Apple iMac w/Intel Core Duo: A User's Review

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March 12, 2006 by Randy Harris

Product

Apple 20-inch iMac (MA200LL)
Integrated PC in 20" LCD monitor powered by 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor

MSRP
US$1699 (at Apple online store)

INTRODUCTION

After last week's PR extravaganza at the Spring 2006 Intel Developers Forum and the ensuing tech media frenzy, it seems timely to present reader Randy Harris's appraisal of his new 20" iMac, powered by an Intel Core Duo processor. When you sort through the innumerable announcements and news stories from IDF, you will find that the Yonah Core Duo is the only "new" processor Intel is actually selling right now. Check Intel's processor roadmap; Conroe and Menom are still months away from release, in 2H 2006.

The decision to go with Intel processors in iMac may have been wise for Apple, struggling as they were with rising thermals and decreasing yields in previous G5 processors. For Intel, Apple's decision is a great publicity windfall. For over two decades, Apple has depicted Wintel machines as slower and kludgier; at least in the hardware side of things, Intel is now the victor. With Apple still enjoying a surge in popularity that began with the introduction of the iPod, Intel has gained a valuable ally and customer.

Intel's economic dominance in the industry was never in question even as AMD processors won the performance crowns and captured unprecedented market share in the last couple of years. Still, the need for Intel to check soaring thermal characteristics and improve performance had become urgent. Apple's explanation that "Intel Core Duo achieves far higher levels of performance while actually consuming less power" is a much needed boost for Intel.

Interestingly, if the Core Duo processor was released a year ago, Intel would have classified it as a mobile processor. Now, it falls into both Centrino (mobile) and Viiv (entertainment PC) platforms. Intel should probably thank AOpen and DFI, whose pioneering Pentium M desktop motherboard (and SFF) products helped to create a market for Intel mobile processors in highly power efficient desktop PCs.

Finally, the Intel / Apple convergence in the new iMac is a significant marker in the evolution of the PC from business machine to consumer appliance. Smaller, faster, easier, quieter and better adapted to the modern lifestyle ? this is the promise of the new Core Duo iMac that attracted Randy Harris, an inveterate Windows power user and quiet computing hobbyist. His conversion into an enthustiastic Mac user suggests that Apple, with Intel's help, is delivering on that promise.

- Mike Chin, Editor

Note: The opinions expressed in the following article are those of the writer, not the SPCR editorial team. We have had no hand-on experience with the iMac, and our own opinion of Windows XP, based on many years' experience, is that it is quite robust.

* * *

I recently bought a new Intel powered Apple iMac computer, and I found myself very pleasantly surprised by its virtual silent operation for such a fast computer.

On a Windows XP machine I'm a power user. I'm the guy who everybody comes to for help when they have problems or want a recommendation when it's time to buy a new computer or component. In my experience, when Windows XP is running well, then everything is good, but too often Windows XP can be corrupted. Sometimes all it takes is installing a program to mess things up beyond repair. Of course the more programs you install and the more heavily you use Windows the more often these faults seem to come to light. I've had to reinstall Windows twice this past year alone.

About two months ago my video compression programs stopped working. I mentally threw my hands up in the air and wished out loud that Vista were here today because I was done with XP! That was the last straw. I decided to seriously evaluate my options.

I do a lot of work with video footage, creating DVD's of that footage, work a lot with Digital Pictures, as well as the usual Internet and email usage that most people engage in. When I read about Apple's iLife 2006 suite of products I immediately thought this was a killer app and wondered why nobody had created something similar for XP. iLife's ease of use, capabilities and full integration is something that does not seem to exist on any other platform.

CONSIDERING A CHANGE

I decided to give the Mac and its OS, OSX, a serious look as an alternative to my Windows XP machine. Talking with some friends who use both XP and Mac, I was very impressed that none of them have ever had to reinstall OSX or any programs - unlike me and so many others on Windows. The promised stability combined with the great Apple hardware, and the integrated iLife 2006 suite persuaded me to make the Switch from XP to OSX.

The new Intel Powered Apple Macintosh computers had just recently been announced. Deciding between the G5 iMac and the new Intel iMac, I knew that the new Intel machines are the future of the Mac. I wanted a computer that I could run for the next several years; the Intel iMac seemed to be the most logical choice. There may be a few issues until commonly used programs are written to run natively on the Intel Mac Universal Binaries. The Intel iMac should be faster than the G5, especially as the OS and programs are better optimized to take advantage of the Intel CPU.

After a visit to the local Apple Store I felt that the 17" iMac was a compelling package at the price? but I would regret not getting the 20" iMac.


Cosmetically, the Core Duo iMac models are unchanged from the previous G5 incarnations.



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