As is my custom, whenever Apple releases new Macs, I must go to the store and play with them. And so it was that on Saturday, I went to the Apple Store on Chestnut street in San Francisco, and accosted the new iMacs. But before I go any further, yes, the new iMacs are still glossy:
So, while I may have some quibbles with the new iMac, I have to admit that Apple continues to impress with the overall design, fit, and finish of the machine. As predicted, Apple made the machine thinner, but thankfully they didn't make any of the compromises that I listed. While some other all-in-one PCs (notably from HP and Sony) seem to be decent, nobody can really touch Apple in this space.
The new iMacs feel quite sold — the 27" machine weighs in at over 30 pounds. And as I mentioned, the machines appear to be well put together. Here's an example of the fit and finish:
I spent most of my time focused on the 27" iMac. Here are some impressions:
The Screen: The centerpiece of the new iMac line is the screen on the new 27" model. Overall, it's hard not to be impressed with this screen (well, aside from the glossiness). The viewing angle is good, it's bright, and the resolution is fantastic. The 30" monitor that I have at work really has me spoiled, so I have been pondering getting one for home. Well, the 27" iMac would definitely scratch this itch. Because it crams so many pixels into a smaller screen, things appear to be smaller. For example, I noticed that the text in the menu bar (at the top of the screen) was definitely smaller. I think this is something that one would get used to. The only other minor issue that I noticed was some sort of weird moirÃ© pattern — it was only noticeable when I held my head at a certain position — not too close, not too far — from the display. I'm not sure if this was just an issue with the unit that I looked at, or if I'm just making the whole thing up.
Performance: Apple had the stock 3.0Ghz Core 2 Duo model on display, but even without the Nehalem goodness, I found the performance of the machine to be quite good. I ran the fullscreen Hulu test, and the machine passed with flying colors. And the ability to upgrade to a quad core CPU is really awesome. I can't wait until the Core i5 and Core i7 machines start shipping next month, to see how they benchmark.
Expandability: The big surprise with this revision is that Apple has increased the number of SO-DIMM slots to 4 on all of the iMacs, even the 21.5" models. This means that the machines can be taken to 8GB of memory using only 2GB SO-DIMMs, which are quite cheap. Going beyond 8GB is also possible, although expensive. But, you could easily take one of these iMacs up to 8GB today, and expand the memory further in a year or so, when 4GB SO-DIMMs aren't so expensive. Other than that, the SD card slot is nice, as is the ability to support video input, so that the nice 27" display can be used as a monitor. Unfortunately, it looks like this feature might be quite limited, and thus not as exciting as I had hoped.
Keyboard and Mouse: I can't say that I really liked the new keyboard. I mean, it seems decent for a wireless keyboard, but I found that I wasn't very accurate when typing on it. This is a moot point for me, as I am a confirmed Kinesis man now, but its sortof surprising at this point that Apple isn't raising the bar on ergonomics (since they are raising the bar everywhere else). As for the new Magic Mouse, it seems to be okay. The scrolling action worked fine in Safari, and I could left-click and right-click. The other multi-touch actions seemed to be hard to trigger, and might not be all that useful. I'm more ambivalent on this feature.
And now, for the things that I don't think are so hot about the new iMacs:
The glossy display: I know that I keep harping on this, but I wish that Apple offered a non-glossy version.
The non-replaceable hard drive: Apple has gotten their house in order on all of the MacBooks, but not on the iMac. Granted, it looks like replacing the hard drive in the new iMac might be slightly easier than on the old model. But you still have to take out the entire LCD. Yuck.
BTO hard drive pricing: $250 to go from a 1TB drive to a 2TB drive? Yuck. A bare drive can be had for less than $200, and Apple is charging $250 on top of whatever they are charging for the 1TB drive.
Video In: This is one of those features that could have really been killer. If I could hook up a PS3 or my Wii to the new iMac, it would be a done deal. As I am living in a much smaller space now, I price devices that are efficient and can serve multiple purposes. But it's looking like the iMac isn't going to help me out here (although there is hope for some sort of funky adapter, I suppose).
Lack of Blu-Ray: After Chris wet my whistle with some Firefly-on-Blu-Ray action, I've actually kindof wanted this. And I really thought it was going to happen this time, but once again, we have been denied.
Overall, the new iMac scratches a surprising number of itches on my new machine list (I am surprised that they went Quad Core), but I'm still not 100% convinced. I'm going to wait a month, and see what the reviews and benchmarks of the Core i7 model are like, before I make up my mind.