Here is the final installment of my law office Mac series, the iMac G5 20 with iSight. I bought this computer over a month before my office even opened as I knew that the G5s were on the way out, and had made up my mind to save the Intel models for when the normal upgrade cycle kicks in in three or so years. Even at upgrade time, I dont see a fast G5 with a nice widescreen becomming obsolete as none of the tasks for which this machine is used would benefit from a processor upgrade, even if Universal applications were available.
MS Word (PPC optimized), Mail and iCal (universal) are the applications this computer uses most, and even were MS Word to get the Intel speed boost, I just cant imagine it making much difference on what is essentially a clerical machine. Even a slow G4 would make little productivity difference to my wife, the primary user of this machine, as absolutely nothing she does ever spends any time waiting on the processor.
Where the iMac G5 shines is in its presentation, which is identical to the newer Intel version. The 20 widescreen LCD is simply gorgeous, with bright, vibrant color, even backlighting and excellent contrast and response times. Clearly, the (internal) DVI connection to the powerful 128MB ATI video card goes a long way, but most of it is just Apples usual attention to detail.
Walk away from the computer for any length of time (I have it set to 15 minutes) and the screen goes blank, with a soft round light pulsing (breathing) in the bottom right of the case to let you know that the machine is still on (it always stays on). Tap any key and the computer is awake and responsive in barely a second - no Windows machine on the planet can match that.
Applications launch quickly, thoughnot as quickly as on the MacBook Pro I tried a few weeks ago. Word requires about two bounces in the dock, nothing significant, and once open, is every bit as fast and responsive as it is on any other computer, Mac or PC. Honestly, modern PPC applications like Word 2004 are so well optimized for the PPC chip that even on an older G3 there is little waiting, so the fast G5 is just overkill.
Of course, what is required whether running a slow G3, a fast G5 or anything in between is enough RAM. The iMac came with 512MB, which is sufficient for what mine is used for, but just for good measure I added another 512MB module to make an even gigabyte. The installation was extremely simple, with excellent pictures in the iMacs manual, and took only about 5 minutes.
What the iMac does best is what mine rarely does, which is entertainment. The FrontRow software is very cool, and DVD movies really come to life on the massive widescreen. Even the sound is good, despite the speakers being small and concealed in the case. Even in an office, they play loud enough and sound good enough to make external speakers a thing of the past.
With the Intel Macs shipping, I was able to buy the 20 iMac for $1400, which put it in between the 17 and 20 Intel iMacs in price. Were it for home use where the ability to run Windows and its many games would matter, Id go for the Intel model, but for the front office, I believe that the G5 iMac represented the best combination of screen, power and price available at that time. In the 3 months since my purchase, Apple has introduced its Boot Camp software to run Windows XP on Intel Macs, while more and more applications are being released in Universal versions. None of that has any benefit for this exclusively Mac office.
For me the most difficult choice was not between the Intel and G5 iMac, but between the 20 G5 iMac and a G4 Mac Mini with a 19 LCD monitor. For what this computer is used for, the Mini with its G4 processor and less capable video card is still fully up to the task, however it is lacking in storage. The iMac came with a huge 260 GB hard drive; a fast 3.5 inch desktop model, where the top Mini comes with a slow 2.5 laptop hard drive with 80GB capacity. Yes, there are nice external hard drives out there in cases designed to perfectly complement the Mini (sitting right under the computer), but once an external drive is added to the costs of the external monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers (the Mini has a single, poor-sounding speaker), the price ends up about the same.
For the other attorney in my office, the Mini and 19 LCD option proved the better value. The Mac Mini is quieter than the iMac (though the iMac is in no way annoying loud), and with our files all on the iMac, there was no need for an external drive. In the end, the Mini with 19 LCD costs about $400 less than the 20 G5 iMac, not a bad deal. From the front-office perspective, the iMac is only $400 more than the Mini, with 3 times the storage and both better sound and larger display. Again, not a bad deal.
To sum it up, if you want to play the latest Windows games, the Intel iMac is the way to go. If, however, you are a die-hard Mac user and have no reason or desire to let anything Windows near your computer, the last G5 iMac gives up very little to the latest Intel wonder, while saving some money and avoiding exposure to Revision A glitches. This really is a great desktop computer.
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Amount Paid (US$): 1400
Operating System: Macintosh
Processor speed: over 1000
RAM: More than 256
Internal Storage: SuperDisk
Hard Drive (GB): Over 50