Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My take on the new Macs

Surprise, surprise. For the "benefit" of everyone who has bought a new Mac in the last month, Apple today released new iMacs, a new version of the polycarbonate $999 MacBook, and a new mouse.

The cheaper iMac ($1199) is 21.5", with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, the same as HDTV. This means you have a pixel-by-pixel display that perfectly matches the HDTV that a video will be shown on. There are going to be a lot of videos produced as a result of this machine. Buy the $1499 model and you get Apple's fastest processor, a 1Tb drive, and higher-end graphics processor. Spend $1699 and move up to a 27" model with Apple's fastest processor and 2560 x 1440 resolution, the same as their 30" Cinema Display. The most expensive model, $1999, actually offers a less powerful processor but the most powerful graphics chips available. Professional graphics people will not be unsatisfied with either of these models, if you can believe the specifications.

All iMacs come with wireless mouse and keyboard. I think this is a bad idea for reasons I have stated before: Certain repair and maintenance operations (such as zapping the PRAM) do not work with wireless keyboards because they lose their connection to the Mac. Therefore I recommend everyone who gets one of these also buy a cheap keyboard and mouse to keep in a closet until they are needed.

Apple proved they are still committed to offering a low-priced laptop by making a major design improvement in the case. It's lighter than the old one, faster, and has a better battery that gets as much as 7 hours on a charge. Expect less if you watch YouTube videos, play DVDs or other processor-intensive activities.

Down side: Once again they have dropped the FireWire port. It has but two USB ports, an audio in-and-out port, and a mini DisplayPort for an external monitor. Call me old-fashioned, but I insist that FireWire is vastly superior to USB-2 and would not have any Mac without it. Still, since Intel Macs can boot off of a USB-2 backup drive, new owners can get by without FireWire. Just bear that in mind.

The mouse LOOKS amazing. No buttons (of course; Jobs hates buttons) but the entire surface is touch-sensitive and supports multi-finger gestures like the trackpads do, and also can track correctly on glass or solid-color surfaces, not possible with older laser mice.

If you ordered but did not yet receive a new Mac that has been replaced by these models, call and immediately cancel, or verify that your order will be changed to the new model at a matching price. Apple usually allows that, but may not extend the service to all Mac dealers not actually owned by Apple. Those older models should still be available for a while at a reduced price.

See the whole mess at Apple's site.

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