I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about how to get me and my wife where I wanted to go, and I finally figured it out Saturday afternoon.
For some weeks, I’ve been looking at what the next step in our shift to Intel powered Macs would be. I also have been becoming more and more aware of the limitations of the Intel iMac. I’ve had few problems running Adobe Photoshop CS2, Illustrator CS2, In Design CS, or Go Live CS; but I still notice the speed hit I take on it when I return to run the same on my dual G5 PowerMac. Live Paint crashes on my Intel iMac anytime I try to run it, but runs on my G5 flawlessly. I also have been feeling that Connie needed an Intel powered Mac more than I did. She has a Compaq iPaq her university gave her that synchs up with a Windows computer; and she has been wanting an iMac with an internal iSight. That made getting her an iMac the obvious solution, but I wasn’t sure that was the best one. I have been working pretty hard to get us out of credit card debt, so I wanted to limit spending on anything I did to around $1000. I’d go higher if I had to; and the problem with buying any kind of iMac was that I was going to have to.
I’m much more of a power user than my wife; so, I felt that if I was going to buy a Core 2 Duo powered iMac, I’d take it and give her my Core Duo. We both think the 24 inch iMac is pretty sweet; and we both also had doubts that the big screen alone was worth an extra $500. I ultimately decided not to buy one because of the machine’s 3 GB limit on RAM and the inability to upgrade the hard disk without voiding the warranty. By the time I equipped a 24 inch iMac with all the memory it could hold, it would cost more than a basic Mac Pro.
In a blog a few weeks ago, I mentioned I was thinking of giving up my iMac altogether and just working from a tower. I’ve always liked having a distinct computer for video editing because once I start rendering or encoding, the machine is lost for all practical purposes until it finishes. Frankly, I’m not doing that much video editing, and most of the time, my dual PowerMac has been sitting unused.
That said, Friday night I almost bit into buying an Intel iMac. The Apple Store had a “refreshed” 20 inch Core Duo iMac for $999. In reality, the “refreshed” machine was a demo, and Connie and I both had misgivings about buying a demo, even though the price was right. So, that put me back in a quandry about how to solve this problem. All I knew was that the best solution would optimize the assets I already had.
I spent some time at a local MicroCenter and the Apple Store both Friday night and Saturday afternoon, and my solution finally came to me. I could buy a new 23 inch Apple Cinema Display for $999,run my Dual PowerMac G5 on it, resurrect my PC and put it on my 20 inch Apple Cinema Display currently on the G5 PM, and then turn over my Intel iMac to my wife. We could sell her old iMac for five or six hundred dollars to recover most of the cost of the display, and I'd answer my own questions about running on a tower alone. If I liked that well enough, in the middle of or late next year, I could step up to a Mac Pro and sell my G5 PowerMac or give it away. This would also allow me to stage my software purchases without taking a performance penalty by delaying. Since I would be running native software I already own, I could buy the new Universal versions of Office and Adobe when I was "ready" in every sense of the word.
The one kink in the plan was the Apple 23 inch display’s notoriety for the “pink problem” and the generic risk one takes buying any new display (dead or stuck on pixels). I knew that Apple had revised the displays just a few months ago and the pink problem had been addressed in the new batch, the serial number of which was listed on Barefeats.com. Using the information from the site as a reference, I copied down the serial number on a piece of paper and took it with me.
Once in the Apple Store, I took time to evaluate my options one last time. I looked again at the 24 inch iMac, a 20 inch iMac, but spent most of my time looking at a 23 inch Cinema Display. Once I was sure I knew what I wanted, I flagged down a young salesman and asked him to get me a 23 inch display with the serial number in a range at or above the number on the paper. He looked at me funny but did just that, and I bought it.
Once I got it home, I reconfigured systems. The first steps involved making sure I had moved all my data from my Intel powered iMac onto my G5 PowerMac. Once done, I repartitioned the drive in my Intel iMac and reloaded OS X from its original DVD's. During the first boot up afterwards, I used the Migration Assistant to move my wife’s data off her old 17 inch G5 iMac onto the “new” Intel via Firewire, a process that took well over an hour. Once that was complete, I ran Software Update on the Intel until it had everything, including the just releaased Mac OS 10.4.8 update. Once complete, I hauled the Intel iMac out to my wife’s desk and completed the setup by hooking up her keyboard and mouse, and going through her applications to update the ones I could to Universal Binaries.
I then moved the G5 PowerMac over to my desk, unpacked the new 23 inch display, and hooked it up. Its connectors included a DVI cable, a Firewire cable, a USB 2.0 cable, and a small cable with an oval connector that hooked into a small power block. These connectors merged into a single cable that flowed into the back of the Cinema Display. Unlike the ADC Apple Cinema Displays that have a button on the display that turns on your system, these displays turn on when you turn on your system using its power button.
Much to my relief, there were no dead pixels on the display. At first I thought that backlighting was uneven and that the display was more brightly lit on the top, but a little experimentation showed that my desktop backgrounds were making it appear that way and the lighting was even. (Some of Apple’s Aqua desktop backgrounds use varying shades of blue and while they’re appealing, they’ll also throw you off if you’re trying to evaluate monitors.)
Like all new Apple monitors, this one’s screen appears slightly dirty against a bright white background and compared to the screen of my ADC 20 incher. I’m told that’s due to an anti-glare coating. When you look at the 23 incher in near proximity with the 20 incher, the latter appears brighter. It's also hard to tell that the 23 incher is really bigger, though a few minutes with a ruler proved that to be an optical illusion created by the ADC's large plastic frame.
At one thousand dollars, the monitor is priced a couple of hundred dollars higher than it needs to be. I paid the premium because of the display’s aesthetics and because it is supposed to be matched up with my G5, which it does appear to be. I thought about buying a Dell 24 inch display but didn’t because of those things and because the Apple has Firewire 400 ports on it, something the Dell doesn't. Also, even though it cost an extra $99, Apple now sells Apple Care for solo displays, extending your warranty out to a full three years; and something they also didn't use to do. Hooray for them; that took away any hesitancy I had about committing that much money.
So, how do I like this set-up? I do. It doesn’t have the elegance of my iMac’s; but from a practical and performance perspective, it is much better. It’s a nice, clear, expansive desktop. My only real complaints don’t center on the display but around my G5, whose fans seem to cycle up at the slightest increase in CPU workload. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put up with that and not get so disgusted I buy a Mac Pro before the software and my finances are ready. The only other thing I’ve noticed is that the display is so big I can feel some heat coming off it; though to the touch, the display is only very slightly warmer than room temperature. Compared to the heat the G5 PM puts in the room, it is nothing.
So, what my computer plans for us? My next purchase will be a Mac Pro (hopefully) no earlier than the middle of next year and definitely after Adobe releases Universal Binary versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, and Go Live; and I have acquired each of them. I will move on one or more notebook purchases if one of our current PowerBooks crap out; but for the moment, they’re still going strong and replacements will come after the Mac Pro gets a home here.
Neither of us really knows what I’m going to do.