Pondering Mac succession

2008-02-21

in Daily updates, Geek stuff, Internet matters

Three years ago today, I first turned on my 14″ G4 iBook. Since then, it has served me very well: progressing from Panther through Tiger to Leopard and from Photoshop 7.0 to CS2. The machine has served purposes ranging from editing every photo posted to this site to serving as the platform on which my thesis was written to initiating video calls through Skype. Unlike most of my electronics, it has never needed to be handed over to a technician for repair. That said, the machine is definitely showing its age – particularly in terms of processing power and hard disk space.

Three years is a decent lifespan for a laptop (especially one that was a value rather than a performance model from the outset) and I am planning to replace the thing within the next few months, finances permitting. While the MacBook is an obvious successor, I am leaning more towards one of the Intel-based iMacs. I will still have the old iBook to lug around for taking notes and writing emails, when required, and it’s a whole lot nicer to watch movies on a 20″ screen than on a 14″ one. I would also feel a lot more unconstrained with a 250 gigabyte drive than with an 80 GB one.

Setting up my mother’s system also provided a hands-on demonstration that the new iMacs are more than elegantly designed boxes. They are well-designed, well-integrated systems focused on doing the things for which any computer I use is essential. The Mighty Mouse may be fiddly and frustrating, but that’s the only element of the package I found to be less than excellent.

[Update: 1 April 2008] I was seriously thinking about buying a 20″ iMac this month, but the fact that the new ones will have inferior screens is giving me pause. Apparently, the new screens only show 2% of the colours the old ones did.

[Update: 22 August 2008] I got my new 24″ iMac today. It’s a gorgeous machine, and I especially appreciate how well the Migration Utility works for transferring files and settings from an old to a new Mac. In the tradition of naming my computers after characters from science fictions books, I have dubbed this one ‘Seldon’ after Hari Seldon of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation universe.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. February 22, 2008 at 9:45 am

Does buying a desktop computer signal that you intend to stay in Ottawa for a while?

tristan February 22, 2008 at 9:28 am

I still believe even the newest macbooks to be inferior to the ibooks in some key areas. The screen for example, is smaller, it lacks a modem, it lacks a proper latch to hold it shut, they run much hotter, they keyboard is not replaceable.

But most of all, they are an unsatisfying piece of design – essentially unchanged from the ibook except for being a longer rectangle. Apple used to be famous for radical design, but since 2001 they have become extremely conservative. On styling alone, they are ripe to be beaten (although no one is trying).

Milan February 22, 2008 at 9:49 am

I still believe even the newest macbooks to be inferior to the ibooks in some key areas.

The modem is not an issue for me, as I don’t expect to ever be relying on dialup. The major reason I would want a Macbook is the faster processor. It’s a real pain to have to wait 3-5 minutes for iPhoto to load, as well as being unable to run iPhoto and Photoshop well at the same time, despite having 1.25 GB of RAM in my iBook.

The Macbooks also have nicer feeling keyboards, and the built-in video camera is a nice touch.

On styling alone, they are ripe to be beaten (although no one is trying).

I think the Macbooks look and feel a bit better than the iBooks. They are thinner and have a nicer aspect ratio. That said, you are right to highlight that they are not a radical change. The biggest difference is the Intel chip (and thus the ability to dual boot with Windows or run Parallels).

Milan February 22, 2008 at 9:50 am

Does buying a desktop computer signal that you intend to stay in Ottawa for a while?

I suppose so – though the iMac is compact enough that it would be feasible to ship to another city. I intend to keep the original packaging.

Milan February 22, 2008 at 11:28 am

Basic model iMac: ($1,299.00)
* 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
* 1GB memory
* 250GB hard drive
* 8x double-layer SuperDrive
* ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB memory

Add more RAM yourself, rather than paying Apple $165 for an extra gig.

Upgrade to 320GB drive: $54 (who wouldn’t do this?)
Upgrade to 500GB drive: $164 (probably worthwhile)

Subtotal: $1,463.00

GST: $73.15
Ontario Retail Sales Tax: $117.04

Total: $1653.19

tristan February 23, 2008 at 4:21 pm

The ontario retail tax looks high – can it be avoided by ordering online?

Milan February 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Not if it will be sent to an address in Ontario. I wonder if Quebec taxes are lower. If I order it straight from Apple, I will have it sent to my office, anyhow.

Anonymous February 26, 2008 at 10:20 am

Apple MacBook, MacBook Pro get refreshed with faster CPUs, multi-touch

Aw snap. It finally, really happened… kind of. Apple has just dropped a nasty refresh on its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, knocking the processor speeds up, and giving the Pros that tasty multi-touch the MacBook Air has been sporting. Still, they couldn’t break off an even slightly new form-factor for us? Both lines are sporting Intel’s downsized new Penryn chips, which should make your lap and / or battery quite happy. Right now we’re seeing updates to the GPU memory, an LED backlight (option!) for 17-inchers, as well as LEDs on all the rest of the Pros (sorry again MacBookers). New specs on the MBPs include a CPU boost to a base speed of 2.4GHz all the way up to 2.6GHz, that suspiciously new 3MB or 6MB L2 cache on the CPUs, added RAM to the graphics cards (up to 512MB for the higher-end 15-inch, and all 17-inch models), and of course the new trackpad. On the MacBook front, things look even more familiar, with only minor bumps to speed (2.1GHz up to 2.4GHz) and CPUs. Both new lines get hard drive increases, with the MBPs rocking 200GB or 250GB options, while the MBs range from 120GB all the way up to 250GB. Ports, weight, and size all appear to be just the same for both lines, undoubtedly to the chagrin of many readers, and Apple is skimping on the Apple Remote across the line; it’s now a $19 add-on. Full SKU rundown after the break.

Milan February 26, 2008 at 3:05 pm

The MacBook improvements are nice, but not very impressive. The iMac plan remains the most probable option for now.

. April 1, 2008 at 4:32 pm

New 20″ iMac Screens Show 98% Fewer Colors

By kdawson on dithering-all-the-way-to-the-bank

Trintech writes points us to an AppleInsider article about another class-action lawsuit directed against Apple Inc. This one claims that the displays on new 20″ iMacs are only capable of 6-bit-per-pixel color, 98% fewer colors than Apple advertises. Rather than the 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens used in 24″ iMacs and earlier 20″ models, “The new 20-inch iMac features a 6-bit twisted nematic film (TN) LCD screen,” according to the article, “which the [law] firm claims is the ‘least expensive of its type,’ sporting a narrower viewing angle than the display of the 24-inch model, less color depth, less color accuracy, and greater susceptibility to washout.” Apple recently settled a very similar class-action suit about the displays on MacBook and MacBook Pro models.

. April 14, 2008 at 5:04 pm

Psystar Offers $399 “OpenMac” Computer

By ScuttleMonkey on dead-before-it-even-got-started

mytrip writes to tell us that Psystar has announced a new line of Intel-based computers that promise to run an unmodified version of Mac OS X “Leopard”. Unfortunately almost immediately after the launch their website went down and as of this story remains unaccessible. “Astute readers may well hear this news and ask themselves if it doesn’t sound like a Mac clone, something whose time came — during Gil Amelio’s tenure at Apple — and went shortly after current CEO Steve Jobs assumed the helm at the company. […] It definitely defies the EULA for Mac OS X, which specifies that the purchaser of a legal copy of Leopard is entitled to install the operating system on an Apple-branded computer. If you buy the $399 OpenMac, you can check the EULA yourself if you also buy the pre-install option, as the company includes a retail copy of Leopard with your purchase.”

. April 28, 2008 at 9:47 am

Apple updates iMac as expected

by Thomas Ricker, posted Apr 28th 2008 at 8:29AM

Yup, another Apple store outage reveals yet another bump in product specs. This time, it’s the iMac getting the treatment just as Geeksugar and our own sources predicted — on a Monday though instead of Apple’s customary Tuesday morning approach. So what’s new? Well, for starters you’re now looking at the latest Core 2 Duo Penryn processors. For the same starting price of $1,199, you now get a 20-inch iMac with 2.4GHz proc, 128MB of ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT graphics, 1GB of memory and a 250GB 7200RPM disk. The top of the line 24-inch model now sports a 3.06GHz processor, 512MB of NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS graphics, 2GB of memory, and 320GB 7200rpm disk for $2,199. Rounding out the specs across the lineup are Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 802.11n WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, built-in iSight cam, and 5x USB 2.0 (which includes the 2x on tethered keyboard) and 1x Firewire 400 and 1x Firewire 800. Same size, same weight and available now… yes, right now.

Milan April 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm

I called Apple about the updated iMacs. After speaking with two different people, nobody knew which of the new iMacs have 6-bit twisted nematic film screens and which have 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens.

They have forwarded the question to their engineers, and I should hear back in two or three days.

Milan May 13, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Apple called me back but did not leave a message. When I called the number that had called my phone, I just got their general switchboard.

I am back on the phone with them now trying to find an answer.

. May 13, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Apple’s new 20 -24inch iMac is in another color lawsuit

Specifically, the firm takes issue with a marketing claim from the Mac maker that both the 20-inch and 24-inch iMac are capable of displaying “millions of colors at all resolutions.” While this claim holds true for the current 24-inch model and previous generation 20-inch model — both of which display 16,777,216 colors on 8-bit, in-plane switching (IPS) screens — the new 20-inch iMac display is said to be capable of 98 percent fewer colors (262,144). While Apple describes the display of both the 24-inch and 20-inch iMacs as though they were interchangeable, KBK asserts that the monitors in each of the desktop systems are of radically different technology.

Milan May 13, 2008 at 6:14 pm

I spoke with someone from Apple’s corporate marketing group today and they said that they cannot give me any internal information on what kind of screens the new iMacs have. He then referred me to some information on pages he found through a web search.

I am now trying to find the answer through the Photo.net forum.

Milan July 24, 2008 at 5:38 pm

One nice thing about the 24″ iMac is that it has a very large and attractive monitor.

One major downside is that it can only be used with the iMac. If I got a better computer later, I could not plug it into this display.

Milan August 13, 2008 at 12:06 am

Milan1: Those iMacs sure are nice looking machines: much more powerful than the MacBooks, and still portable enough to move relatively easily. $1200ish for the basic model seems fair enough.

Milan2: Alas, the models with 20″ screen use cheap nematic film LCD displays, not the in-plane-switching variety that someone who cares about photo editing would want.

Milan1: Well, that means $1899 for the 24″ version.

Milan2: But surely the default 320GB hard drive is far too small.

Milan1: That’s true. I have never regretted spending extra on a bigger drive, and have frequently regretted buying smaller ones. That’s another $150 for the 750GB version.

Milan2: Remember how your iBook keyboard died and you replaced with with the default iMac keyboard?

Milan1: Yes. Since I already have the wired version and need to order one with the iMac, I should stump $50 for the wireless versions of the keyboard and mouse.

Milan2: Gabe’s wireless iMac keyboard sure is nice.

Milan1: It sure is.

Milan2: Will the ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO w/256MB GDDR be an adequate video card?

Milan1: Better safe than sorry. I should spend another $150 for the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS w/512MB GDDR.

Milan2: That sounds wise. What does that add to?

Milan1: $2249 before tax

Milan2: And after?

Milan1: 2249 + (2249*0.14) = $2563.86

Quite a contrast:

1) The basic iMac: $1480 with tax

. August 18, 2008 at 7:10 pm

There is a current major criticism for the August 7, 2007 batch of iMacs pertaining specifically to the 20 inch model. Apple is currently being sued for having allegedly deceived the public by promising millions of colors from the LCD screens of all Mac models. The 20 inch models, however, currently only display 260 thousand colors; dithering was used in an attempt to hide the issue.[13] This issue was originally noticed on Apple’s line of MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. [14] This issue arose due to the use of 6-bit per pixel Twisted nematic LCD screens, instead of more modern technologies. There also has been some criticism of the 20″ Aluminum iMacs for having lesser viewing angles than the 24″ Aluminums. This is due to lower quality displays being used in the 20″ models than in the 24″s. Apple hasn’t commented on the issue.

Milan August 19, 2008 at 11:10 am

Comparing screen dimensions between my 14″ iBook and the 24″ iMac:

14″ iBook:

Hypotenuse: 14″
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Horizontal: 11.2″
Vertical: 8.4″
Area: 94.08 square inches

24″ iMac

Hypotenuse: 24″
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Horizontal: 20.9″
Vertical: 11.8″
Area: 245.78 square inches

The iMac screen is 2.61 times as large as the iBook screen, by area. It is 1.87 times as wide and 1.4 times as high.

Milan March 3, 2009 at 3:27 pm

It seems Apple just released 24″ iMacs with some improved specs and lower prices:

For $2100:

2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB memory
640 GB HD
NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 with 256MB memory

For $2500:

3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB memory
1TB HD
NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 with 512MB memory

If they still have the IPS screens, they are a better deal than my machine was. Of course, that is always the way with computers that come out after the one you bought.

Tristan March 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm

If these do in fact have the better screens, the cheapest 24 inch version would be my choice for replacing my laptop if it eventually becomes unreliable. However, with my G4 Fan control software keeping my computer consistently below 45 degrees C, I’m confident that it should last quite a long time. My biggest worry is the fan failing. If that happened, and I didn’t notice, that would be the end of the machine, most likely. However, if I did notice, replacement assemblies can be purchased for less than 50$.

Milan March 3, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I worry that Apple may have cut the prices partly by ditching the IPS screen for cheaper TNF screens. If so, I would consider my current iMac superior to the new ones.

Finding out anything about their screens is very difficult, as even the technical experts on their help line are unwilling to disclose that kind of information. The easiest way to test would probably be to go to an Apple store, put an image on the 20″ and 24″ screens, and see whether the 24″ version still looks right at a much more oblique angle than the 20″ version.

Milan March 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm

News story on the new iMacs

The Mac Pro and Mac Mini also got updated.

. March 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

iMac 20″ First Look

This display is an AU Optronics M302EW02. The manufacture date shown on the back of the LCD is 09/04, that’s probably the 4th week of 2009.

Note: replacing the hard drive is a complex operation, and voids the warranty: “This screw-less design for the hard drive is nice, but unfortunately getting to to this point requires removing 21 screws.”

. March 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

iMac (early 2009) in-depth impressions

by Nilay Patel, posted Mar 10th 2009 at 11:00AM

. October 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm

iMac line updated with 16:9 displays, quad-core Core i5 / i7 model

After months of speculation, Apple has unveiled some completely new iMacs, featuring 21.5-inch and 27-inch 16:9 displays and all-aluminum enclosures. The new widescreen IPS panels are LED-backlit and have 178-degree viewing angles — the 21.5-inch iMac has a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, while the 27-incher comes in at a staggering 2,560 x 1,440. Ports are the same as the outgoing model with the addition of an SD card slot and video-in on the 27-inch (via a special cable), and the wireless keyboard is now standard (as is the all-new Magic Mouse). Pricing tiers haven’t changed much: there’s a low-end $1,199 21.5-inch model with a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB drive, a $1,499 model that bumps things up to 1TB of storage and ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics, while the base 27-inch config starts at $1,699 with the same bumped specs. All of those can be custom-configured with up to a 3.33GHz Core 2 Duo, but it’s the top-end $1,999 27-inch model that’ll bring the real heat when it ships in November; it’s packing a 2.06GHz quad-core Core i5 processor (with a 2.8GHz Core i7 available for $200 more) and Radeon HD 4850 graphics. Not a bad little refresh — but it looks like all you Blu-ray fans are going home alone again. Check the full specs list after the break.

. October 22, 2009 at 5:05 pm
Milan October 22, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Some nice new features:

1) Video in

Now you can at least use your old iMac as a monitor, once the innards are obselete

2) Four slots for RAM

Much better than two!

3) Better processor specs

Obviously

4) Magic Mouse

Any good? I don’t know. But I would expect it to be better than the very mediocre Mighty Mouse.

I don’t much care for the default wireless keyboard. Even if it’s only 1 out of 50 times that the keyboard won’t pair on startup, it is still really annoying to go did out and plug in a wired keyboard.

5) Still using IPS screens, like the old 24” models

“This display uses In-plane switching (IPS) technology, providing a wider viewing angle and better color reproduction than cheaper Twisted nematic (TN) technology.”

6) Integrated SD card reader

Long overdue

. October 27, 2009 at 10:57 am

Apple hasn’t exactly been making any promises to the contrary, but it looks like anyone hoping to use the company’s Mini Display Port to DVI adapter to hook a game console or other device up to a brand new 27-inch iMac is flat out of luck — for now, at least. That’s because the system’s exciting (but pricey) ability to be used as a standalone monitor only applies to devices equipped with their own Mini Display Port at the moment, which does limit your options quite a bit. Of course, it’s almost certainly only a matter of time before Apple or a third-party manufacturer comes out with an adapter that does work, but we haven’t heard anything firm on that front as of yet.

. April 7, 2010 at 5:24 pm

“As we mentioned at the start of the review, the iPad is all about its screen, and Apple’s 9.7-inch LED backlit IPS display does not disappoint. Colors on the screen are vibrant and saturated, while blacks feel true and deep. The iPad can be cranked up to an almost painful brightness, but also handles lower settings well — that’s especially important for readers (they even include a brightness control inside of iBooks). Because Apple employs IPS (in-plane switching) for the display, viewing angles are remarkably broad, though we can’t honestly say the feature will come in handy for us — we usually want to keep people’s eyes off of our work. The screen is, as we mentioned, capacitive and multitouch, and handled input excellently — if you’re used to the iPhone, then you know how very good Apple’s input technology is. To call it best in class would not be an overstatement; we’ve never used a more responsive screen.”

. October 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Apple to hold ‘Back to the Mac’ event on October 20th, we’ll be there live!

Oh boy. New Air? Verizon iPhone? Jobs grows a huge beard? Probably not. Apple wants to talk about “what’s new for the Mac,” which could mean some hardware — but the company definitely wants to talk software too. See that lion sneaking around behind the logo? Apple is bringing the media out to Cupertino to discuss (amongst other things) the next version of OS X. That’s right — a non-mobile product. If you think it’s too early for 10.7, don’t worry — last time we did this dance, the company previewed Snow Leopard about a year before it hit your screens.

. August 5, 2011 at 2:21 pm

XKCD: Mac/PC

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