Putting a price on iLife

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As with any software suite, the question of whether iLife '04 is worth its $49 price largely depends on what you plan to do with it.

If you're new to digital music and are looking for an easy way to get started -- something to accompany your solo performances or to just play around with -- GarageBand alone will justify your iLife purchase. It offers a user-friendly interface, a nice range of software instruments, and powerful track-layering tools for hundreds of dollars less than you'd spend on professional audio software. (Professional musicians may also find GarageBand useful for sketching out compositions, but they may become frustrated by the current version's limited importing and exporting capabilities.)

Digital-video enthusiasts will likely find iLife '04 a worthwhile investment. iDVD 4's ability to burn two-hour DVDs is a huge boon. And while iMovie 4 still suffers from performance issues -- particularly on older machines or with complicated projects -- it's a clear improvement over version 3. But if you didn't upgrade from iMovie 2 because of version 3's performance issues, you'll need to decide whether new features such as Direct Trimming and noncontiguous clip editing are worth the hit you'll take in performance -- especially if you're editing on an older Mac.

If you're not interested in creating your own music and you don't own a digital video camera, your decision to buy or not to buy iLife '04 will come down to whether you currently rely on iPhoto 2. If you do, iPhoto 4 is easily worth $49. If not, there are less-expensive options for organizing your media, including iView Multimedia's $30 iView Media (   ; October 2003).

As a package, iLife '04 has a lot going for it. Despite some performance issues and rough edges, the programs it includes complement each other nicely. And for digital-media enthusiasts who want to seamlessly integrate their digital photos, movies, and music, iLife '04 is a tremendous bargain.

How Does It Stack Up? > GarageBand > iPhoto 4 > iMovie 4 > iDVD 4 > Putting a Price on iLife

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