iMAC G4/7004.0 mice; Apple Computer, 800/692-7753, www.apple.com; $1,599
Offering the same groundbreaking industrial design as its 800MHz counterpart (4.5 mice; The Fast Crowd, May 2002), the midlevel 700MHz edition of the iMac G4 is what you might expect--not as equipped as the more expensive model, but priced lower.
This model differs from the top-of-the-line $1,899 iMac: it has a smaller, 40GB hard drive (as opposed to a 60GB drive in the top model) and a combo optical drive that writes CD-Rs and reads DVDs (instead of the DVD-burning SuperDrive in the high-end model). For many users this is an attractive option, even though the price has been increased by $100 since the iMac G4s were announced.
In Macworld Lab tests, this new iMac, while slower than the 800MHz model, was noticeably faster than the previous generation of iMacs. In our Speedmark tests, which measure overall system performance, the new model scored 132--not as good as the 140 of the 800MHz model, but much better than the 119 of an iMac G3/700. In tests with G4-enabled applications, the iMac G4/700 also shone. In our Adobe Photoshop tests, for example, the iMac G4/700 ran 33 percent faster than the iMac G3/700 but 21 percent slower than the iMac G4/800.--Jason Snell
4.0 mice; Totally Hip Software, 604/685-6525, www.totallyhip.com; $50
If you're seeking a full-featured slide-show application, you should give Totally Hip Software's LiveSlideShow 2.0 a look. This OS 9 and OS Xcompatible program excels in its ability to present digital photos as QuickTime-movie slide shows that incorporate scrolling captions, transition effects, navigation buttons, sound, and themes. You could use an application such as Apple's iPhoto to create slide shows with the click of a button, but LiveSlideShow's iMovie-like interface is nearly as easy to use--you simply drag and drop images onto a timeline and preview your work as you go.
LiveSlideShow also includes welcome audio enhancements. Thanks to the program's built-in audio-recording function, you can add narration to individual slides. New to version 2.0 is the ability to add a background-music track and match the slide show's length to the music's. The program now lets you play slide shows at full-screen size and copy-protect your work. While additional themes are available as free downloads from Totally Hip's Web site, we'd like to see more variety, as well as tools for creating your own themes.--Christopher Breen
3.5 mice; Alien Skin Software, 888/921-7546, www.alienskin.com; $99
Alien Skin Software's Splat offers six fun filters for use with Adobe Photoshop 5.0 and later (including Photoshop 7.0 in OS X) and Macromedia Fireworks 3.0 and later. The Fill Stamp filter peppers a selected area with random images of a certain category (mixed nuts, for example), and if you keep the density high, you can partially cover your source photo (of your bridge-playing aunt, for example) with the images you choose. Similarly, the Patchwork filter uses patterns, such as photorealistic stitches, light pegs, or even ASCII text, to render your original image. And the Frame filter surrounds your selection with designs or images of natural media, but unlike most framing tools, it brings in different side and corner images. However, you can't alter the frame's color before applying the filter; some of the other filters have similar restrictions.
Overall, the effects run a bit slower than those supplied by Adobe, and previews take a few seconds to render. But the effects look sharp even at print resolution, and Alien Skin designed the interface thoughtfully: you can enlarge the preview window and undo to your heart's content, and each filter has a number of useful presets.--David Weiss
3.5 mice; WiebeTech, 316/744-8722, www.wiebetech.com; $100; with power supply, $130
WiebeTech's OS X compatible FireWire DriveDock makes quick work of converting an internal IDE hard drive into a portable FireWire device. Simply connect the DriveDock's little blue block connector and power brick to your old drive, and use a FireWire cable to connect the DriveDock to your computer's FireWire port--the device then mounts on your desktop. (The power supply is not included, but it's available for an additional $30. You'll need to buy one if you plan to use this drive externally.) Performance depends on the drive you use in the FireWire DriveDock but compares favorably to the performance of other external drive kits that use the same highly touted Oxford 911 Bridge.
Unlike most drive kits, the DriveDock does not have an outer case, so it has a bare, industrial look. But it does have a bottom plate with four small rubber feet, which prevent vibration and protect the drive's internal electronics. Although the DriveDock takes up less desktop space than an encased external drive kit, we found that the external power brick was a bit unwieldy when we transported the drive between workstations.--James Galbraith