The Readers Speak

To get a better understanding of what issues matter to Mac users, Macworld has teamed up with market-research firm Karlin Associates to periodically survey subscribers. Survey participants tackle questions ranging from magazine content to important issues facing the Mac platform.

(If you're a Macworld subscriber who's interested in participating in future surveys, click here for more information.)

In our latest survey, we asked Macworld subscribers for their impressions about Apple's redesigned iMac. Karlin Associates surveyed 441 subscribers between February 6 and February 12.

Question 1: What's your overall reaction to the new iMac?

Apple may have just started shipping enough iMacs to begin fulfilling its backlog of orders, but if the response to this question is any indication, the company has another hit on its hands. Forty-eight percent of the respondents described themselves as potential buyers of the new iMac, who either had one on order or couldn't wait to get one. Another 46 percent were positive about the iMac, but didn't think they would buy one. Very few--6 percent--expressed outright disappointment with the redesigned computer.

Question 2: Which features about the iMac appealed to you most?

The 210 respondents who described themselves as potential iMac buyers are most attracted to the computer's flat-panel display and G4 processor. We asked respondents to list their three favorite iMac features--the display and the G4 chip were both cited by more than 70 percent. While the design of the new iMac tied the G4 processor for second place as the top favorite feature, overall potential buyers found the computer's optional SuperDrive more appealing. Fifty percent of the respondents listed it among their top three favorite features compared to 44 percent who cited the iMac's design.

"I think the design is amazing," one respondent wrote. "I will purchase one as soon as I can possibly afford it."

Question 3: If you're disappointed in the new iMac or not planning on buying one, why would you say that is?

Most respondents who did not consider themselves potential iMac buyers either cited the limitations of the all-in-one design or reported they just bought a new machine. Thirty-seven percent checked off that the new iMac was "too limited for professional use," while 38 percent wrote-in specifically to add that they already had a computer, the iMac wasn't adequate for their needs, or they saw specific problems related to the iMac's limited expansion capability:

"The new iMac is downright awesome," one respondent wrote. "Perfect for my parents. Heck, nearly perfect for me. But as a designer I need a 17-inch monitor. And since the iMac only supports monitor mirroring that won't do."

"No internal expansion capability," another respondent said. "All additions hang on FireWire or USB busses externally. I want to be able to add hard drives internally. Also I am still using SCSI devices and have no place to add a SCSI interface card."

Another drawback, cited by one in ten respondents was their preference for portable computers over desktops.

Still, outside of their professional or personal needs, few respondents were actually critical of the new iMac. Only 5 percent said the iMac was "strange looking;" eight percent wrote in comments related to the design:

"Maybe I am a little too conservative," a respondent wrote. "But I want my computer to look like a computer--not a desk lamp!"

Question 4: If you could change one thing about the new iMac, what would it be?

The iMac's 15-inch flat-panel screen and price tag garnered the most attention when we asked respondents what they would change about the computer.

"I think Apple made a big mistake in using a 15-inch screen," one respondent said. "It should definitely have been a 17-inch screen. Yes, for the same price."

"Stunning design," another wrote. "Marvelous execution. Superb feature set with an extreme 'Wow!' factor. Still... it's too expensive."

One respondent offered a caveat about changing the price: "Of course, I'd like to pay less, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I think the new iMac is too expensive."

Among respondents providing write-in comments, many wished for more expansion-related options such as a built-in Zip drive or space for an optional second hard-drive.

Of course, Apple can also take comfort in the fact that 20 percent of our respondents wouldn't change a thing about the new iMac.

Question 5: Mac OS X is now the default OS if you buy a new Mac. Which of the following best describes what you will do regarding OS X?

More good news for Apple, more than half of the respondents in our survey (56 percent) are currently running OS X in one form or another. One in four run OS X as their main operating system, while another 29 percent jump back and forth between the new OS and OS 9.

"Apple continues to thrill me with innovative ideas," a respondent wrote. "The new iMac is fantastic, and I love OS X 10.1."

About as many respondents say they're thinking about trying OS X as those that said they run OS 9 because they prefer it (20 percent versus 17 percent).

Some respondents offered write-in comments to indicate that the absence of specific OS X-native applications is keeping them from making the switch. "The truth is that Photoshop and Quark are not out yet for OS X," one respondent wrote back in February. "I will not change until they are available."

Question 6: Given all the choices Mac users have today, what would you recommend for a first-time computer user?

Even with its radical new look, the iMac should retain its status as the Mac of choice for first-time users, our respondents feel. The largest majority (61 percent) would recommend the new iMac to a first-time user over all other Macs. The original iMac design finished a distant second with 24 percent.

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