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The IMac: Apple's All-In-One Solution For The Desktop

Should You Buy a New Mac Mini, iMac or Mac Pro?
By

The iMac has one of the more unique histories among desktop computer lines. Perhaps what sets it apart more than anything is that it was one of the first - and to date, certainly the most commercially successful - of the "all-in-one" computer desktops. The original iMac, released in 1998, contained a G3 (roughly similar to a Pentium II) 233 MHz CPU running on a 66 MHz system bus, and sold for $1,299. External expandability was limited to two USB 1 ports on the side of the system, and two more USB 1 ports on the keyboard. When it was first released, the iMac came in only one design, the now infamous (and uniquely translucent) "Bondi Blue":

All-In-One simplicity: The original "Bondi Blue" iMac. Courtesy of Masashige Motoe and Wikimedia Commons.

In terms of both style and power, iMacs have changed considerably in the nine plus years since their original release. The 20" flat-screen Intel iMacs, which run Core 2 Duos at 2.0 or 2.4 GHz on an 800-MHz Front Side Bus, are described below:

The "Ice White" Exterior has been replaced with "Brushed Aluminum": The 2007 iMacs.

IMac 20" Default Configurations

Hardware
Model 20" iMac (MA876LL) 20" iMac (MA877LL)
Processor 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
L2 Cache 4 MB Shared 4 MB Shared
Front Side Bus 800 MHz 800 MHz
Memory 1 GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (1 x 1 GB)
Upgradeable to 2 GB (2 x 1 GB) or 4 GB (2 x 2 GB) of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Hard Drive 250 GB 7200 RPM SATA
Upgradeable to 320 GB or 500 GB
320 GB 7200 RPM SATA
Upgradeable to 500 GB or 750 GB
Optical Drive 8x "SuperDrive" with 4x DL
(CD-RW DVD±R DL DVD±RW)
8x "SuperDrive" with 4x DL
(CD-RW DVD±R DL DVD±RW)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128 MB RAM (no upgrade options) ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256 MB RAM (no upgrade options)
Display 20" (viewable) glossy wide screen TFT active-matrix LCD, 1680 by 1050 pixels, millions of colors
Display Ports Mini-DVI output port (support for DVI, VGA, S-video, and composite video connections via adapter (sold separately)
Audio Built-in stereo speakers with 24-watt digital amplifier, built-in microphone, optical digital audio output/headphone out, optical digital audio input/audio line in
Video Built-in iSight Camera
Ports One FireWire 800, One FireWire 400, Three USB 2, plus Two USB 2 on Keyboard
Network Wired: 10/100/1000 BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
Wireless: AirPort Extreme (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
Warrantee 90 days free phone support, one year limited warrantee
Accessories USB Keyboard and Mouse plus Remote Control all included, IR Receiver included, Wireless Keyboard and Mouse are available
Software Mac OS X 10.4.10 Tiger Operating System, iLife ’08 (including Microsoft Office Demo), iWork ’08 (30 day trial), Front Row, and Photo Booth
Base Model Price $1,199.00 $1,499.00

I’ll next take a look at Apple’s high end iMacs, the 24" iMac models

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  • 0 Hide
    miniboss , December 5, 2007 12:50 PM
    What really kills me is that when you look at any of these "Mac comparisons" then there is a gigantic hole in the lineup because Apple doesn't make a basic tower system. Some people don't need a $3000 quad core system and don't want an integrated monitor glued on an un-upgradeable system.

    I've been in the market for a $1000 "Mac Desktop" for several months but in the end just gave up and reluctantly got a nice cheap Dell. I would have definitely preferred a Mac but if they refuse to make an "ordinary" product for us "ordinary" people then I'll throw my money elsewhere.

    BTW, for less than $600 this is what I got from Dell C2D/2GB/250GB/DVDRW/x1300/22"LCD = $600. What's odd is that Apple would easily charge $1100 for these specs so people should really quit making fun of PC's because if Apple ruled the world then we'd all be broke.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , December 16, 2007 11:25 PM
    I agree with mini-boss totally.I can either build or buy a Dell Desktop for half the price of any Mac that has the same specs.I recently built a PC for under $500 that can play any game out there on the highest settings. I am looking for performance not some externally pretty machine.
  • 0 Hide
    brian_stone , January 2, 2008 3:17 AM
    miniboss-

    While I totally understand your shopping method, I think its important to realize there is more to the computing experience than cheap hardware. I'd gladly pay 1200 for an iMac (2x what your dell costs) just so that I could have the iLife software and OS X. The iLife software is the best software for ordinary folks I've ever seen. Nothing touches it on any platform, including OS X. As for the OS, I guess basic file management can be had on any system, but I love the fact that I don't have to deal with virus/spyware/zombieware on my Mac. That last point alone is worth paying a measly $600. So, maybe Apple does not have the widest selection of hardware at the cheapest prices, but the actual experience of using it is worth far more than the cash you saved.

    In my daily work, I use 5 machines, 2 are Macs. My home computer is a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    brian_stone , January 2, 2008 3:17 AM
    miniboss-

    While I totally understand your shopping method, I think its important to realize there is more to the computing experience than cheap hardware. I'd gladly pay 1200 for an iMac (2x what your dell costs) just so that I could have the iLife software and OS X. The iLife software is the best software for ordinary folks I've ever seen. Nothing touches it on any platform, including OS X. As for the OS, I guess basic file management can be had on any system, but I love the fact that I don't have to deal with virus/spyware/zombieware on my Mac. That last point alone is worth paying a measly $600. So, maybe Apple does not have the widest selection of hardware at the cheapest prices, but the actual experience of using it is worth far more than the cash you saved.

    In my daily work, I use 5 machines, 2 are Macs. My home computer is a Mac.
  • 0 Hide
    brian_stone , January 2, 2008 3:19 AM
    I know.. I accidentally posted twice. shame the system won't allow me to erase the phantom post.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 5, 2008 7:40 PM
    I was investigating the Mac Pro recently but couldn't bring myself to part with $2500. Instead I spent $1100 and built the following:

    Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Processor(2.40GHz, 4x2MB, 1066MHz FSB)
    ABIT IP35-E Motherboard (P35 Express, 8GB DDR2, 1333MHz FSB)
    G.Skill 4GB PC2-6400 DDR2 DIMM Dual Channel Memory
    ASUS GeForce 8500GT 256MB GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
    Seagate Barracuda 320GB Hard Drive(Serial ATA-300, 7,200 RPM, 16MB)
    Lite-On Dual Layer DVD±RW Writer (8x DVD±R DL)
    Antec SOLO Silver/Black Mini Tower (ATX, 8 Bays)
    Antec EarthWatts EA-430 430W Power Supply
    Acer Black 19" Widescreen LCD Monitor (19", 1440x900, 5ms)
    Microsoft Business Keyboard / Mouse Combo
    Windows XP Professional x64

    And for an extra $200 I am considering another 4Gb of RAM and a second hard disk. All this for less than half the price of the comparable Mac Pro model. My GPU is not spectacular but I'm not a gamer and it is easily upgraded. My next endeavor is to run Leopard on one of this systems' drive partitions. I'm not too crazy about Apple's hardware either. But Tiger running on my 21" iMac G5 2.1Ghz machine has been next to flawless.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 27, 2008 10:05 PM
    I agree with minibus. I just built a system based on the Athlon 6400+ for under $800 (core system). And as far as spending an additional $600-$1,000 for OS X, hey if you have money to burn and love OS X so much, be my guest.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 10, 2008 12:35 AM
    On the matter of the Mac Mini: Not only it uses Intel integrated graphics, it uses *last-generation* Intel integrated graphics! In fact probably the only thing in the current Mac Mini that was changed from the first Intel Mac Mini is the processor!
    On the matter of the Mac Pro: Yep, another Mac model that was not updated in any way other the processor for about 15-18 months! Only in Jan 2008 has there been a real update to the Mac Pro.
    However, keep in mind that the fact that Apple owns the OS allows Apple to make special releases of Mac OS X for new Macs, and though that it is a good thing Macs don't need separate driver CDs for Mac OS X, it also may mean lag time while Apple write the drivers for the new hardware.
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