eMac II Brings Apple to the Gates of Dell

2003 – Just when you thought it was safe to recommend an eMac, Apple thows another wrench into the works, the eMac II, or so our anonymous janitor at One Infinite Loop leads us to believe based on reconstructions of shredded documents and late night visits to the design labs while in a drunken stupor.

The Rumor Mill

Some of you may remember back in July 2000 when Apple, unavailable to get G4 processors faster than 500 MHz, created the first dual processor Power Mac G4 models. Apple claimed that two brains were better than one, but before OS X was a reality, two brains weren’t generally much better than one. Only a few classic Mac applications were ever written for multiple processors.

Mac OS X changed everything. It’s Unix at the core, and this means that support for multiple processors is built right into the operating system. Even if some applications don’t utilize multiple processors, the OS can balance the load so every program gains something when multiple processors are present.

Until now, Apple has only incorporated dual processors in its top-tier models, but that’s coming to an end at the January Macworld Expo, right Rupert (er, scratch that, don’t want Apple to know our survivor’s name).

With all the performance tweaks in Panther, the OS X has less bottlenecks than ever before, but that G4 processor still tops out this side of 1.5 GHz – while the more modern, generally more powerful G5 CPU starts at 1.6 GHz.

The eMac II

Choosing to give Dell a real run for the money, Apple will have multiple eMac II models available in January. At the top is a model with a pair of 1.25 GHz G4 processors, a 512 MB DDR memory module, and one empty memory expansion socket. With the availability of 1 GB modules, the eMac II will officially support 2 GB of RAM.

But that’s not all. Like the slot-loading iMacs, the eMac II will be nearly silent. You’ll still hear the hard drive, but taking several lessons from the Power Mac G5, the eMac II will have various cooling zones and six different fans to move air as necessary.

apple eMac IIThe case itself will be about 1″ narrower, 2″ shorter, and an inch less deep. Weight will drop to about 42 pounds. The internal drive will use Serial ATA. And the case will be made from machined aluminum.

Oh, alright, that’s made up. The case will still be plastic, but using the kind of technology seen in the Dalmatian and flower power iMacs, the iMac II will have a brushed metal look – just like the OS!

A step down will be the dual 1 GHz eMac II, followed by a dual 867 MHz model. Even the entry-level 733 MHz dual G4 eMac II will offer more performance and far better process balancing than today’s 1 GHz eMac.

And it will cost less.

Heading straight for the Gates of Dell, the 733 MHz eMac II will sell for US$599 including OS X 10.3, AppleWorks, and all the usual iApps. The stock hard drive will be 60 GB, and a Combo drive will be standard, although CD-ROM and CD-RW versions will be available to education customers. Consumer will also be able to upgrade to a SuperDrive when ordering from the Apple Online Store.

Recognizing the realities of OS X, even the 733 MHz model will include 256 MB of memory.

The 867 MHz model will sell for US$699 with a Combo drive, US$899 with a SuperDrive. It will have the same 256 MB RAM, but a slightly larger 80 GB hard drive.

At 1 GHz, the SuperDrive becomes a standard feature, as does 512 MB of RAM. This will be Apple’s most powerful sub-$1,000 model at US$999.

Topping the line, the dual 1.25 GHz eMac II will sell for US$1,199 – a hundred bucks less than the original iMac of 1998.

It Gets Better

17-inch iMac g4We expect a similar upgrade for the semi-volleyball iMac as well, although even we aren’t gullible enough to believe in a 42″ model. This may not be announced in January though.

There’s another place where two brains can be better than one: laptops. The PowerBook line will be upgraded with dual G4 processors. There won’t be a speed bump, but a pair of G4s running at a lower speed can provide the same performance as a single faster G4 while drawing less power, providing greater battery life, and generating less heat.

Later in the year we anticipate the iBook G4 line going with dual processors as well.

Using a pair of CPUs provides about an 80% overall boost vs. a single CPU, and slower CPUs are a lot less costly than faster ones. For those used to 233 MHz to 600 MHz G3 Macs, even the 733 MHz eMac II is going to feel like a whole new level of performance. That eMac will offer about the same performance as the recently discontinued single CPU 1.25 GHz Power Mac G4!

As expected, there will be no headless eMac or iMac. Steve Jobs remains adamantly opposed to people hooking ugly monitors to new Macs.

– Anne Onymus