When infatuation turns to love

10 May

The new iMac with 27” screen (right) practically dwarves its 24” predecessor. Note the sweet, streamlined keyboard. (Geoff Meeker photo)

May 10, 2010

By Geoff Meeker 

I first saw her in Future Shop, and fell in love immediately.

I ran into her again at Avalon Software, where I got up some nerve and made my move.

I walked out of there with the new iMac, an intoxicating beauty with a 27” screen, the largest of any all-in-one desktop system. It has a one TB hard drive, four GB of RAM and 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

No, I don’t know a lot about that stuff either, except that it will take a long time to fill up the hard drive and is blazing fast to use.

Long-time readers of this column may recall that I purchased a new iMac exactly four years ago, in May of 2006. That computer had a smaller 24” screen, with less resolution, a 250 GB hard drive, 1.5 GB of ram and a 2 GHz processor. That computer cost me about $2500.

My new iMac set me back $1799. That’s right – a lot more computer than 2006, for $700 less.

The new iMac comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse. At just 11” wide, the keyboard is a startling 6.5” smaller than the old one. The typing area is the same size, but all those extraneous keys to the right have been eliminated. And the keys have a lighter, more responsive touch, which has actually improved my typing speed and accuracy.

The ‘Magic Mouse’ is also noteworthy. There are no visible buttons – you click the entire body of the mouse, which is not new – but the touch-sensitive surface is cool. Rather than drag the mouse to scroll text, you make a scrolling gesture with your fingertip on the surface of the mouse. (I still drag the mouse. This habit is hard to break. But if I were new to computers, the touch feature would win me over.)

The screen, however, is the star here. It is the largest of any iMac yet, and bigger than any other self-contained desktop out there (the hard drive and other components are inside the screen chassis – there is no tower).

Not only is there more image area, the quality of the LCD screen is noticeably improved over previous iMacs. The screen has 19 percent more area than the old 24” screen, but 60 percent more pixels. In other words, much greater resolution, resulting in a sharper picture with superb contrast. The screen is so bright that, at first, I didn’t like it, and had to dim it a little. The 16:9 aspect ratio is spot-on.  And because it’s LCD, it consumes less power – a nice bonus.

I have watched movies on this baby, and they do look superb. This computer could easily serve as a main TV set, for watching movies and cable TV (more on that in my next column).

My infatuation with the large screen is more practical. As a writer, I draw upon a variety of source files. With this iMac, I can work with three files open and in full view, all at once. For this reason alone, I absolutely love the new screen (which I realize is silly, given that I once worked quite effectively on a 9” Mac Classic screen).

I am no technological wiz when it comes to what’s under the hood. However, I have browsed reviews at the more credible tech sites, such as gizmodo and cnet, and some common themes emerge.

First, the computer feels fast because, well, it is. Reviewers at cnet ran tests, comparing the iMac with other all-in-one PCs, and the iMac outperformed them all when processing images in Photoshop and songs in iTunes.

However, the iMac was slower – around the middle of the pack – when multi-tasking several projects at once. That’s because the iMac has a dual core processor, while some others have quad core processors. Critics also say that few people will ever require such capacity, and I agree – most of us know intuitively, when executing larger tasks, to do so one at a time. (For an additional $400 you can get an iMac with quad core processor, but is it really worth it? Not unless you do major multi-tasking. Otherwise, save your money.)

The most valid criticism I’ve read is the iMac’s lack of an internal Blu-Ray DVD player. Blu-Ray would have added functionality to the unit, and allowed the screen to show its full potential.

Otherwise, the iMac is a wonderful computer, and I am totally smitten.

And don’t feel sorry for the jilted 24” iMac. It is quickly forming new bonds, in the computer alcove off the kitchen.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at www.thetelegram.com.


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