The iMac Channel

iMac 2001. A Better Value?

Dan Knight - 2001.02.22

Simplify

Where once there was model chaos, Steve Jobs brought the four-product matrix. Where once there were many Performas and entry-level models, Apple gave birth to the singular iMac.

From one model in any color you wanted (as long as it was Bondi blue) to one model in five colors to four models in five colors, confusion replaced simplicity.

The confusion isn't completely gone, but the 2001 iMac models do simplify the product line. There is no more confusion: "Doesn't the iMac DV have DVD? The old DV did." (None of the new iMacs have DVD.) Instead we have the iMac 2001 in three speeds: 400, 500, and 600 MHz.

Apple promotes them as fast, faster, and fastest.

Fast

The 400 MHz iMac 2001 replaces the 350 MHz iMac and 400 MHz iMac DV (the DV without DVD), essentially offering everything the iMac DV had with a $100 price reduction. It comes in indigo - period. The new 400 MHz iMac is an excellent value, but there is no longer a $799 iMac. That's a shame.

The 400 MHz model uses the same old PowerPC 750 (G3) processor as all earlier iMacs. The CPU has a 512 KB backside cache running at 160 MHz. This model also has a 24x CD-ROM drive and the same ATI Rage Pro graphics as the 2000 iMacs.

Apple is right: 400 MHz is plenty fast for most people. Avid gamers might crave more horsepower, and graphic types will want bigger screens, but for many users, this machine has lots of power and an attractive price.

Faster

The faster models us the PowerPC 750cx, an enhanced G3 processor with a smaller, faster cache. The 256 KB cache runs at full CPU speed, providing very impressive performance compared with the older PPC 750 and an external cache.

New iMacs

The 500 MHz iMac 2001 not only uses this more advanced processor, it also runs at at the same clock speed as last year's fastest iMac. Beyond that, it replaces the ATI Rage Pro with the newer Rage Ultra and doubles video memory. This should be a very attractive machine for gamers.

The 500 MHz iMac 2001 is Apple's least expensive computer with built-in CD-RW. The drive burns CD-R at up to 8x, CD-RW at 4x, and provides playback at up to 24x. Unlike the iMac DV+, which it replaces, it doesn't play DVDs.

As for value, it has every feature of the DV+ except a DVD drive, adds CD-RW to the equation, improves graphics, and has a faster CPU - all at US$1,199, a $100 reduction from the DV+ price. This is another excellent value.

And you have your choice of indigo, flower power, and blue dalmation - really.

Fastest

How can you improve on that? How about another 100 MHz of performance and an absolutely huge 40 GB hard drive? Or replacing indigo with graphite?

That describes the top of the line 600 MHz iMac 2001 SE, which has the same US$1,499 price tag as last year's 500 MHz iMac DV SE. Again, you give up watching DVDs, but you can burn your own CDs.

At 600 MHz, this is the one serious Mac gamers will be most interested in. Like the other two iMac 2001 models, this one also improves the value equation.

The Power to Burn

With iTunes 1.1, Apple brings the power to burn not only to the Power Mac G4 and faster iMac 2001 models, but also to over 25 popular CD-RW mechanisms already on the market. I'll be trying the new iTunes with my SmartDisk's VST FireWire CD-R/W Drive later today. (The old iTunes caused problems with Toast, the most popular CD burning software for the Mac. iTunes 1.1 is supposed to address that conflict. We'll see.)

And iTunes remains the best value in MP3 creation, management, and burning - free is a hard price to beat.

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