Apple iMac (2002)

Reviewed by Roger Frost for Times Educational Supplement April 2002
Value 4* Quality 5* Fitness 5* Features 5*

You will not find a tastier looking computer than Apple’s iMac. It is a sight that I’ll wager will turn many heads and tempt many Windows users. Apple are wagering that too, hoping to win over those who want to see what digital music, photos and video have to offer. And, with this looking like it will nicely fit a modern home or classroom, the bet is a good one.
The iMac design again dispenses with the computer box replacing it with a thin panel screen rising from a dome base. The screen is not only bright and it articulates over the keyboard to offer a very comfortable position. Like a good desk lamp, or make–up mirror, this works well on the heavy base. A transparent mouse, keyboard and speakers finish off the design and help make parting with money so much easier. It was the one button mouse that gave a hint this is not for the PC expert.

Pretty much everything you’d need to write documents, file a song collection, edit movies and photos is here. It handled my PC files, including a heap of precious Word files, pictures and Quicktime movies without a moan. AppleWorks 6 is the bundled suite of office tools and capable though it is, there will be folk who have grown up with Word and want else. As ever, if you want pupils to use say, professional software, like Adobe or Macromedia, then this is something to add in.

Most enticing is that on the top end ‘Superdrive’ model, you can make a DVD that works in a domestic player. It’s a two stage process: in the first you use ‘iMovie’ to copy the film from a digital camcorder, find the good bits and save them as high quality Quicktime movies. Next, you drag the movies into ‘iDVD’ to make a DVD menu like one on a commercial release. You can also drag in digital photos instead of movies, and then add a music file (MP3) to make a very upbeat slideshow. The result is impressive enough to have anyone bragging that they’ve made a DVD. And while that’s not one bit sad today, take note that playing with video (on a Mac or PC) requires time of hobby proportions. It took a day to plan and get everything into place, while ‘burning’ it to a disc is an overnight task.

Like much IT stuff, colour printers or cameras, if it’s not used the cost of the hardware overshadows all else. But with blank DVD-R discs costing 4 pounds and falling, casual use of this seems entirely tenable.

The iMac features a high performance G4 chip and it comes with OSX 10.1, a very stable operating system that offers performance gains over last years version 10.0. Here in common with Microsoft Windows XP on PCs, we have a new operating system taking its toll on a well-specced machine. Some will hanker for more thrust, but many will go for the ease and style of OSX. In short it’s sweet and confidence building.

Still what turns out to be easy for beginners also turns out to be devilishly hard for experts. OSX is less for those who like to have control over their machines. It’s like the choice between a manual and automatic gearbox: one is easy to control and the other is easy to use.

Apple’s iMac will allow a tier of people to do a good deal straight out of the box. Consider the prospect of a classroom full of these and the temptation becomes fascinating.


800 MHz G4; 60 Gb hard disc; 256 Mb memory; 15” TFT screen; Modem, Speakers and Superdrive (CD-RW/DVD-R)

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