Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Apple introduces G5 iMac 1.8 GHz

Apple VP Phil Schiller today introduced the new G5 iMac, at Apple Expo. Steve Jobs was unable to attend, because he is still recovering from his recent abdominal surgery for a neuroendocrine tumour of the pancreas.

The new G5 iMac is a variation on theme of the new Cinema Displays, with a similar hinge design and the ability to be wall-mounted, but with all the guts of a computer (including the power supply, optical drive and hard drive) behind the display. The new G5 iMac continues to use a white case, signifying that it is a consumer machine. (The pro machines are brushed aluminum.) A welcome addition is the presence of built-in speakers, underneath the screen. Also, an interesting feature is the Cube-like air flow design utilizing the speaker grille at the bottom of the unit in conjunction with a vent near the top rear allowing heat to escape. Heat rises after all. This should help to keep the machine quiet.

In my first article at Everything Apple, I described my thoughts on the specs of a future iMac G5, to come out today. Let's see how well my prediction panned out:

G5 970FX 1.8 GHz, with 512 KB L2 cache - Correct
3:1 multiplier, for a 600 MHz bus - Correct
256 MB Single-channel DDR333 memory, with 2-3 memory slots - Apple spec'd 256 MB DDR400, with 2 slots total.
80 GB 7200 rpm hard drive, upgradable to 160 GB - Apple's 20" model comes with 160 MB, upgradable to 250. The other models have 80 GB, upgradable to 160 or 250.
8X SuperDrive (DVD-R/W, CD-R/W) - It's a slot-load drive with 4X DVD-R, although it's possible it may go 8X if a slot-load variant of the Matsushita UJ-830 is eventually used.
nVidia GeForce FX 5600 Ultra 64 MB DDR - Apple only provides a 5200 across the line, whereas I expected a 5200 only in the lower end machines.
Airport Extreme ready - Correct
Bluetooth ready - Correct
Firewire 400 and USB 2.0 ports - Correct
VGA/S-video/composite video output - Correct
Analogue audio input and output - Apple includes both, but also a digital audio output.

But most importantly, despite the vastly upgraded CPU and bus speeds, I suspect the price of the new iMac will be LESS than what it is now. - Correct

The features are for the most part acceptable, and Apple bettered a few of my predictions. However, the inclusion of only a (non-upgradable) GeForce FX 5200 in the "high end" G5 iMac is a disappointment. Furthermore, while the pricing is a big improvement over previous iMacs, one wonders how it will fare to the bargain basement PCs available these days. Still, the price drop is welcome (and a long time coming). It's nice to see that Apple is trying to pay heed to market share concerns.

Lastly, I didn't think I'd say this, but despite the nice overall design of the G5 iMac, I'm sorry to see to original sunflower G4 iMac design go. If Apple is determined only to offer all-in-one computers for their consumer lines, then ergonomics should be the most important feature. Out of the box, the new design seems to have a much more ergonomic design than almost every other all-in-one design out there, except for the very flexible design of the previous G4 iMac. On the other hand, the VESA mountability of the new G5 iMac does open up a whole host of new possibilities, including in ergonomics. However, this time the third parties get to put on their design caps too, not just Apple.