My wife and I went to the local Fry’s last night and, while looking at digital cameras, decided to see if they might have one of the new 24 inch iMacs. To our surprise, they did. They were displaying all their iMacs side-by-side, something that made making comparisons an easy feat. They had all three sizes there, i.e., 17, 20, and 24 inch iMacs.
The 24 inch iMac sits noticeably higher than any of the rest. Yet, it’s not as bulky as you might first think. It shares the same slim profile of the Intel-powered 20 inch iMac. Its Superdrive is located at the same spot as the 20 inchers, right in the middle of the right side.
The screen is noticeably brighter than that of the 20 inch. I’d love to see one side by side with my 20 inch Apple Cinema Display which is the old acrylic case ADC type and my personal benchmark for screen clarity and brightness. I think it might be competitive, though some buyers have commented that there is a slight but noticeable dimming near the corners of the 24 inch iMac’s screen. I didn’t see that, but I also wasn’t looking for it. My hope is that with this iMac Apple might be returning to the bright, crisp displays it used to make; and that would be a very good thing if true.
The usual Mac suspects (iMovie, iTunes) snapped to the screen, so the machine appears to be very responsive. From a performance standpoint, the new Intel powered iMacs are definitely the fastest iMacs ever built. That said, there is no technical reason why this model couldn’t have been built with the ability to access 4 GB of RAM. Instead, Apple limited the model to 3 GB of memory, an odd amount that drives the cost of maxing the machine through the roof if you try to do it in the typical smart-Apple-user fashion, i.e., buying third-party memory and doing it yourself. (More on that in a moment. It turns out that this machine is the rule breaker when it comes to that.) I suspect the sole reason it can’t address 4 GB of Ram came from marketing. It’s been reported that this machine seemingly was built to “bridge the gap” between the consumer iMac and the Mac Pro but allowing it to access 4 GB of RAM would have possibly affected Mac Pro sales. Indeed, I have been debating about whether to upgrade to a 24 inch iMac instead of a Mac Pro and the limited memory is one of the big hang-ups stopping me from doing so. If you’re wondering why I’m hung up on the 1 GB of RAM, I can sum it up in one word: Motion. I put 4GB of RAM in my current dual 2 GHz G5 PowerMac to support real-time rendering, so I’m very hesitant to back down to an amount less than that, even though I am not sure it would impact much.
That said, I discovered one thing about equipping the 24 inch iMac with memory that goes against common wisdom. For this model only, if you want 3 GB of RAM, I recommend you order it from Apple. Doing so only adds $750 to the cost. If you try to do the same thing using memory from Crucial, you’ll have to throw away (or sell if you’re lucky) the two 512MB sticks that come with the machine. A 2GB stick will cost you an amazing $1370 and another 1 GB stick will cost $190. Other World Computing has a much more price competitive 3GB set listed at $859. But, in either case, buying from Apple is cheaper. The only caveat I can see is the standard one concerning buying a CTO (Configure To Order) system from Apple. If there’s something wrong with the system, you can only get a repair. They will not refund your money or exchange it for another system unless it’s DOA (Dead on Arrival).
I really liked the new iMac, though I’m not sure that the additional 4 inches of screen real estate is worth $500 in additional cost (or $800 if compared against a refurb 20 inch Core Duo iMac). I’m more inclined to upgrade my PowerMac to a Mac Pro and put the extra $500 there. Really, though, I’m not in any kind of a hurry to upgrade the PowerMac, if I do it at all. My wife, on the other hand, could really use a new Intel iMac for the same reason I bought one, i.e., its ability to run Windows. She also wants an iMac with an internal iSight. So, we’re still trying to figure out what the best way is to do that. Unlike our move to the G5, it’s going to take us years to transition all our machines to Intel powered Macs. Until Adobe and Microsoft release Universal version of their applications, there’s no big impetus to complete that anyway. Believe me, there are days when I feel like moving all my stuff back onto my G5 PowerMac just because it is all compatible and the machine’s so nice.