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 Dr. Mac: 20-inch iMac Review

 
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  2-04-04 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

 

20-inch iMac: Bigger is Better

 


By Bob LeVitus

I’ve been test-driving one of the new 20-inch iMacs for the past month and while it sports the largest display ever offered in a one-piece computer, it’s also a blazing fast Mac with many of the same state-of-the-art components and features found in the more expensive Power Mac line.

In addition to the spectacular 20-inch display, new 20-inch iMacs include:

  • 1.25GHz PowerPC G4 processor.
  • 256MB RAM (DDR SDRAM).
  • 80GB 7,200 RPM hard drive.
  • 4X speed SuperDrive CD/DVD player/burner.
  • NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics subsystem with 64MB VRAM (DDR SDRAM).
  • 2 FireWire 400 ports; 3 USB 2.0 ports (on computer); 2 USB 1.1 ports (on keyboard); VGA, S-Video, and composite video output; headphone, speaker, and audio line-in jacks; 10/100BASE-T Ethernet; 56K V. 92 modem; keyboard; mouse; and Apple Pro Speakers.
  • AirPort Extreme and Bluetooth-ready.

But wait—there’s more. You also receive a boatload of Apple software including Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, iLife ’04 (GarageBand, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD), Mail, iChat, Safari, Sherlock, Address Book, QuickTime, iSync, iCal, DVD Player, AppleWorks, and Apple Chess. Furthermore, you get a bunch of useful third party offerings such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, EarthLink (includes 30 days of free service), Quicken 2003 Deluxe, World Book 2003 Edition, Microsoft Office v.X Test Drive, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, Deimos Rising and Sound Studio.

So, while it isn’t exactly cheap at $2,199, it delivers a lot of bang for your buck. And it does have the biggest, most beautiful display ever offered in an iMac.

The 15-inch flat-panel iMac display resolution maxes out at 1024 x 768. The 17-inch iMac maxes out at 1440 x 900—the same as many bulky 19-inch CRT (picture tube) displays.

The 17-inch offers 65% more screen real estate than the 15-inch, but the 20-inch iMac offers up to 1680 by 1050 resolution, which is 36% more than the 17-inch iMac and 124% more than the 15-inch iMac. That’s a lot of screen.

And, since it has a widescreen aspect ratio (16:10, the same as the 17-inch iMac but not the 15-inch, which has a squarer 4:3 aspect ratio), it’s wonderful for watching letterboxed movies on DVD. And, all three flat-panel displays are smaller, brighter, sharper, and offer better contrast than most of their CRT counterparts.

It’s fast as heck, too. I threw the big guns at it—Photoshop, GarageBand, iDVD, Logic, and other demanding programs—and it didn’t falter one bit. In fact, this Mac felt almost as speedy as my (fast but much more expensive) dual 1GHz PowerMac G4.

After using 15 and 17-inch iMacs and eMacs for years, my family was blown away by the 20-incher, confirming something I’ve been saying for years: Bigger is better (when it comes to computer displays, that is).

Now that my family has used this iMac for a month, there’s no turning back. They want me to sell our older Macs (which both, by the way, work just fine), and replace them with a single 20-inch iMac, and even promised never to fight over who gets to use it.

We’ll see…

There is one last thing. Since I raved about GarageBand twice last month, you might be interested in two free GarageBand presentations taking place at the Apple Store in the Galleria beginning February 17th. There’s a one-hour GarageBand workshop on Tuesdays at 10:00 a.m. and a 15 minute overview on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

For more information on these (and many other free presentations), visit http://www.apple.com/retail/houstongalleria/.

20-inch iMac. S.R.P. $2,199.
Apple Computer, Inc. Cupertino, California
www.apple.com


Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to doctormac@boblevitus.com.

Copyright © 2003 Bob LeVitus

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