The educational iMac makes the grade
Apple’s iMac for Education can’t quite match the performance of the more full-featured Core Duo-based iMacs. But the 1.83GHz machine easily tops the PowerPC-based eMac in Macworld Lab testing. The desktop designed for classrooms also earns a passing grade by out-performing the MacBook that sports the same processor and integrated graphics set-up.
Apple closed the book on PowerPC-based offerings for educators earlier this month when it replaced the 1.42GHz eMac G4 with a 17-inch 1.83GHz iMac Core Duo. While similar to the rest of the iMac line in many ways, this particular model had a number of key differences—notably, a smaller hard drive, integrated graphics, and no built-in Bluetooth wireless networking capabilities. Of course, the iMac for Education also sported a significantly lower price tag—$899, compared to $1,299 for the full-featured 17-inch iMac.
Apple isn’t making this system available to individual buyers, only educational institutions. (Indeed, it took some doing on our part just to wrangle a unit for testing and review.) But we thought it would be illustrative to see how the iMac for Education compares to other Intel-based iMacs as well as the desktop machine it’s replacing in Apple’s product line for schools.
On that first front, the iMac for Education lags behind its Core Duo-based counterpart, but that’s to be expected due to some of the under-the-hood differences between the otherwise identical machines. The education iMac has a smaller hard drive (80GB versus 160GB) and a CD-burning combo drive (instead of a DVD-burning SuperDrive). It also uses the same integrated, main-memory-sharing Intel graphics you’ll find in MacBooks and Intel-based Mac minis; the regular iMac has an ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card with 128MB of dedicated memory.
Our testing in systems that use integrated graphics has shown how that can affect system performance, particularly in graphics-intensive applications such as 3-D games. Results for the iMac for Education were no exception, though we also found its smaller hard drive to be a bit pokier, with results in our folder duplication and archiving test slower than the retail iMac’s results.
iMac for Education Benchmarks
|Speedmark 4.5||Adobe Photoshop CS2||Cinema 4D XL 9.5.21||iMovie 6.0.1||iTunes 6.0.4||Unreal Tournament 2004||Finder|
|OVERALL SCORE||SUITE||RENDER||AGED EFFECT||MP3 ENCODE||FRAME RATE||ZIP ARCHIVE|
|17-inch iMac Education Configuration/1.83GHz Core Duo||175||2:46||1:18||1:08||1:10||20.6||2:49|
|17-inch iMac/1.83GHz Core Duo*||202||2:44||1:18||1:08||1:22||50.2||2:44|
Best results in bold. Reference system in italics .
Integrated graphics and a smaller hard drive may have contributed to the large performance gap we found in the iPhoto test in which we import 100 photos. We’ve seen before that this test is very picky about hard drives. (As a side note, while we believe the results above are safe to reference, though our full-featured 17-inch iMac Core Duo remains on the Disabled List, making it unavailable for retesting with Mac OS X 10.4.7. Once we have a chance to re-run these tests with the latest version of OS X, results could shift one way or another by a few seconds or points.)
To compare the educational iMac to the eMac, we loaded up the latter system with 1GB of RAM and OS X 10.4.7; we also updated the installed applications. Aside from non- Universal Binary apps that must run under the Rosetta emulation technology, students will have much to look forward to in terms of the iMac’s performance relative to the eMac’s. In processor-intensive apps, like Cinema4D XL, the educational iMac finished rendering a scene in less than one-third the time it took the eMac. In our iMovie and iTunes tests, the iMac finished in a little more than half the time it took the eMac while Unreal Tournament scores were nearly identical between the two systems. (Then again, it’s not as if gaming is a big priority at schools these days.)
We were also curious as to how this new iMac would compare to the MacBook, which has a 1.83GHz processor (same as the iMac) and integrated graphics (ditto). In this scenario, the iMac’s hard drive was faster than the MacBook’s, allowing it to post better results in drive-specific tests. The iMac also out-performed the MacBook on CPU-intensive apps like Cinema 4D, Photoshop, and iTunes encoding.
Check back for Macworld’ s complete review coming soon.