Why would anyone buy an iMac?

People who know me probably know that I’m a lot more anti-Apple than I am anti-Microsoft, but that’s besides the point here.

Was browsing some ads that got sent to my house today and I saw an ad for an iMac (as Apple tightly controls prices, I would expect them to be similar across stores) and, seriously quite shocked at what was on offer.  The cheapest system had:

Intel i3 3GHz CPU
4GB RAM (probably DDR3)
500GB Harddisk
256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 GPU
21.5in screen
MacOSX 10.6

All for AU$1598!  To put this in perspective, my current computer, which I bought in 2008 when the AUD crashed cost me less, and is still more powerful than the above.  This is what I paid:

Intel Core2Quad Q6600 [$295] (FYI: a C2D E8500 was about $285 at the time – comparison with i3)
4GB DDR2 1066MHz Kingmax RAM [$95]
640GB Samsung F1 7200rpm HDD [$89]
512MB ATI RadeonHD 4670 GPU [$119]
Gigabyte EP45-DS4P motherboard [$199] (that’s a rather expensive motherboard BTW)
Antec NSK6580 case with 430W Earthwatts PSU [$128]
Logitech Desktop 350 (basic kb+mouse) [$22]

…which totals $947.  If we add in a 21.5in screen [probably under $200 at the time] and a DVD burner [around $30 at the time], and even add in a copy of Windows (around $200) it’s still significantly cheaper than the iMac today even disregarding the fact that the AUD was worth 60% of what it’s worth today, relative to the USD.  Oh, and yes, my system pretty much beats the iMac in every way, not to mention it’s far more customisable and not as locked down as anything Apple make.

Okay, Apple’s stuff is absurdly expensive, this is probably nothing new.  From what I’ve heard, people may buy Apple stuff for its design.  But is the design really any good?  I personally don’t think so.

Our Uni recently replaced all library computers with iMacs (different to the one advertised, so I may be a little misinformed here) and I really don’t like their design in a number of ways.  After using one for a while, this is my thoughts so far:

The Screen and Machine

  • It’s big, heavy and somewhat cumbersome.  It appears you can only tilt the screen forward and backwards.  Although most screens (especially cheaper ones) don’t seem to be terribly adjustable, I much prefer the Dells in the IT labs, where you can adjust the height, swivel horizontally and rotate the screen itself on the stand.
  • It’s glossy.  I don’t know WTF people make glossy screens.  If I wanted to see my own face, I’d look in a mirror.  If I wanted to see that bright light behind me, which is reflecting off this stupid glossy screen, I’d look directly at it (but I wouldn’t, I’m not that stupid).  But when I’m looking at a screen, I want to see what’s actually on there.
  • I can’t seem to find any controls on the screen.  Maybe there’s some on the back, but I didn’t look too much.  Not that screen controls should be on the back anyway.
  • USB ports.  The last time I used a computer which didn’t have USB ports at the front was made about 10 years ago.  Apple helps you bring back those memories by not putting USB ports at the front (or sides).  As for the back USB ports, the number of them is somewhat limited…
    I did actually later realise that there were USB ports on the side of the keyboard.  I guess that’s a reasonable way to do things, though I still would be concerned whether these ports supply enough power for a portable HDD.
  • Actually, make it that there’s nothing useful on the front or sides of the screen.  The power button is conveniently located at the back of the screen, so if you want to turn it on, you’re going to have to pull the screen forward, and then turn it around so you can reach the button (making sure you don’t pull out any cords), then do the reverse to return the screen to its original position.
  • The back doesn’t appear to have that many ports, though I didn’t check much (not easy to), and certainly looks a lot less than what my Gigabyte EP45-DS4P motherboard supplies.
  • I still haven’t managed to find where the optical drive is…

The Keyboard

  • Is small and flat – very much like a laptop keyboard.  Maybe some people prefer laptop keyboards, but I don’t.
  • Has very little extra keys.  Fair enough I guess, but overall, seems like a cheapish keyboard and hardly anything I’d pay a premium for.  Overall quite usable though.
  • Doesn’t have a Windows key, for all those planning to install Windows on it (the Uni library iMacs all run Windows).  Fair enough from an Apple standpoint I guess.

The Mouse

  • The trackball is quite small.  At first I didn’t like it, but after a while of using it, it seems okay.  In fact, it being a ball allows you to horizontally scroll quite nicely, despite many applications not supporting horizontal scrolling, but I guess that’s not the mouse’s fault.
  • One-button design.  Despite its looks, the mouse can actually distinguish left, centre (the ball) and right button clicks reasonably well, however, only if you push your fingers in the right place.  Unfortunately, as this is a single button design, there isn’t really any clear way to feel where the right place is without looking, apart from finding the ball with your fingers and distinguishing left and right portions from there.  If you push too close to the centre though, you can inadvertently get the mouse to press the wrong button.
  • From the above, you cannot click the left and right mouse button at the same time.  Not important for most applications perhaps, though I know some games require (or can be enhanced with the ability) both buttons to be pressed at the same time.
  • Like the keyboard, the mouse is fairly basic and has no extra side buttons and the like.  Hardly anything I’d pay a premium for.

So there’s my thoughts on the iMac.  Seriously overpriced and badly designed.  Unless you absolutely must use OSX (and unwilling to build a Hackintosh) or just an avid Apple fanboi, I can’t see why anyone would rationally buy this hunk of junk.

2 thoughts on “Why would anyone buy an iMac?

  1. Assassinator

    >> Our Uni recently replaced all library computers with iMacs

    Your uni probably gets heavy discount deals from Apple (I know ours does), so that might be why.

    1. ZiNgA BuRgA Post author

      Most likely, especially considering how much they suck up to Apple (free downloads from apple.com, now they have their own iTunes streaming thing etc).

      Maybe Apple use it to encourage youngsters to also buy Apple computers (since they pretty much have a good hold on the handheld device market already).

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