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I have had my imac for almost three years now. Yes, it did cost more than a windows PC with the equivalent specifications, and yes your options to upgrade are rather limited, but overall I'm so happy with my purchase. Mac OS X is a real joy to use, it's such an improvement over windows that I am shocked that more people don't use it and that I didn't start using it sooner. Whilst not perfect, OS X offers incredible stability and a very easy and intuitive navigation. The imac also came with a set of basic programs called iLife, which actually are very useful. iPhoto is a very easy and competent program, and garage band is again a good start for music production. Although now dated compared to the newer and sleeker macs, I still use my imac every day and it still gives me excellent performance day after day.
Very good general computer, especially good for design, music, photography and other generally creative work, however still handles word processor and excel etc to a high standard. Can be slow but with the large range of newer iMacs out there now it id easy to choose a good one at a competitive price. I would recommend some of the extras apple no provide for an extra price as an add on, such as aperture, i works, i life and even little things such as a bluetooth wireless mouse and keyboard are a good thing to have comparatively. I would seriously recommend this computer to anyone but in particular, students and design related career workers. They are a little expensive but for the extra price you get a much higher standard in both style and engineering. Other PCs just don't compare when put alongside a mac. I would definitely recommend this Product.
My first computer was a G3 iMac (it lasted for six years, being used heavily each day) and now my second computer is also an iMac. I admit I had my doubts about Apple. The long life of the G4 processor and the under whelming performance of the G5 made me start thinking about a switch but luckily Apple switched to Intel before I could. I nearly got a Macbook but figured the iMac was better value for money.
So this is a review about two aspects of the machine, the software (OS X) and the hardware.
So about the machine itself. From unpacking to connecting to the Internet all up took about 20 minutes. You'll probably then spend another hour or so downloading all the latest updates for OSX. Unlike Windows XP or Vista you don't have to activate or register any software before you can use the machine.
The screen is very bright and sharp (so bright Apple use it as the flash for the built in iSight web camera...clever eh?). It (brightness) can be adjusted to fit your viewing situation as can the angle of the screen, which hangs from a simple stand.
The keyboard is full sized and white so will show up marks from your dirty fingers pretty quickly. Guess it depends whether you view your new computer as a machine for work or as a piece of minimal art to display. For me it's the former. The keyboard is good for typing and feels solid. It's also good to have full sized cursor arrows again.
The mouse. I have no problem with Apple sticking to the one button mouse concept (in this case the whole mouse is the button). This mouse also has a nipple like scroll wheel (so don't be too rough) and has pressure sensors on the side you can assign to various hotkeys and functions. I'm pleased to be rid of my old trackball mouse forever.
You have the option of getting a wireless Apple keyboard and mouse if you want, but old-fashioned wires are fine by me.
The Core 2 Duo Chip and standard 1 Gig of RAM means this is a speedy little machine. I can have a browser (the excellent Safari) open with multiple tabs, a copy of Photoshop running, a text editor going, iTunes going in the background and everything works smoothly.
Airport, bluetooth and infrared are all built right in and synching with a bluetooth device is really easy. It has a bunch of Firewire and USB ports on the back for external devices. It does not have an old school modem built in but does have a much faster Air Port Wireless card included.
And because it's got an Intel chip, if you're so inclined, you can also run Linux or even Windows on the machine. Apple even makes software available on their site that allows Intel Mac owners to do this.
OS X and the Other Software
OS X is really pretty but is it more functional than Windows XP? I use both systems all day long and have to admit they both have their strengths but if I had to choose it would be OS X. It is the attention to details that gives Apple the edge over Microsoft.
Of course if you're new to OS X it's going to take a while to get used to the Apple way of doing things. I keep getting stuck dumb things like keyboard shortcuts for copy & paste etc after using Windows at work all day long.
The GUI is gorgeous but if you want to be h4rdc0r3 l33t you can run things from the command line just like a real Unix hacker would.
Searching your hard disc (if you have gigs and gigs of data like me) is a vastly better experience than the Windows equivalent and connecting to another Mac or PC over a LAN to share files is simple. OS X has no issues with Microsoft's Active Directory (depending on how AD has been setup). Any compatibility problems between the two platforms seem to be the fault of incompatibility between the versions of Microsoft Office. Other applications like Photoshop etc don't have this issue (at least in my experience).
Of course you also get the iLife suite of software, which includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie etc, plus some games and demos of Apple's more pro software. Depending on how into the digital thing you are this will be nirvana for you. Getting an iPod or digital camera connected and transferring data is stupidly easy.
OS X has been totally solid although I notice it is a little sluggish after not being rebooted for a month or so. When my older non-Intel software crashes, the whole machine no longer freezes or goes down. I just restart the software that crashed and all is good.
The iMac comes with OS X 10.4.8 preinstalled. The next version of OS X (10.5) should be out by the middle of this year but I wouldn't wait that long to buy an iMac as the current version already has more than enough features for all but the most demanding of users.
I've only owned it for two months so I can't comment on its reliability. It is a machine and all machines break but if it's as good as my old iMac then I'll have no complaints.
This is a great computer from Apple, possibly the best machine they have ever made.