Is it already time to think about replacing your iMac?
The iMac design was being finalized about three years ago - a
233 MHz G3, 32 MB of RAM, 2 MB of video memory, CD-ROM, a
4 GB hard drive, 10/100 ethernet, infrared connectivity, a
33.6k modem, and a couple of those new USB ports in a swoopy new
case. At least that's how Steve Jobs announced the iMac in May 1998. And that's almost
exactly what arrived on August 15, 1998. All they changed was the
modem, going to 56k instead.
At the time, the fastest model Apple had was the beige Power Mac G3 with a 300 MHz processor.
It also came with 32 MB of RAM, 2 MB of video RAM, CD-ROM, a
4 GB hard drive, and 10/100 ethernet. The iMac provided
three-quarters the power, almost all the features, and a $1,299
That was then. This is now.
I don't consider the slightly smaller size, lighter weight,
easier access to memory sockets, or new colors compelling reasons
to upgrade. They are all nice features, but they are not nice
enough to justify replacing your old iMac.
Compared with the 4 GB hard drive in the original
iMac, the 10 GB and larger drives in the 2001 iMacs might be
tempting. It's fairly inexpensive (say $150 or so) to drop a 20-30
GB replacement hard drive into an older iMac, but you may not be
technically inclined. And not only are today's hard drives larger,
they're also faster. That alone could be a compelling reason to
upgrade instead of keeping your old iMac. Or it could be a small
factor in your decision.
Today's iMacs, like last year's, have ATI 128 video,
which is quite a bit better than the RAGE II used on early iMacs.
With more video memory and faster video hardware, serious gamers
might consider that a compelling reason to replace the old iMac. Or
it could just be a small factor in your upgrade decision.
Most of today's iMacs and last year's iMacs have
FireWire, something not available on early iMacs. FireWire
lets you connect digital camcorders and digitally edit your movies
with iMovie. It also lets you connect faster CD-RW drives, very
fast and/or portable external hard drives, and other peripherals.
FireWire might be a compelling reason to buy a newer iMac. Or it
could be just one feature to weigh in the balance.
Today's iMacs have CD-RW drives. Last year's models had
DVD. Either could be a compelling reason to replace your old
iMac, especially if you want to burn your own CDs. Or CD-RW and DVD
could just be one factor you consider in deciding whether to stick
with your 233 Bondi iMac or 266 MHz fruity flavored iMac.
Today's iMacs work with AirPort, a marvelous wireless
networking technology. If you have a PowerBook or iBook, you can
set up an AirPort-equipped iMac as a base station and share your
Internet connection with your portable. If you already have an
AirPort base station, you can put an iMac anywhere in the house or
a small office without the need to run ethernet cables. This could
be a compelling reason to buy a newer iMac, especially with the
regular AirPort base station selling for $300. Or it could be a
feature that means nothing to you.
But mostly what you gain with the new iMacs is speed. My
rule of thumb with processor upgrades is a 50% gain in performance.
Below that, it may not be worth the cost of the upgrade and the
time invested in installation. If you have one of the early iMacs,
you don't want to replace a 233 MHz model with anything less than
350 MHz, or the 266 with anything slower than 400 MHz.
There are other good reasons for going to the 500 MHz iMac at
$300 more than the 400 MHz model. You get CD-RW instead of plain
old CD-ROM, a 20 GB hard drive instead of 10 GB, and 25% more
horsepower. That seems to be the sweet spot in the iMac lineup.
But Is It Time To Upgrade?
I can't answer the upgrade question for you. Sure, 233 MHz might
sound slow, but if it's fast enough for you, CPU speed alone isn't
a good reason to upgrade. You have to look at the whole package.
And if CPU speed is the only thing you want, you might want to look
at a processor upgrade, not a whole computer replacement.
If you are dissatisfied with your old iMac (which is worth
$400-600 on eBay these days!),
a 500 MHz model with CD-RW could be worth the investment,
especially if you have a DV camcorder.
It's your call. Macs tend to have a long life span. Your iMac
will continue plugging along for years, and even a 233 MHz G3 with
128 MB of memory will let you run Mac OS X.
Whether you stick with your current iMac or upgrade, it's your
budget, your needs, and you convenience that counts. But looking at
the cost of external CD burners and the worth of a used iMac on
eBay, it's almost worth upgrading for the CD-RW drive if that's a
feature you'd use regularly.
The iMac, which was a very good value in 1998, is an even better
one in 2001. Maybe it is time to consider your needs and look at
the new models.
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We believe in the long term value of Apple hardware. You should be able to use your Apple gear as long as it helps you remain productive and meets your needs, upgrading only as necessary. We want to help maximize the life of your Apple gear.