Apple 24′ iMac

Apple ComputerThe Apple iMac feels massive. It’s not as sweeping as the 30′ cinema screen, but you’ll have so much space to play with on your desktop it’ll be like having two monitors.

Every component is there to make it the best possible computing experience. Further invading the PC world, the iMac comes with Intel’s Core 2 Duo processors and you can enjoy speeds of up to 3.06GHz. With 2GB of RAM (and up to 4GB) you’ll crunch through any task and with at least a 320GB hard disk you’ll be able to fit any task on your system. In fact there’s the option for a disk drive of up to 1TB, so there’s a decent amount of future proofing — the specs of the iMac can handle almost anything thrown at them from high-end programs like Final Cut Pro or Photoshop.

But you’ll also notice a difference in simple tasks. Now the new Office 2007 for Mac is so power-hungry, the quick save you’ve enjoyed on an older system like a G5 would have turned into a frustrating wait of several seconds every time. But saving a .docx or .xlsx on the iMac takes you back to the old days where you could get into the habit of saving often with no hiccup in the pace of your work.

Everything else that opens and shuts has been built into the huge but attractive body, from the iSight camera to the 802.11n wireless. As with the original silver iMac model, everything’s neatly tucked out of sight, the optical drive along the right hand side and the power button just behind the bottom left hand corner. Like most Apple products, the iMac would look as at home as the centrepiece of the lounge room as in an office.

As Apple have shown us lately however, it can’t get everything right. The fatal flaw in the iMac is that it comes preloaded with Apple’s least impressive operating system yet, Leopard (10.5). Least impressive not only in that many of the components are ill advised (Stacks) or half realised (Time Machine), but that it’s simply buggy. Testing Leopard for our recent review, we experienced more application crashes and similar problems than ever before.

If you’re similarly unhappy with Leopard, tough. As always, you can’t back-install an older operating system using the migration utility, you have to wipe the entire disk and start again.

To be fair, the Intel under the hood means you can take advantage of convergence technology and run one of the many excellent tools that give you a working copy of Windows right inside your Mac.

The only other gripe is the usability of the ports. As the MacBook Air wants us to adopt a wireless world whether we want one or not, the iMac gives us only three USB ports and two Firewire ports (the 400 and 800 standard). Run a keyboard, mouse, digital camera, wireless dongle and external hard drive for example and you’re way underspecced. What’s more, rather than position the ports along the side like the optical drive, they’re around the back, and constantly tilting such a massive unit aside to swap cables gets irritating.

If you can overcome those niggles, the iMac is the pointy end of design and power in computing.