The new Apple iMac G5 comes in three models (we tested the middle one), selling for £899, £999, and £1,199. The top model has a 20-inch widescreen display, while the others are 17-inchers. Beyond a larger display, the extra £200 for the top model gets you only a 160GB hard drive; the other two have 80GB drives. The top two models have SuperDrives (DVD-R/CD-RW), while the bottom iMac G5 includes a combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW). If you are not completely sold on any of the three preconfigured models, Apple gives you a handful of options to customise your iMac online.
As its name implies, the iMac G5 gets the PowerPC G5 chip with this release, which means faster processing that will be more noticeable for people running video or photo-editing apps or processor-intensive games. The top two iMacs have 1.8GHz processors, and the bottom runs at 1.6GHz. We had no complaints in our real-world testing, where the iMac was perfectly fast and able to run several apps at once. (Go to 'Application performance' to see how the iMac G5 performed on our benchmarks, including our new Photoshop test.) Our iMac came with 512MB of RAM, which is a built-to-order option.
Apple has a history of providing too little RAM, and that's certainly true here, where the standard allotment for all three models is only 256MB. If Apple intends for the Mac to be the hub of your digital home, it should do better than that. We suggest you make the upgrade for a total of 512MB of memory.
The iMac G5 includes built-in speakers and a microphone on the bottom of the screen. A lovely surprise: the speakers produced clear audio, even at high volumes. We're accustomed to the included speakers on Macs being weak and tinny, but for a change, we got a pleasant sound from them. Audiophiles will still want external speakers, as the integrated speakers are light on bass.
The iMac doesn't come with Wi-Fi (AirPort) or Bluetooth built in, but they're available as extras when ordering. Our system arrived with both. The AirPort card lets you connect to 802.11b or 802.11g wireless networks, and the Bluetooth option included both a wireless keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately, the wireless versions are identical (minus the cords, of course) to the standard lightweight keyboard and the ridiculous one-button mouse that accompany Macs.
The iMac comes with a nice bundle of software, one that we prefer to the PowerMac G5's because it has a few games. You'll get OS X 10.3; iLife, with iMovie, iTunes, iDVD, iPhoto and GarageBand; AppleWorks; iChat AV; Quicken 2004; World Book 2004 (be sure to try the nifty World Book screensaver); and the games Marble Blast Gold and Nanosaur 2. We like that migration software is now included, helping you transfer files and settings from an older Mac.Application performance
Our Apple iMac G5 uses a 1.8GHz PowerPC processor and offers a slight improvement in application performance over the previous-generation 20-inch iMac, which housed a 1.25GHz G4 processor. On our iTunes test, the iMac G5 converted a 10-minute song (in AIFF format) to MP3 15 seconds faster than the older iMac. We attribute some of this performance gain to the new optimisations Apple has made to Mac OS X between version X 10.3.3 and X 10.3.5.
For a more rounded look at the iMac G5's performance, we created a new Photoshop test. Unfortunately, the test is so new that we've run it on only one other system, the Power Mac G5. It came as no surprise that the iMac G5 trailed the dual-processor Power Mac G5 by a healthy margin.
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We use Adobe Photoshop to evaluate the system's performance as an integrated whole -- the CPU, the memory, the hard disk and the graphics card. We run an automated suite of operations that simultaneously stresses a variety of the machine's subsystems and simulates a real-world Web-production work flow. The suite includes launching the application; converting between colour spaces and bit depths; applying a variety of filters; working with layers, selection areas, and alpha channels; and resizing and compressing images. We time how long it takes to run the suite on 15 files that range from 1.8MB to 49.2MB, in 8- and 16-bit colour.
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We use Apple iTunes as another indicator of a system's performance. In this test, we time how long it takes to convert a 107MB AIFF audio file to MP3.