Hands on with the New iMac G5

My replacement iMac arrived on Thursday, and I finally got around to setting it up this morning. Initial impressions were positive; the previous iMac looks positively overweight in comparison to the new, thinned-out model. Other instantly noticable changes are: the Superdrive is more centrally located on the side of the iMac (rather than nearer the top on the old model), and the I/O ports are located on the rear bottom edge ather than the rear righthand side.

I’d heard some complaints that the inbuilt iSight camera isn’t as elegantly integrated as some would have liked. I don’t see what the problem is. Which would you rather have: a great big tube stuck to the top of your screen, or a small (1cm-squared) black dot? I can’t see anything wrong with the implementation.

Sticking with the camera for the moment; picture quality is reasonable (well, actually it’s pretty decent for a webcam). A little green LED comes on when the camera is active – i.e. when you fire up iChat or Photo Booth. Photo Booth is rather no-frills. It takes your picture and can apply some basic effects to it – and that’s pretty much it.

The main attraction of the new iMacs is, of course, Front Row. I’ll give it one thing – it’s pretty. Pressing the ‘menu’ button on the remote control activates the Front Row interface with a smooth fade and scale transition1. Once in Front Row, accessing content is quick and easy. If you can operate an iPod then you can operate Front Row.

Front Row rewards good organisation; if you have a mass of torrents in your Movies folder then you’d be best getting them organised. Front Row respects the folder heirarchy of your Movies folder and uses it to group your video clips. As your music and photos are organised by iTunes/iPhoto, you don’t need to worry about them so much.

My only real gripe with Front Row is more of an iTunes 6 gripe. iTunes is uselessfor organising your movie files. If, for example, you’ve got a load of Stargate episodes on your disk, you can’t add them to the TV Shows section of Front Row because iTunes only lets you pick ‘Movie’ or ‘Music Video’ for movie clips you organise within iTunes – the TV Shows category is reserved for ITMS-downloadable TV Shows. Seems a bit of an oversight to me, but hey, who am I to question The Steve? Oh, and the lack of TV/DVR functionality, but that complaint has been heard a thousand times.

Aside: It might just be because I’ve been stuck with a laptop screen for a few weeks, but I’m positive the new iMac screen is a little sharper than the last.

Overall, I’d say the new iMacs seem a pretty good buy. It seems a little more refined than the previous model. If your organised and not too worried about TV then Front Row makes the iMac a pretty good media centre for bedroom/study use.

1 The Front Row interface fades into view as the desktop fades and shrinks into the horizon.

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