Thoughts on the New iMac

It’s no great secret around here that I’m a Mac fan, but I’ve got to say that Apple’s design for the new iMac has left me cold.

As with the previous iMacs, it’s an all in one design. This time around though, that design takes the form of a flat-screen monitor that’s been bulked up with the computer’s innards. All of the peripheral connections are located down the back of the monitor, and the computer itself sits on a gray steel stand.

It’s got a G5 processor, two Firewire 400 ports, three USB 2.0 ports and two USB 1.1 ports and supports up to 2 gig of RAM. It can also support Bluetooth (and thus, wireless mice and keyboards). Not bad, but why is there no Firewire 800 port? And why only 2 gig of RAM, when Mac OS X can support far more (presumably it’s a space issue). And why does it only ship with 256 meg of RAM? I mean, come on guys everyone knows that Mac OS X loves RAM, and shipping with less than 512 RAM is just stupid. Machines with less than 512 RAM are going to feel slightly sluggish and slow, even with the G5 processor. Macs already get slammed (unjustly, in my humble opinion) for performance — why play into that by shipping with less than optimal RAM?

But all in all, the specs are halfway decent … but the look, well, this thing looks like a big slab of white, just hanging there in space. It’s like an inverse monolith — you can almost hear Dave Bowman intoning “My God, it’s full of snow!”

Looking at it for the first time does not instill the sense of “gee, that’s really cool” that one gets looking at a PowerBook or iPod. Instead, my first thought was … “man, is that clunky.” It’s not ugly, not exactly, but it certainly lacks a fundamental gracefulness.

Now having said this, I wasn’t really thrilled with the “lamp-like” iMac when I first saw it, and it was only when I got to play with it hands-on in an Apple store that I began to appreciate the design. You wouldn’t know it to look at it, but when you’re working on one of the old iMacs, the only thing you’re really aware of is the screen and the keyboard. The rest of the computer disappears from conscious thought. I suspect a similar effect with this new iMac, particularly when configured with a wireless mouse and keyboard, so I’ll reserve judgment until I see one. But so far, I’m not impressed.

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