- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2005

Like its most recent predecessors, the new $1,699, 20-inch G5 IMac is a single piece computer with the processor, combo DVD/CD drive and ports placed behind the display.

Unlike the earlier units, this one builds in a webcam, which can also take still pictures, and comes with a tiny remote control that will handle your multimedia playbacks such as photo slideshows, DVDs, ITunes music, movie trailers and video podcasts.

In short, it’s all business and yet it’s also primed for a fair amount of fun. But perhaps the greatest thing about the IMac is that it works, it works without failing, and it keeps working.

My test unit, the $1699 model with the 20-inch display, contained a 2.1 GHz PowerPC G5 processor; 512 Mbytes of RAM, a 250 gigabyte hard drive; the aforementioned DVD/CD playing/writing “SuperDrive” and the ATI Radeon X600 XT graphics card, with its own 128 megabytes of video RAM. Plus speakers, a keyboard and the “Mighty Mouse,” reviewed here earlier this year, and the “Front Row” remote control for all that multimedia stuff.

Setup and use was characteristically simple: just plug it in and play.

Sound from the built-in speakers is excellent: if not the equal of a separate audio system, certainly good enough for most situations and applications. The basic Mac applications were found: Mail.app, the Safari Web browser, Address Book, ITunes, IPhoto, IMovie and so on.

Also present is “Photo Booth,” which plays on the built-in ISight Web camera to take still pictures in a variety of styles, including a Warhol-style “pop-art” representation that will certainly impress your friends. This strikes me as more of a “living room” application for the family than something I’d use in an office setting, but who knows? It is a creative little twist, for sure.

Its presence also highlights the utility, and scariness, of having the ISight video camera built-in. We’re one step closer, perhaps, to the Jetson-style videophones familiar to cartoon viewers a generation ago, but with many homes having a broadband Internet connection, along with not a few offices, the notion of Web-based video chats isn’t a bad one. And, for my money, Apple’s IChat AV videoconferencing software is among the best around. I could imagine both home and office users making much of the built-in camera (and microphone).

Despite my personal enthusiasm for this system, there are a couple of flaws.

I’m glad Apple put the ports — USB, Ethernet, FireWire and the like — toward the bottom right rear of the computer, because it’s easier to hook up items that way. I wish the power button were on the front of the system as opposed to the rear. And the supplied keyboard would benefit, greatly, from a longer cord. Ditto the power cord, which is good but could also use a tad more length.

Overall, however, this is an impressive system worth investigation and ownership. If the 20-inch unit’s price is a hassle, try the $1,299 price for a 17-inch model that has just a hair less CPU power, a 160 GB hard disc, and a slightly less-powerful video card — you will still be very happy, I believe.

The computers are in Apple’s company stores and other retailers throughout the country; details are at www.apple.com. Or, just look for a smiling computer user.

E-mail [email protected] or visit www.kellner.us.

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