November 19th 2002
By Mike Flaminio
The 17" iMac beats out both Dell's Profile4 and HP's flat-panel PC offerings not on price - but on quality and ease of use.
So tell us something we don't know. Reviewer Joe Wilcox, who reviews regularly for c|net, isn't known for his pro-Mac sympathies. However, in a lengthy review of iMac 17 for Betanews, he gives it the thumbs up, despite its relative power deficiency compared with high-end P4 processors.
Never mind the price, feel the cables
Yes, Wilcox even cites the cables, and their tangle-free properties, as a indicator of high quality.
But more importantly, the review shows what you don't get with low-end PCs: high-end video cards. But even on HP's mid-range 883n - lineball with the iMac at $2,000 - HP resorts to an analog video card with an LCD monitor, merely to save a few bucks. The result, says Wilcox, is a blurry LCD, which compares poorly with the iMac's bright, clear 17" display.
Keyboard feel and mouse precision also get the nod, although the iMac loses marks for the one-button rodent. Speakers - with the iSub - also come in for plaudits when the time comes to watch a DVD.
Software integration is also given high marks: " The six applications and operating system improvements introduced with Mac OS X 10.2 make working with these devices much easier than on the PC. Most PC manufacturers include with their computers a skimpy selection of digital media applications." The exception, says, Wilcox, is Sony, whose digital media apps "rival Apple's,", particularly Click to DVD.
The iMac's 800MHz G4 doesn't have the muscle to compete with multi-GHz P4s, says the review, but Wilcox thinks Apple could fix that by putting a 'pro' G4 into the iMac; namely, the one that lives inside the PowerBook G4. Maybe. But previous iMacs have had G4 CPU upgrades, and it's reasonable to assume that the volume of flat-panel iMacs out there means that an enterprising upgrade manufacturer is bound to have a crack at a higher-end G4 (witness the small market for Cube upgrades).
Analysis: There's one area where Gateway's cheap Profile$ cannot match the high-end iMacs - at least for now: SuperDrive. You can't get one with the Profile4, while Gateway waits for a suitably-inexpensive DVD+RW drives to fit into a small enclosure.