Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Inside the iMAC G5 Package

When you plan to purchase iMAC G5, get rid with the package and please read below to familiarize what’s inside the box.

The iMac G5 arrived in an almost rectangular, but not very deep, box, 22 x 24 x 9.5 inches. There's a plastic handle on the top of the box, but it's surprisingly heavy to move around. Inside, the cables, mouse, keyboard and documentation are on the top of the Styrofoam insert, the computer sitting underneath. (The iMac G5 came with the same white single-button mouse and keyboard as the Power Mac G5 we bought a year ago.)

Lifting the computer from the box reveals the first surprise: there's no obvious place to grab it. There's no handle, and the surface is surprisingly slippery. Combined with its weight, you really have to be careful how you carry it. Apple provides a technote, that recommends "grasping both sides of the computer".

The next thing you notice about the new iMac is that it's not really like an iPod at all, despite Apple marketing their design similarities. Sure, it's white and has an LCD screen, but the iPod has beveled edges, while the iMac's edges are straight. The iMac is also encased in a layer of clear plastic. You can actually see 1/8 of an inch of clear plastic all around its edge.

There's been some talk about too much white space underneath the screen and whether this makes it difficult for shorter users to position the computer. While we can't authoritatively answer this question, the iMac doesn't seem objectionable when compared with other large screens.

Our older Nokia 20" CRT monitor has 3 1/2" of controls and molding under the screen compared to the iMac's 4 1/2". While the diagonal measurement for both screens is identical, with its smaller edges at the sides and top, the iMac box physically seems smaller, yet its screen seems larger. (Of course, it's difficult to directly compare a 4:3 format screen with a 16:10 one.) A final note: the bottom edge of the visible portion of both screens was the same height from the desktop.

The iMac sits on a pedestal that lets it tilt forward and back. The screen does not rotate; you have to rotate the base. The computer will tilt about 5 degrees past vertical when tilted forward, and about 30 degrees from vertical when tilted back. We believe this should make it usable in most situations.

Like the earlier Power Mac G5, the new iMac's power cable features a collar that must be pushed firmly into the body of the computer. It is surprisingly easy to think you have it in correctly yet not have a connection. The plug is in the back center of the computer, and the cable can go through a hole in the pedestal. Underneath that is a security slot for connecting a lock and cable.

Also on the back are all of the I/O plugs: audio line in, sound out, video out, three USB 2.0 ports, two Firewire 400 ports, modem and Ethernet (10/100 Base-T).

There are also two USB 1.1 ports on the keyboard, although one of those will probably be used for the mouse. So, once your keyboard and mouse are installed, you still have two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 1.1 port left.

At the bottom, below those inputs, is the power button. This means you have to reach around behind the screen to push the power button. Though it's fairly easy to find by feel, one might prefer it to be on the front, especially as the iMac already has a light on the front that comes on in sleep mode.

The USB 2.0 ports also work with USB 1.1 devices and support both low-speed, full-speed and high-speed data transfers at maximum rates of 1.5 Mbit/sec., 12 Mbit/sec., and 480 Mbit/sec. respectively. The USB 2.0 interface is now common on PC peripherals, and its speed is similar to FireWire's (apparently without some of the reliability problems that have plagued FireWire devices). It's far superior to USB 1.1 for hard drives, digital cameras, scanners, etc., and the iMac G5's support gives you better choices when buying peripherals.

On the other hand, the lack of support for Firewire 800 is curious. Admittedly, if you're using the FireWire port with an iPod, or to transfer video from a DV camcorder, then the lack of FW800 support isn't significant. But for those who might want to add faster hard drives, we wonder why there's no FW800 port. There are reports that the G5 has performance problems with FW800, but perhaps it's a marketing issue. Apple hasn't explained the choice.

The SuperDrive drive is on the right side of the computer and it's a slot-loaded design: You push the CD into the slot, and when it's almost completely in, the computer sucks it in the rest of the way. We found that we had to look at the side of the computer to align the disc correctly; blindly trying to find the slot didn't really work.

Our iMac G5 came with a Matshita DVD-R UJ-825 optical drive, which will write DVD-R and CD-R formats. According to Apple's site, it writes DVD-R discs at up to 4x speed, reads DVDs at up to 8x speed, writes CD-R discs at up to 16x speed, writes CD-RW discs at up to 8x speed and reads CDs at up to 24x speed. Power Macs currently ship with a SuperDrive that writes DVDs at 8x and reads them at 10x.


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