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I was walking through some wood on the Scottish Borders one day when we came across a cottage where we saw a Cavalier King Charles sitting on a chair in the sun, and a gentleman working on a computer. We got chatting about the dog (as we also have a Cavalier) and the conversation inevitable turn the his computer which happened to be an iMac 2.4GHz, 24" Core 2 Duo model being used for photography and graphics. The gentleman showed me some of his work on the iMac and that convinced me that I should give up my Windows PC and to switch to MAC for my main uses of photo and video. If I was really stuck, I was told that Mac could run any Windows programmes I needed on it.
My main intention was to leave the Windows PC for day to day use, and use the MAC PC for hobbies only - more of that later. However, a few weeks later, after looking at reviews and seeing the machine again, I took the plunge and bought the iMac - a decision I have never regretted.
I have no intention of including technical data in this review, this can be obtained easily enough at www.mac.com.
Intel core 2, 2.4GHz processor, 24" glossy TFT screen, CD/DVD recorder/player with dual layer recording, Built in webcam, wireless modem, ethernet, 3 x USB2, Firewire 400 & 800, stereo speakers, aluminium keyboard, Mac mouse. There are also audio inputs and outputs.
Everything is built into a solid aluminium case as is the keyboard which has white keys. The keyboard also has an additional USB port.
Software supplied is Mac OSX 10.5 (latest) and iLife 08 which includes applications for photo, video, DVD, Calendar, Mail, music, Web Page publishing, and many useful utilities. There is also 'Text Edit', a text editor which has sufficient formatting options for most simple day to day uses. The most important feature to me is 'Boot Camp', a programme that allow you to install and run Windows on the Mac. This can be accessed from the "apple" menu or you can hold the "alt" key down to choose which system to boot from on restart.
Switching from Windows
Most functions on the Mac are intuitive. The minor differences to get used to are the Green Max/Amber Min/Red Close buttons on the LEFT top corner of the window, and the 'cmd' key on the keyboard which is equivalent to the 'windows' key. Also, programmes are downloaded as disk images (dmg) files rather than complete programmes - the dmg files tend to be a lot smaller.
The keyboard is quiet, yet has just enough audible and touch feedback to make it positive, and it is a pleasure to use after the 'clicky' windows PC keyboards.
A 'dock' shows your main programmes as clear graphic symbols rather than the tiny windows programme bar. When the cursor is moved over a 'dock' symbol it is enlarged to allow you to see clearly that the right one has been selected.
Although the screen is reflective when off, you do not notice any reflection when viewing it normally.
I use the built in 'Airport' for my wireless network connection, and built in bluetooth for my PDA. Both work well in Mac and Windows modes.
Although I do not use it for chat, I find the built in web-cam useful for taking quick photos for the likes of eBay or screen avatars.
I have added a hard drive to store my photos, and another to back up the computer. The backup called 'time machine' is set to do one complete backup of the entire system followed by daily backups of just the changes. The backups are of the Mac's system only, not Windows or external drives. I have used 300GB of my 500GB drive for backup in 6 months. When it is full, 'time machine' will ask permission to delete the oldest backups to make more space.
The CD/DVD single sided drive is on the side of the display unit, so you need to make sure that it is accessible if the display is in a corner as I have it. The drive is almost silent and very quick. The eject button is on the keyboard. It will not take the mini-disks used with cameras and some software drivers. This means that to load some software you need a normal PC to copy the mini-disc onto a standard sized disk.
I have my favourite Windows programmes on the Window part of my disk, so I rarely need to use my standby Windows PC anymore.
I love iPhoto for sorting displaying and making slideshows from my photos. So simple to use.
I like iMovie for its simplicity and clear graphic interface. It has all the functions to make a simple movie edit from your video camera.
iDVD allows you to transfer your computer video projects.
iWeb is really superb for creating a quick website, although it is limited on what you can import to pages - only one page of PDF text for example.
Garage Band lets you create quick musical compositions and has an auto compose feature that is handy for movie backgrounds.
iTunes is known by most people, and although I do not use it, I have tried it and it is really simple to get tunes off the web or elsewhere and make up playlists for your iPod or other MP3 player.
iCal is a simple calendar feature but is not compatible with Widows Mobile as used on most PDAs. iCal does integrate with eMails allowing you to load dates straight from mail to calendar.
Address book is much simpler to use than the windows version. It also integrate with mail.
The power button on the back of the display does not always switch on first time.
There is no visible disk activity light, and not all programmes show the spinning wheel busy symbol.
Inability to use mini-discs.
(Maybe) lack of floppy drive - but it could be added externally.
Virtually impossible to find any worthwhile discounts on the list price.
A super machine with excellent display whose real strength is in graphics for photo or design. Little effort to make the change from Windows which seems rather 'clunky' if you switch back.
I have had to add a USB hub, but will switch to wireless devices as they are replaced (printer, scanner , etc.).
If you are into photos, graphics and iTunes I would seriously recommend the iMac, not forgetting it can also be used foe Windows if you like to play the occasional game.
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