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Manufacturer: Apple

iMac 2002
May 7, 2002 | Richard Hallas

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Much has already been written about the new G4 flat-panel iMac. It's not often that the introduction of a new personal computer merits a cover feature in TIME magazine, whilst simultaneously provoking consumers to debate whether it looks like a desk light or an alien spaceship. The launch of the new iMac has caused a splash of the kind not seen since... well, the launch of the old iMac! But that's because there aren't many companies like Apple; none of the other makers of today's desktop computers can come close to Apple in terms of defining not only technological trends but also sheer style in the computer market. Whether or not you like the looks of the new flat-panel iMac, there's no denying that it's a bold design statement and a radical departure from the accepted definition of what a computer should look like. It'll be interesting to see how many copy-cat spin-offs it spawns in the PC world.

Of course, there has been speculation and debate about a successor to the old-style iMac for many months; it was widely rumoured that Apple was going to replace the iMac with a new flat-panel machine as much as a year before the new iMac actually arrived. Even now that it's here, potential users are still having to wait, thanks to high demand, production problems and component shortages. But the specifications of the new iMac make it a machine worth waiting for; it's powerful and flexible enough to turn the heads of many users who might otherwise have considered more expensive Power Macs.

The fact that the iMac now boasts a fast G4 processor (an unexpected bonus which previously was reserved solely for Apple's professional range) also makes the new iMac an interesting machine for Mac users who want to play games. The earlier G3 iMac, for all its benefits, could never really compete with the more expensive G4 Power Macs for game performance; and yet, the Power Mac price range was too expensive for the sorts of casual consumer users who would be likely to want to play a few games on their machines. Many of these kinds of users may even have succumbed to the temptation to buy PCs instead. So putting a G4 in the iMac was a shrewd move for Apple: its resulting new machine addresses the needs of consumers whilst offering them the kind of performance required to play the latest games without having to spend a fortune on a professional-level Power Mac.

Jumping The Queue
Long delays when ordering new iMacs have been well documented. Lest it be thought that such esteemed journalists as IMG writers have preferential treatment when ordering new computers from Apple, I should hasten to dispel the myth. I was merely lucky in being able to obtain an iMac quickly. The machine, which was a top-of-the-range 800MHz model with SuperDrive, was ordered in mid-February and turned up a little over a month later, two days before the price-rise announced by Apple at the Tokyo show. So, not only was the machine the first to arrive in my part of the UK, but it was also one of the very few to be sold at the lower original price.

And how was this miracle achieved? By ordering a special custom-built iMac. All G4 iMacs have two RAM slots and can take up to 1 GB of RAM, but 256 MB is the standard memory fitted to the top-end model. Unfortunately, only one of the two RAM slots is available to the user: the main internal RAM supplied by Apple has to be factory-fitted and can't easily be replaced, so accepting the standard 256 MB of RAM limits the machine's maximum capacity to 768Mb. So it made sense to me to order an iMac with 512Mb of internal RAM at the outset, thus leaving the option open to add another 512Mb at a future date and take it to the full 1GB.

All the news reports suggested that special-order iMacs would take even longer to arrive than normal ones, and I didn't expect to see the machine until late in April. However, I was lucky for once: it seems that the special order for RAM caused my machine to be processed more quickly than others, and it turned up unexpectedly only a month or so after the order was placed. And so, for the last few weeks, I have been enjoying the considerable benefits of an 800 MHz G4 iMac with 60 GB hard drive, DVD-writing capability, 512 MB of RAM and Mac OS 10.1.2 (which I have now upgraded to 10.1.4).


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