The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

A new iMac - the story so far

– October 12th, 2004 –

Mark recounts his experiences of buying, opening and starting a new 1.8GHz G5 iMac. For those who are interested…

As promised here’s the story so far with the new iMac. As mentioned in a previous post it all started with a phone call from the Apple centre in Cardiff telling me new iMac had come in five days early.

So, I patiently waited until lunchtime then drove up there picked the new machine up.

The first thing I noticed was what a tiny, lightweight box in comparison with all my other computers from Apple (this is now my fourth, the other were: 1994 - 1997 LC630, 1997 - 1999 Performa 6400, 1999 - 2004 B&W G3) True, the other computers I had came with a large monitor as well and all but one were tower cases.

The slightly annoying thing is that I couldn’t set the machine up properly until the Sunday evening as I had friends staying for the weekend and it would have seemed a little rude of me to hide away playing with my new toy.

Heading - packaging

The design of the box is typically Apple (as shown in the image below), the experience of removing the machine from the packaging was also pretty good apart from there’s no obvious place to get hold of the machine, kind of like the G4 iMac really. For years now Apple has sold us the concept of handles on our computers. Then suddenly it’s dawned on them that people don’t actually move them around that much and therefore they probably don’t need one. Good move. Still, it took me a while to work out that grabbing it on either side of the screen is ok.

box.jpg

The machine itself, keyboard and mouse were covered in a removable plastic film which is the sort of thing I don’t like taking off. It’s not a pleasurable experience. It’s like the moment of no return, the beginning of your new computer being tarnished. Or maybe that’s just me?

Designless

Setting up the machine, I mean, putting 3 cables in because that’s all you need to do, was very easy indeed. Even my mum could do it. The first thing was trying to locate the on button. It’s located on the back of the machine is is the only thing to be slightly raised and feel like a button. Very nice. I push it and the familiar chimes ring out as the machine kicks into gear.

The Setup program has been tweaked slightly from a UI point of view and it is now more aligned with some of the fancy UI stuff that OS X can do. The different screens of the setup proceedure no rotate as if on the sides of a cube, similar to the fast using switching in OS X. I’m such a sucker for things like this. Looks nice, very tactile, and makes filling out forms a little more interesting.

welcome.jpg

Once that was complete the familiar desktop appeared and that was the end of my first experience with my new machine. All in all a good one.

Now a few things about design. The appearance of the G5 iMac is one of understated elegance. It does this very well indeed. There is no unessential visual clutter around the screen, no buttons you hardly ever use, no lights, nothing other than a big grey Apple logo (even this logo should belong on the back if you ask me). All the controls, ports, sockets etc are on the back out of sight.

The CD drive is located on the side and is just a slot for you to shove the CD into. I had my reservations about this design because I thought you may have to look where you were putting the disk, but actually you just run it along from the back until you find the slot then push the disk in.

On the back of the iMac, it’s obvious you’re looking at an iMac, from the rather large word!

imac_back.jpg

After thinking about this, this simple attention to detail is what sets Apple apart from the rest of the competition. Apple have realised the backs of their computers are important. Not only are they where all the ports go and things like that but they’re also on display. Most reception desks, a lot of offices, expose the backs of the computers to be on full view of anyone who walks by. This is Apple’s latest attempt at making looking at the back of a computer a little more enjoyable.


Dispelling the rumours

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There are many potential hurdles which the new G5 iMac has had to jump over. Processor speed, and associated generated heat being one of them.

One of the USP’s of many of the previous iMac models has been the ‘lack of fan’, the ‘quietness’ of the running machine. The iMac G5 is no different. Apple touts the noise of this machine being less than a whisper in an empty room. Not the whole truth.

If all you want to do on your new iMac is write email, surf the web, use Word, then you aren’t going to have a problem with noise. End of story. But, if you want to play games, use Photoshop, edit video or do anything else which requires the processor or graphics card then the fans begin to kick in.

The G5 iMac comes with 3 fans, all of which are controlled to come on when needed, to slow down when and speed up when required. The fans are distributed around the machine and ensure a cooling airflow. The ‘thermal chimney’ (as the Apple rep put it) is vital to this airflow. Along the base, beneath the screen, is a perforated area where air is sucked in (it also allows sound to come out from the speakers) by the fans and then blown out of a ridge on the back of the machine. The great thing is, this ventilation is so well integrated into the design they are unnoticable, completely.


Summing it up

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I’ve only been using the machine now for a couple of days and so far it’s managed to dispel all of my preconceptions. It’s fast, ergonomic & quiet. I couldn’t ask for more for a home computer. I even wouldn’t want switch to twenty inch version, this one’s just fine!

Filed in: apple, news.

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