Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Apple announced new iMacs today and they look great. The problem is that they're really not a huge improvement over what has already been released. More than ever before, I feel as though Apple is trying to woo (and wow) me with design. It's bigger in all the right places (the display) and smaller in all the right places (thickness), shinier, a little faster, a little cheaper ($300), and has a new keyboard design. I get the feeling Steve Jobs is waving the new computer in front of the Mac faithful and saying, 'look, pretty!'
Unfortunately, the beauty of the thin, elegant iMac also brings some drawbacks for the user which make me avoid buying a new Mac (again, I was pondering one awhile back). One has to realize that Mac Mini and iMac models are essentially laptop computer components re-oriented in a different box. In the case of the Mini, it's a headless laptop. In the case of the iMac, all the guts or the computer are stuck behind and under the display rather than under a built-in keyboard. This makes for a nice small footprint but creates some usability issues.
The biggest problem I have on a regular basis is that the low power innards of these types of models will cause your USB ports to act wonky on occasion, and not in a way which is uncommon or inconsistent in normal (read: NOT POWER USER) use. Since they are notebook components, they are designed to reduce power consumption while on battery power so shutting off ports that are drawing too much juice works to the user's advantage on a MacBook model. On a desktop model which is always plugged in, it's utterly maddening. I can't tell you how many times I've had one of my two USB ports shut down because I attached my camera, printer (which is externally powered itself!), Palm, or even mouse and had a "low power/port disabled" message pop up from my Mini. Once the port is disabled, it won't re-enable in most cases unless I restart.
The other problem for me personally with these models is that I want my next Macintosh to cover for both a Mac and a PC so I can live la vida dual platform without two machines. The main problem here is that the Mini and iMac models come with irreplaceable and relatively crappy video cards for gaming and that's what I mainly use a PC for. What I need and Apple refuses to give me is a mid-range Mac model, preferably a tower with a lot of expansion capability so I can upgrade the video. A Macintosh Pro model is not only more computer than I need but more cash than I'm willing to pay.
There are, of course, other issues with these consumer models (the Mini and iMac). They often have slow hard drives, limited RAM expansion capability, and no ability to add functionality with cards like a tower or box model do. That would all be just fine if there were a less compact (display-less) model which looked less gorgeous which you could opt for at around the $800-$1200 range but Stevie-boy isn't interested in these models because he's afraid it'll eat away at the more lucrative pro model line-up's sales. He knows the Mac faithful fear the boogey-man that is Windows (or these days, a bit of PC hardware) and those who really want a better Mac are far more likely to frequently buy completely new consumer models or opt for more machine than they require rather than dance with the Windows devil. Well, Steve, I'm not afraid.
Given the choice of waiting to buy a new computer, buying a new Mac which isn't what I want or buying a PC, I'm going to opt for waiting it out. However, when the time comes, I'll be looking more favorably at a PC if Apple doesn't come up with something that reflects my needs more than their marketing priorities.