Little big Mac

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Apple's new G5 iMac looks good and packsa lot of power into a small package, writes Cliff Joseph

Apple's iPod has been a big hit with the youth market, so it's no surprise that the latest version of the company's iMac computer looks like the iPod's big brother.

The previous version of the iMac had a two-part design, with the flat-panel monitor mounted on top of a separate base unit that contained all the other computer components. The new iMac G5 has simplified that design even further; Apple's engineers have somehow managed to shoe-horn the entire computer inside the casing of the flat-panel monitor itself.

The resulting unit is just two inches thick and looks only slightly larger than a normal flat-panel monitor. Viewed from the side it looks just like a larger version of the iPod, so it's obvious that Apple is aiming for the youth market, as well as adults who can appreciate the unit's elegant design.

And it really is very elegant. The front of the unit is completely free of any buttons or controls. The DVD drive lies flat within the body of the unit, allowing you to slide discs in with a gentle push of the finger.The speakers are built into the base of the unit and engineered so they bounce the sound down on to the desk and then upwards towards the user. The only details marring the minimalist purity of the design are the cables for the power supply, keyboard and mouse.

The iMac G5 also has appeal for the education market. Its G5 processor is much more powerful than the G4 processor used in previous iMacs. It's particularly good for audio and video work, and the iMac comes bundled with programs such as iTunes, iMovie and the excellent GarageBand music software, that provide students with everything they need to get started with digital audio and video work.

There are four models available for the education market, ranging from Pounds 735 to pound;1,079 (ex VAT), depending on the screen size, processor speed and the type of CD or DVD drive. Perhaps the best choice for schools is the Pounds 839 (ex VAT) model which has a 17-inch screen, a DVD-RCD-RW drive and a G5 processor running at 1.8GHz (roughly comparable to a 2.5GHz Pentium PC). The pound;735 (ex VAT) model is marginally slower, although its 1.6GHz processor is still more than adequate for audio and video work. The only real drawback of this model is that it lacks a CD or DVD drive.

As well as three standard USB ports, all iMac models have two FireWire ports so you can connect a DV camcorder, and an Ethernet port for linking to a network. There's also a video output port tucked away at the back of the monitor that you can use to connect the iMac to a larger VGA monitor or television for presentations. Unfortunately, this does require a special video adaptor which will cost an extra pound;15 to pound;20.

The drawback, as always with Apple, is the price. To be fair, the iMac G5 is well priced for a machine that has a high-quality flat panel display, but you simply don't have the option of choosing a less expensive CRT monitor, or of buying a base unit with no monitor at all.

If you need to buy new hardware specifically for projects involving audio or video work then the iMac G5 is an excellent choice. GarageBand in particular benefits from the performance of the G5 processor, allowing you to increase the number of synthesised instruments in your compositions by more than 50 per cent. However, for general computing you'll get better value from one of Apple's low-cost eMacs or from a standard Windows PC.

iMac G5

Base model comes with 17-inch flat-panel screen, G5 processor (1.6GHz), 256Mb of memory, 40Gb hard disk, three USB ports, two FireWire connectors.

Price: From pound;735 (ex VAT))

The iMac G5 (1.8GHz) with 20-inch screen and DVD-RWCD-Rom-RW drive.

Price: pound;1,079 (ex VAT)

Apple UK

Tel: 0800 039 1939

Apple Store for Education Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use ****

Features ****

Quality *****

Value for money ****

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