Apple thinks consumers are ready to embrace desktop video in a big way. And to serve them, the company has crafted a new iMac that improves on earlier models in terms of speed, storage, graphics performance, and sound quality.
The iMac DV?the only new iMac model available in five flavors?occupies the middle ground in Apple’s new consumer lineup, packing more features than the entry-level $999 blueberry iMac while carrying a lower price tag than the premium iMac DV Special Edition (see ”
The iMac Is Back,” January 2000). For $1,299, you get a 400MHz PowerPC G3 CPU with an ATI Rage 128 graphics accelerator, 64MB of RAM, a 10GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, an RGB video-out port for external monitors, two FireWire connections, and two independent USB ports. By comparison, the $1,499 iMac DV Special Edition sports 128MB of RAM and a 13GB hard drive. Both DV models include Apple’s iMovie video-editing software.
All those budding Hollywood directors should be happy with the iMac DV’s performance. Macworld Lab tests showed that the midrange model ran about as fast as its high-end sibling and considerably faster than the previous-generation 333MHz iMac (see “The New Generation”). Thanks in part to the ATI Rage 128 chip, graphics performance was especially impressive: in our Quake II tests, the iMac DV delivered more than twice as many frames per second as the previous iMac. When playing games with intensive 3-D graphics, we noticed that video quality was superior to that of previous models, and the built-in Harman Kardon speakers sounded great?for built-in speakers.
One of the iMac’s hallmarks is its industrial design. The new models are not as deep as the earlier ones, but the most noticeable difference is a transparent body with brighter plastics; previous models had a frosted, translucent exterior.
The new model has a few flaws. Its 64MB of RAM, while sufficient for running most business applications, falls short of what you’ll need for desktop-video applications. Even Apple’s bundled iMovie software won’t run under 64MB unless you turn on virtual memory. Fortunately, memory is easy to add, thanks to a more accessible memory slot in back.
As with the iMac DV Special Edition, we could not restart the computer with both a USB Iomega Zip drive and an Epson Stylus Photo 1200 printer attached. And the iMac DV sometimes failed to recognize a connected FireWire hard drive without restarting. The new slot-loaded DVD-ROM drive is convenient, but it occasionally had problems ejecting disks properly. There’s also the matter of the oft maligned round mouse.
However, the iMac DV’s biggest problems pertained to DVD-ROM playback: video and audio consistently went out of sync during DVD movies, and the video dropped frames and became pixelated when we accessed the DVD player’s controls. Apple says a software fix for the syncing problem is in the works.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Although it costs $300 more than the entry-level iMac, the iMac DV delivers a lot for the extra money, including two FireWire ports, a DVD-ROM drive, RGB video out, more storage, and a faster processor, not to mention the iMovie software and a choice of colors. Deciding between an iMac DV and an iMac DV Special Edition is more difficult. The premium model offers more disk storage and memory?and you will need the extra RAM, especially if you want to run desktop-video applications. However, both models deliver similar performance. If you like your iMacs in fruit flavors, buy an iMac DV and beef up the memory. Otherwise, the Special Edition is a better choice for desktop-video enthusiasts?and both models will be better still when Apple fixes the DVD-playback problem.