iSight and Front Row, Standard

The other major change with this generation of iMac is the integrated iSight camera and mic, located in the top side of the monitor bezel. I was actually very impressed by the image quality of the integrated 640 x 480 camera. Also to make sure that you don't get caught off guard, a green LED lights up when the camera is actually active and recording.


The iSight Camera

The integrated iSight makes video conferencing over IM through applications such as Apple's iChat AV extremely easy. Apple also ships the iSight equipped iMacs with an application called Photo Booth that does exactly what you'd expect it to do. It's a quick and easy way to take pictures of yourself, or whoever is in front of the camera, much like in a photo booth. You can then take those pictures and email them, save them, print them or set them as your buddy icon. It's a little gimmicky, but if you've ever had anyone ask you for a picture of yourself, it's a real quick way of getting it done.


Apple's IR remote will magnetically mount to the lower right of the iMac.

The other new piece of software that's shipping on these new Macs is Apple's Front Row. Front Row is Apple's first remote controlled 10-ft UI. The interface gives you quick access to your music, photos, videos and any DVD movie that you have inserted in the drive. It's a far cry from Microsoft's Media Center Edition, but at the same time, it doesn't really try to be another MCE. It seems more like a semi-serious attempt at introducing Mac users to the concept of a 10-ft UI on their computer, as well as offering a good way to quickly share entertainment content with those around you.


The main screen of Front Row

The interface is accessed and driven by the bundled IR remote; just hit menu to bring up the Front Row interface, and hit it again to hide it. The interface works fine and is very iPod-like; it generally accomplishes its goal of giving you access to all local content, as well as some content that is streamed off of the web.


The Videos sub-menu

One thing that Apple has done very well is integrated Apple's Quicktime movie trailer library into Front Row. By going to the Videos option on the Front Row main menu, you can select Movie Trailers, which will give you a listing of some of the movie trailers available on www.apple.com/trailers/. The trailers appear to be all in SD format, which isn't too big of a problem, since you can't tell the difference between HD and SD from several feet away on a 17" iMac screen. The benefit to only offering SD content is that the file sizes are nice and small, making streaming fairly noneventful, although there were a number of times when I was greeted with "the movie trailer server is not responding" message. Luckily, in all of those cases, after a few seconds, the message went away and my trailer started playing immediately.


Movie Trailers available in Front Row

I was also fairly impressed with how quickly you were able to skip ahead in a trailer; rewinding and fast forwarding was quite seamless, almost CE-like, although it still had a slight lag to it which reminded you that you were still doing all of this on a computer.

The rest of the menus in Front Row were also just a little on the slow slide for me, definitely lacking the snappiness of Media Center Edition's UI. Despite the slowness, like the rest of the OS X interface, Front Row was very pleasant to use.

One thing that actually surprised me was how usable the interface was, even on a 17" screen from 6 or 7 feet away. The size of the icons and menu items made the experience quite pleasant, although if you get too far away you are going to need a bigger screen. The new iMacs do offer DVI/VGA/S-Video/Composite output, however you'll need an external dongle that isn't supplied with the system in order for that to work.

At the end of the day, I will say that Front Row did impress me a lot more than I expected it to. There are countless occaisions where I'm showing something on my computer to my wife, my family or friends, and it'd be a lot easier to do it, especially when there are a lot of people, from several feet away and with a remote - Front Row accomplishes just that. There is no doubt that Apple will eventually have to look at doing something a little more Media Center-like, but it'll take a lot more than Front Row for that to happen. My guess would be that it would make a lot of sense for Apple to enter the Media Center market around the time that ATI begins shipping their OCUR device.

The new iMac The Intel iMac
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  • snookie - Friday, February 03, 2006 - link

    The article is very good but surprisingly makes the same mistake as so many other reviews which is to test with only 512MB of ram. The intel imac is a much better machine with more ram and it doesn't make sense to test it with the minimum amount. Also Universal apps are coming fast and furious on a daily basis. I've got 1.5 GB of ram in mine and lots of the little apps I use everyday are already UB and are nice and fast as is the OS and iLife apps. It won't be long before Windows runs on these as well as Linux with Red Hat promising support. Check out Bare Feats for some pretty nice benchmarks including games. Yes, Quake 4 will actually run at a decent speed as well as COD 2.
    http://www.barefeats.com/imcd.html">http://www.barefeats.com/imcd.html
    Reply
  • csoto - Friday, February 03, 2006 - link

    Your only complaints stem from poor choice of models/configuraitons. The 20" unit will provide the added resolution, and BTO options allow up to 2GB on the Core Duo and 2.5GB on the G5 (although a 2GB soDIMM is listed at >$1K!). This is like me complaining that my mini van doesn't have a navigation system, because I was too cheap to buy the model that came with it :)

    Also, your assertion that the Core Duo is a "public beta" is absurd. You had zero problems running applications. Word from those around me that are testing Core Duos is that for most applications, you don't even notice Rosetta. Pro Apps users would complain, but they're never early adopters, because their apps always lag at least a few months behind the latest platform (remember the "multiprocessor plug-in" that allowed Photoshop to limp along for so long before a "MP-native" version was released?). This is a solid platform transition, likely exceeding the fairly solid (albeit far more daunting for the day) transition from 680x0 to PPC.

    Now if only VMWare would ship Workstation for Mac OS X, then I could ditch the Dell...

    Charles
    Reply
  • Furen - Sunday, February 05, 2006 - link

    He says he already had an iMac so in order to compare the two I'm guessing he bought the closest-matching one possible. I would hardly do to have an 20" iMac compared with a 17" one in power consumption or running at a different native resolution. I do agree that the RAM limits the system insanely but he went for default specs rather you start improving all the draw backs each system has.

    The reason why he says this is like a public beta is not because Rosetta sucks or anything of the sort but because there are almost no universal binaries besides those shipped by Apple. Apple chose to bring these systems forwards (at first they had said the systems would come out mid '06, I believe) without having enough of a software base and that's a pretty big drawback.
    Reply
  • jepapac - Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - link

    I was just wondering if the graphics adapter on the iMac is upgradeable since it is using pciexpress. Does anyone know? Reply
  • aliasfox - Thursday, February 02, 2006 - link

    I'm guessing its actually the laptop X1600 in the iMac, soldered onto the motherboard. Unfortunate, yes, but given the primary audience that the iMac is targeted at, I'm not surprised.

    Your average home user would rather buy a new $600-1000 box instead of dropping ~$500 for more RAM, a bigger hard drive, new graphics, and a faster processor.
    Reply
  • Eug - Thursday, February 02, 2006 - link

    quote:

    I'm guessing its actually the laptop X1600 in the iMac

    Why? Previous iMacs used desktop GPU parts.
    Reply
  • aliasfox - Thursday, February 02, 2006 - link

    I read somewhere that the 9600 in the second generation iMac G5 was a laptop part, and I therefore assumed that since Apple used the same GPUs in the iMac that it used in PowerBooks (GeForce FX5200, Radeon 9600, X1600), it was sourcing the same parts for both lines.

    Also, I've never read about an integrated 9600 or FX5200 as a desktop part. I might be mistaken though.
    Reply
  • nizzki - Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - link

    Any idea which compilers apple has used for their apps? For example, for the PPC apps I assume apple uses the IBM compiler heavily optimized for PPC instead of GCC.
    If that is the case, with the intel compiler for osx is in beta, the current somewhat lackluster performance of the core duo might be skewed in PPC's favor. This would be further exacerbated if Apple used GCC to compile the macintel apps, since it is unlikely to be heavily optimized for the core duo architecture.
    Reply
  • Commodus - Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - link

    Just a heads-up, Anand: the Core Duo iMac is the first iMac model to support desktop spanning, not just mirroring. So if you want, you can hook up even a 23" Cinema Display and get a huge amount of extra workspace. I'd probably only do that with a 20" iMac and the 256 MB video memory option, though. Reply
  • ingoldsby - Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - link

    Perhaps it's just me, but the non native apps I run seem to run at about the same speed as they natively ran on my G5. While the universal binaries run much faster.

    I would love to see this comparison revisited with a realistic amount of memory in the machine (ie. 1gb+) instead of limiting the machine to 512mb.
    Reply

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