Get an iLife

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Apple's iMac is a great buy, not the least because of the iLife software it comes with

Most computer manufacturers put all their focus on hardware features, but for many students and teachers it's the "free software" supplied with Mac computers that often appeals the most. Apple's iLife suite, which contains GarageBand, iMovie, iPhoto and iTunes, provides all the tools students need for a wide range of ICT and design projects.

The same is true of this latest version of the iMac. It's a little bit slimmer and faster, but the machine's basic specification is relatively unchanged. However, Apple has thrown in two new features, along with some enormously enjoyable software for you to play with.

Tucked into the top edge of the computer screen is a little webcam that can be used with Apple's iChat AV software to provide a complete video-conferencing system.

There's also a new bit of software called Photo Booth that allows you to take pictures and experiment with special effects. It's great fun, and will no doubt have students queuing up to muck about with their mug shots (although not necessarily a good thing in class).

Apple has also included a small remote control unit that works in conjunction with a new piece of software called Front Row. You use the remote control to launch Front Row, which then puts a new menu display on to the computer screen that allows you to view and play any photos, music or video, stored on the computer.

Admittedly, this is primarily intended for home users who want to use the iMac as an all-in-one entertainment system, but it could also be useful for presenting video or other projects that students have put together on the machine.

The only drawback - as always with iMacs - is the use of a flat-screen monitor, which pushes the price up a bit. However, the built-in webcam and free iLife software provide good value for money and make the new iMac an extremely versatile multimedia machine.

Apple iMac

Computer with all the processing built in to the slim, flat screen.

Prices: with 17-inch screen and 1.9GHz processor - pound;719+VAT; with 20-inch screen and 2.1GHz processor - pound;959+VAT (see website for education prices)

Fitness for purpose ***** Ease of use **** Features ***** Quality ***** Value for money ****

Apple Computers Stand E34F34 www.apple.comukeducation

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