Apple's 24" iMac: There's more to High End than Performance

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November 20, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Apple 24" iMac
Selling Price
~US$2,000 from the Apple Store

Apple's integrated laptop-parts-built-into-a-screen approach to their recent iMacs has done much to bring quiet computing to the masses. We know. We looked at a 17" iMac last April that was one of the coolest, quietest, most efficient computers that we've ever laid eyes on.

Time has rolled on since then, and Apple has made the inevitable iMac upgrade to Intel's Core 2 Duo chips. They have also introduced a new 24" iMac model that seems poised to push the iMac into the higher end. Judged only on the basis of the hardware inside, the 24" iMac is still a midrange machine. Core 2 Duo may be cutting edge, but 1 GB of RAM is standard these days, and the 250 GB hard drive and the GeForce 7300GT are far from high end.

Then again, Apple's criteria for what constitutes "high end" are closer to those used by the automotive industry than the tech industry. Luxury cars are sold mostly on image, not performance, and that is exactly what the 24" iMac is selling. A 24" screen looks impressive, no matter what hardware is running on it. And, given how little difference there is in user experience between a fast Core 2 Duo and a lowly Sempron, the larger monitor may be a better investment.

Obviously, the tiny minority of users who actually have a use for a high clocked CPU will not find their needs met by an iMac. Ditto the larger minority who play enough games to notice the difference between a high end GeForce 8800GTX and nVidia's entry level GeForce 7300GT. Those who equate the high end with raw performance will probably be not be interested in an iMac.

But, given what most people use their computers for — internet and e-mail, business applications, watching movies and listening to music, occasional gaming — building a high end machine around performance doesn't make sense. There just isn't enough difference in usability, so why not spend the money on features that will be noticed. The iMac offers some unique and unusual features that help create a high end feel that is easily noticed without running benchmarks. Among them:

  • A large, built-in 24" LCD screen
  • A fully integrated design with no separation between the screen and the rest of the computer
  • Fewer cables to connect
  • OS X and its impressive number of integrated applications
  • Apple's elegant image and style

Of course, that list is missing two features that are very important to readers of this site: Noise and power efficiency. These are the things that make a system high end for SPCR. Is the 24" iMac high end? Our experiences with the 17" and 20" iMacs have made us hopeful, but can the 24" model live up to the tough standard that was set by it's smaller brothers?

Flat panel or not, a 24" screen occupies a lot of desk real estate.

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