With the release of the latest iMac, no one can contend that Apple ignores customer feedback. The new iMacs address the original models' most glaring weaknessesan underabundance of RAM, poor 3-D-graphics-acceleration hardware, no ports for moving data to and from the machine rapidly, no DVD drive, and cheesy-sounding speakers. In each of these areas, Apple made the right moveincluded 64MB of RAM in the base configuration; swapped out the lackluster ATI Rage Pro chip for an 8MB version of the more powerful ATI Rage 128; added two FireWire ports; and installed higher-fidelity, Harman Kardon speakers. At the top of the line sits the iMac DV Special Edition, a tricked-out iMac with a bigger price tag than the original iMac, but an equally large amount of computing firepower.
For a moderately priced consumer model, the iMac DV Special Edition packs a punch. The machine feels faster than a 333MHz first-generation iMac, and that feeling was reflected in Macworld Lab's tests. The 400MHz iMac DV SE scored 20 percent higher than its predecessor in MacBench 5.0's Processor testthough it scored approximately 15 percent lower than a 400MHz Power Mac G3. That's probably due to the Power Mac having a full megabyte of L2 cache, compared with the iMac DV's 512K.
Graphics scores were markedly improved in the iMac DV SE as well. Compared to the 333MHz iMac, the iMac DV SE scored 81 percent higher in MacBench's Graphics test. In terms of Quake frames-per-second (fps) rates, this new iMac more than doubled the performance of the 333MHz iMac (from a miserable 17.4 fps to a very playable 37.3 fps). Thanks to the new Rage 128 graphics chip, such graphics-intensive games as Quake 3, Falcon 4.0, and Unreal Tournament are now playableand enjoyableon an iMac.
While we were very impressed by our iMac DV Special Edition's features and performance, the machine isn't perfect. Among our niggling complaints is the fact that the speakers, while far better than those in previous models, still sound somewhat tinny and should probably be used with the iSub subwoofer if you really care about fidelity. Also, it would be nice if the built-in VGA port supported more resolutions than those native to the iMac DV. We also couldn't get Apple's Final Cut Pro to run on the iMac DV Special Edition, which was quite puzzling. After all, if this model is really intended for digital video, users should be able to choose any video-editing application they likeincluding those applications intended for professionals.
More troubling was the difficulty our iMac had recognizing certain USB devices. A Saitek Cyborg 3D USB joystick, for example, was not recognized on our iMac although it worked perfectly on a 450MHz Power Macintosh G3. Nor would the iMac boot when both a USB Zip drive and an Epson Stylus Photo 1200 were connected to it.
It's great that the iMac DV offers a DVD-ROM drive, but Apple's software-based decoding scheme for DVD movies is flawed. Within a minute of starting a DVD movie, the audio loses sync with the video. Also, whenever you activate a menu or change a controller setting within the Apple DVD Player, the video stutters and briefly becomes pixelated. Apple claims to be working on a fix for these problems.
Hopefully, there's also a fix in the works that will allow applications using PACE copy-protection technologyincluding virtually all professional audio and MIDI applicationsto run. Currently, if you attempt to launch a PACE-protected application, the iMac locks up and must be restarted with the reset button. Regrettably, this problem also exists on Power Mac G4s.
Finally, we're disappointed that this iMac still has the same lack of expandability as its predecessors. Though Apple has done well to create an easy-opening door for RAM expansion, we would've preferred if there was also some sort of expansion slot behind that door.
Some of our concernssuch as compatibility with Final Cut Pro and PACEaffect users who would be more likely to buy a Power Mac G4 rather than an iMac. The USB and DVD issues, however, are sure to impact most users and should be high on Apple's fix-it list. Yet despite these problems, we think Apple's done an admirable job of addressing the basic design flaws of the original iMac (save the execrable mouse and keyboard, of course) and has delivered a consumer Macintosh that we're very enthusiastic about. We're sure you will be too.
RATING: PROS: iMac now has great graphics, better speakers, a DVD-ROM drive, and FireWire. CONS: DVD playback loses sync; USB-compatibility problems; no expansion slot; crummy mouse and keyboard. COMPANY: Apple Computer (800/795-1000, http://www.apple.com ). LIST PRICE: $1,499.
iMac DV Special Edition
Best results in red. Reference systems in italics . MacBench 5.0 scores are relative to a first-generation Power Mac G3/300, which is assigned a score of 1,000 in each test.
|MacBench 5.0||Quake II|
|Processor||Disk||Graphics||frames per second|
|Apple iMac DV 400MHz Special Edition||1,139||1,521||2,588||37.3|
|Apple iMac 333MHz||948||1,306||1,426||17.4|
|Apple Power Macintosh G3 400MHz||1,314||1,398||2,859||46.0|
Behind Our Tests
MacBench 5.0 testing was performed on systems with Mac OS 8.6, 128MB of RAM (64MB for the iMac 333), a 2048K system disk cache, and Virtual Memory disabled. Quake II testing was done at a resolution of 640 by 480 with 128MB of RAM in all systems. -Macworld Lab testing supervised by Gil Loyola