by June 7, 2002 0 comments

I had seen many pictures of this one, but was still not ready for what I saw when the new iMac was pulled out of the box. There it stood, softly glowing in translucent white, larger in life than in the pictures, unlike any other computer I had seen before. That was at an exclusive preview before the machine was actually launched in India. So, when it landed at PCQ Labs, it was no wonder that I was the first in the queue to take it for a spin.

Everything is white–the base, the keyboard, the mouse, the cords, even the telephone cable supplied for the modem. The only exception to the rule is the yoke that connects the display to the base, which is metallic–shining steel.

Set up was not a problem. All ports and connections are at the back. You connect the keyboard to one of the USB ports and the optical mouse to the keyboard. Plug in the speakers, and the power chord and that’s it. But I had a bit of a problem switching the machine on–the power switch was almost invisible! Similarly, the CD-R/DVD drive on the front is also almost invisible, what with no buttons up front to open the drive. You open and close the drive using a separate button on the top row, at theright on the keyboard. You can also open the drive, if there is a disk inside, by command clicking on its icon and selecting eject.


You can swivel the iMac’s display around, and adjust its height and tilt. The interesting thing is that you can do all that with just one finger

Price: Basic Model: Rs 97,000; Intermediate model: Rs110,500; Top model: Rs 125,800
Meant for: Style-conscious people
Pros: Unique design, high-end features, easy to adjust and work with, clear display, very good sound
Cons: Costly (not everyone can afford one)
Contact: Apple, Bangalore. 
Tel: 080-5550575, 9622-030405 (Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi). 

The iMac does not make any noise, because it does not have a fan inside, and like its predecessors, uses some clever design to keep its innards cool. At the base, and again at the top of the dome, you will find a couple of rows of holes punched in. What you would dismiss off as elements of design and nothing more is what keeps the machine cool. Air flows in from the bottom holes, and on getting heated up, rises upwards to be vented out of the top ones. Ingenuity at its best!

The new iMac is available in three models–the basic model has a 700 MHz CPU, 40 GB hard disk, 128 MB RAM, built-in modem and networking, a CD-RW drive and no extra speakers. You have to do with the built-in sound, which is barely passable, but clear. The in-between model makes do with a combo DVD/CD-RW and speakers over and above the base model, along with 256 MB of RAM. We got this model for review. At the highest end, you get 800 MHz, 256 MB RAM, designer speakers, 60 GB of hard disk, networking, modem, and a DVD-Writer cum CD-Writer. All the models run Mac OS X, and the graphics card on all three is an Nvidia GeForce 2 MX with 32 MB RAM. There are two complementing dots on the base of the display. The one on the right side lights up when the machine is not off or not in sleep. The one on the left is the built-in microphone!

Once switched on, two things strike you almost at once–the clarity and quality of sound emanating from the small speakers, and the quality of the LCD display.

If the speakers are not fully plugged in, sound will get garbled, and interestingly, the OS will indicate that the speakers are not correctly plugged in.

Because of the way the machine has been designed, you can easily adjust the display to suit your orientation and height. You can swivel it around, adjust the height and the tilt. The interesting thing is that you can do all that with just one finger. The display moves around easily, and once left alone, remains steady for days on end. Also, after setting the tilt, if you change the height, the tilt will remain. The display swings through almost 180 degrees, and at any angle, it is clear and sharp.

Does this mean that the connector connecting the base to the display is fragile? To test this out, we lifted the machine literally by its neck and put it back, many times over. It successfully passed these tests, as we did not notice any degradation in its stability or smoothness of movement.

Unlike with PCs, the iMac offers very limited options for expansion. The only things you can add are more RAM and an Airport (for wireless networking) card. Both of these are added by opening up the base of the machine. Theoretically, a hard disk or processor upgrade should also be possible by taking the machine back to Apple, but these options are not mentioned anywhere in the manuals or at Apple’s website.

All standard applications that ship with Mac OS X are included. These include iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD. As I said earlier, working on this machine is a pleasure. Put a fresh CD-R into the drive, and the machine automatically recognizes it and prompts you to prepare it for writing. We put it through its paces by giving it some video work to do, including preparing some of the material for this month’s PCQuest TV, Qtv. The iMac acquitted itself well. But it was not flawless sailing all the way through. A couple of times, the machine did not recover from sleep, and had to be restarted. 

The Bottom Line: A dream machine, but at a stiff price. Perhaps the unique design justifies the price, but most people would have to remain happy just dreaming about this one, not owning it.

Krishna Kumar

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