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.
It’s in the Numbers
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.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
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
iMac now has great graphics, better speakers, a DVD-ROM drive, and FireWire.
DVD playback loses sync; USB-compatibility problems; no expansion slot; crummy mouse and keyboard.
Apple Computer (800/795-1000,
iMac DV Special Edition
Best results in red.
systems in italics
5.0 scores are relative to a first-generation Power Mac G3/300,
which is assigned
a score of 1,000 in each test.
frames per second
Apple iMac DV 400MHz
Apple iMac 333MHz
Macintosh G3 400MHz
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
Quake II testing was done at a resolution of 640 by 480 with 128MB of RAM in
-Macworld Lab testing supervised by Gil Loyola
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