Hands-on with a new Intel iMac
The machine I looked at in the Apple Store was sporting 1 GB of RAM. I checked several other 20 inch machines there, and they were all similarly configured. Keep in mind that the stock configuration only has half that much RAM; so, if you don’t upgrade it, you’ll see performance a bit worse than what I experienced.
The display is bright and clear. The machine comes with an Apple Mighty Mouse I used to conduct my tests. iPhoto, iMovie, and Garage Band launched immediately when commanded, springing to life on the screen. General responsiveness did seem a bit faster than my 2.0 GHz G5. Microsoft Office 2004, running under Rosetta, ran equally as fast as it does on my G5 iMac. I opened Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents with no problems. iPhoto scrolling was easy and fast, though the catalog contained only 355 photos a far cry short of the almost 5000 I have at home. I had seen one post on a Mac-related website in which the poster claimed his Intel iMac performance with iPhoto seemed equal to that of his Quad G5. I played around with a Quad G5 PowerMac in the store and can tell you that he boast seemed to be true. However, the tasks I performed in iPhoto were simple; I did not perform any kind of rendering that would have put the true power of the machines to the test.
Photo Booth performed seamlessly with the machine’s built-in iSight. Effects were applied and rendered effortlessly.
I also ran a copy of FileMaker 8, opening a sample database. Performance seemed to be good; however, the database seemed to contain only templates, so the CPU was not hauling much data around.
The one noticeable absense on every iMac I looked at was Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Every G5 iMac I’ve ever looked at in the Apple store had one of the two programs loaded. They’re avoiding putting them on the Intel iMac for good reason. Once Adobe releases Universal Binaries for its Photoshop applications, I’m sure the Intel iMac will shine. But for now, the best description of Photoshop’s performance on an Intel iMac (as revealed by an Ars Technica review) comes from Bill Murray’s line in GHOSTBUSTERS when Dana is transformed into a monster: “Okay, she’s a dog!”
That said, the speed of the new machines is evident, making the purchase of an Intel iMac a computer-drug-induced affair. It would be easy for me to succumb. And easy for me to con my wife into letting me. It’s the specter of dealing with software and peripherals that don’t “just work” that holds me back, not to mention a bigger-than-desired balance on my credit cards. MacKiev Software hasn’t helped me with my resolve to resist; tonight, they released Universal Binaries for Print Shop 2.02. I’ve already downloaded the software and it’s ready to go. Now, if only Microsoft (Office) and Adobe (Photoshop and Illustrator) would do the same.
By the way, if you’re looking at buying one of these, be sure to put aside some bucks for extra RAM. Not only does OS X by itself need it, but Rosetta reportedly uses large amounts of RAM to run. I recommend no less than a 1GB total.