At a Glance
- Nice, big display
- Small footprint
- Limited upgrade options
- Display can be difficult to maneuver
This computer is the same as the 17-inch flat panel iMac but comes with a 20-inch display.
The new iMac G4, with its 20-inch LCD monitor, is a wonder to behold. Despite its consumer-level status, it’s a mighty Mac. For $2,199, you get the same computer as the 17-inch iMac G4 (
Reviews in Brief, January 2004) but with a very large, 20-inch screen, for which you pay the additional $400.
Like the 17-inch iMac G4, this Mac has a 1.25GHz G4 processor, 256MB of RAM (expandable to 1GB), an 80GB hard drive, and a 4x SuperDrive (which writes both DVDs and CDs). Even the ports — three USB 2.0, two FireWire 400, a VGA output, and an S-Video output, to name a few — are identical. Its speed scores are also identical, within a margin of error, to those of the 17-inch iMac.
So back to the 20-inch monitor. It may very well be worth the extra cost. The display’s specs are quite similar to those of the 20-inch Apple Cinema Display ($1,699), marketed for professional users (though it’s probably not the exact same display). We easily fit two 8.5-by-11-inch Microsoft Word documents side by side at 105 percent, viewed them without scrolling, and still had room for the Formatting palette. When we opened a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with default settings and cell sizes, we fit 21 columns and 68 rows on the monitor. We got only 18 columns and 57 rows on a 17-inch iMac G4’s display with a resolution of 1,440 by 900 pixels.
Apart from its sheer size, the display’s quality shines at a 1,680-by-1,050-pixel resolution. A QuickTime movie, a PDF document, and general Finder operations looked sharp, crisp, and bright. And the problem of color shifts at different viewing angles that we noticed when we reviewed the 17-inch iMac G4 seems to have been resolved with this iMac. We were able to view the display at almost 180 degrees on all sides before the color changed any more than what we expect from an LCD.
But this large screen may be too much of a good thing. Although the 20-inch iMac’s footprint is the same as that of every other recent iMac — about 10.5 inches in diameter — its 20.2-inch-wide and 14-inch-tall screen makes it a behemoth. This iMac is not only larger but also 18 pounds heavier than the smaller-screen iMacs. In addition to the fact that the display is heavier, as we expected, some weight has been added to the base to counter it. Once the iMac was on our desk, the screen was noticeably more difficult to manipulate on its monitor arm, so moving it was much more of a workout than moving the screens of the 15- and 17-inch iMacs. According to Apple, the swivel arm has been made stiffer to support the larger display.
The downside to any current iMac is that it’s not very upgradable. Adding RAM is about all you can do easily. Like the 17-inch model, the 20-inch iMac ships with 256MB of RAM, which is upgradable to 1GB.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The 20-inch iMac is a great machine, although the huge display may undermine its graceful design. Don’t get us wrong — lots of space to move palettes, toolbars, and data is never bad. Just be sure to weigh your needs carefully before you buy.