After many years of waiting and pining for a new Mac Pro tower, Apple announced a faster 3.33 GHz quad core to their line up. Unfortunately, they didn’t reduce the price of the entry level 2.66 GHz rig, and that is the reason that I jumped away from the Mac Pro and opted for the 27″ iMac released earlier in the month. But I didn’t settle for the 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo, nor did I go for the 2.66 GHz Core i5. Nope, I went all in for the 2.8GHz Quad Core Intel Core i7 rig. As far as I could tell, it was worth the $200 upgrade from the Core i5, and well worth the upgrade from the Core 2 Duo. And finally, I’ve had the rig for a month.
To put it bluntly, this rig is a beast. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s fast, and it’s hot.
When the initial order was placed, the shipping time as 7- 10 days. Luckily it shipped in 5 days. And even though there were reports about screens being damage during shipping, or the jaundice screen epidemic, I just hoped that my machine was affected. After watching my computer ship from China, arrive in Anchorage, then go round trip to and from Memphis, the 42 pound box was at my front door. After lugging it out, I had to somehow make space for this monster on my desk. Not only was I using this iMac, I also had to make the space for the 24″ secondary screen, and my speakers.
After unpacking, cleaning up the cables, and hooking everything up, it was time to fire this machine up. The first impression after heavy: this thing is bright. There is a lot of light coming from behind this 27″ screen. It is also extremely crisp. Looking to my right at my old screen saddens me, because when it was set up on my old G5 tower, I thought it looked great. Compared to the new iMac, it may as well be monochrome (that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it’s still a good screen).
Thankfully, I had an evening planned, so I started the migration from my old 2.0 GHz Dual Core Power Mac G5. As a rule of thumb, I never use the migration assistant in OSX. And since I am not only migrating machines, and also migrating from PowerPC to Intel, I would further avoid this. Well, after target disk mode was established, the FireWire 800 cable connected, the transfer begun, and I did something productive for a few hours instead of watching gigabytes copy.
After the transfer, after the reinstallation, it’s time to get to the unit. Is it as fast as I had hoped? Well, its pretty darn fast. For all intensive purposes, you really can’t tell how fast it is. Ripping CDs (legally owned) is throttled by the cd drive. Most tasks are were instantaneous that I couldn’t gage the quickness. But right away, when using Adobe Photoshop, I knew there was some power behind the screen. Everything was notably smoother. Brush action, navigation, smooth as silk. I was used to a jerkiness on my old machine, and kinda gave up. But now it’s just plain nice. Aperture loads my RAW files very fast and exportation is very quick too. When I upgrade to Adobe CS5 this year and then double the RAM to 8GB, then perhaps I will see some more speed.
After playing around with the new iMac, I noticed something. This thing is hot. Literally. Since the entire back is one piece of CNCed aluminium, I am sure it also works as one big honking heat sync. And it certanly does. There is a vent at the top, and naturally, that is where the unit is the hotest. the lower third of back is noticably cooler, so grabbing it by the lower sides is cool to the hands.
Now back to the glass screen. It certainly helps with the contrast of the display, and yes, it is more reflective than my other non glass screens. But since I don’t have a window behind me, nor a lot of direct like shinning in, there is not a reflectance problem. If I stare at the screen looking for a reflection, I’ll find it. But when working on the machine in general, it is not bothersome.
The built in iSIght works nice, but it has a limited focus. I can no longer use it to scan the bar codes of my movies, cds, etc with Delicious Library, which is a bummer. Otherwise it’s a plain ole camera. The 802.11n works great with my AirPort Extreme, and the bluetooth works well with the included mini keyboard and Magic Mouse. I will however replace the wireless keyboard with a wired one because I want the numeric keypad. As of right now, the wireless keyboard is a gimmick.
The Magic Mouse, however, is fantastic. I love the scroll and gesture surface. But I really don’t find myself using any gestures. It feel unnatural. But the scroll surface is great. I works a lot like the touch surface of an iPhone or iPod Touch.
My biggest gripe is the slot loading SuperDrive. I hate slot loaders because no matter how careful you are, you will scratch the surface when inserting or ejecting media. That is why i dug up my old FireWire cd burner. It is also a lot more convenient to get to, and it wont scratch your media, unless you are an idiot. I may swap the cd burner for a DVD burner as well.
With the FireWire 800 bus, i have my two external drives attached, one for Time Machine, and the other my emergency boot, and general what ever BS drive. And this brings me to my final caveat of the unit: no eSATA. I can only assume eSATA can bring people back to the days of SCSI, where the technology is not hot plug-able. And since this is a consumer device, it kind of makes sense. However, throw humanity a bone, and let the advanced users use a fast bus architecture.
True, this iMac isn’t expandable beyond the USB and FireWire ports, but I never added any cards into my old tower. True, I won’t be able to take advantage of USB 3.0, but when I cross that bridge, I will probably have to get a new computer when such connectivity is a necessity. Which brings me to the next point. When I do have to upgrade, provided my next machine has a DisplayPort built in, I can use this iMac as a screen. As I have seen demonstrated, all I need is a DisplayPort cable, and the computer will switch the screen from onboard to external monitor. Bonus for me two computers and one screen (well, two screens, I must have an extended desktop).
The only thing I’ve not tested is the speakers. Since I have my external pair, I really don’t care.