adjust the screen height. You can easily adjust the direction it's facing in both the vertical and horizontal direction (even though you have to move the stand as well when adjusting horizontally). This hasn't been that much of a problem, though. Secondly, the iMac G5 emits much more of a very quiet, high-pitched noise when it's on which is a tiny bit more annoying, but my in-ear earphones block that out pretty well. It's probably just a result of the higher-speed hard drive.

I have heard that iMac G5s purchased in the U.S. don't have an automatically switching power supply that can deal with both 120 and 220V plugs, but it appears that Apple has changed this with the latest Ambient Light Sensor models, at least according to the specs.

The iMac G5 only comes standard with 512 MB of RAM, and I didn't buy any overpriced upgrades from Apple so that's what I have right now, in contrast with the 1 GB that I used to have on my iMac G4. That, however, came standard with 256 MB of RAM so it's still an improvement for the iMac G5. ;) I plan to buy another 1 GB memory module for my iMac G5, so I'll soon have a total of 1.5 GB of RAM. Yay!

Price? As far as I remember, it's quite a bit cheaper than my iMac G4. I bought it at the Stanford Bookstore so I was able to get the institutional educational price ($1329 before tax as opposed to $1499 regular), but I didn't have to buy the AirPort card and I didn't have to immediately buy RAM. (The comparison is a bit flawed because I bought the iMac G4 at the Palo Alto Apple Store for the regular consumer price of $1799 and I also had them upgrade me to 1 GB of RAM in-store, I think, for an exhorbitant price. I also, as I said, bought the extended warranty, something I didn't do for my iMac G5.) The iMac G5 came to about $1450 after tax. I was also able to score a 4G iPod photo (20 GB) for my dad for only $90 because of the "Better Together" promotion.

It's funny, I'm a hardcore iMac user. I bought the original bondi blue iMac, I did a brief stint with the G4 cube, and then I went to the iMac G4 and now the iMac G5. I guess I'm what you would call a "prosumer" -- I don't need ultra-powerful Macs, but I do need a Mac more powerful than the baseline eMac or Mac mini, especially since I do software development. That's why I bought the (admittedly overpriced) G4 cube, because the G3 iMac at the time didn't cut it.

(And in case you were wondering, yes that IS the "hockey puck" mouse from my original bondi blue iMac attached to my iMac G4 in the picture. The optical mouse that came with the iMac G4 crapped out recently and refused to work with my desk -- although it works with other desks -- so I had to revert to the only other mouse that I had on hand at the time. I took it into the Apple Store to have it replaced since the iMac G4 was barely under warranty at that time, and the twerp genius refused to replace it because it worked on the desk in-store. I don't blame the guy, but that's Murphy's Law at its best. Contrary to popular opinion, though, I actually LIKE the hockey puck mouse; even though I have relatively large hands, you don't use it like a traditional mouse. To use it well, you hold it with your fingertips rather than resting the palm of your hand on it. The optical mouse with my iMac G5 works on this desk, though, so I'm using that now, obviously.)

Mmm... some people love new car smell. I love new Mac smell so much more. (Lol, it's more likely styrofoam smell, but that's a detail that can be overlooked. :) )

Technological Supernova   Unfiled   Older   Newer   Post a Comment