Pros: Elegant all-in-one design; Good range of hardware features and bundled software
Cons: Relatively small memory and hard disk space; Modest 3D games performance
Bottomline: A little more expensive than a Windows PC but the added extras make up for it
Apple’s Macbook notebook computers have sold like hotcakes over the past year and the iMac – formerly the flagship of Apple’s home range – has taken a back seat.
However the company recently updated its entire iMac range and one of the main beneficiaries is this new entry-level model priced at £799, which is cheap by Apple standards.
Like all iMac models the iMac has a compact, all-in-one design with the monitor, speakers and main unit housed within a single slimline design that measures barely an inch and a half in thickness, roughly similar to a standard flat-screen TV.
The display on this model is 20in and tucked inside the silvery grey case is an Intel 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of memory and a 250GB hard disk. That provides a good level of basic performance that is more than adequate for surfing the internet, running the Mac version of Microsoft Office or handling a bit of video editing.
It would have been nice if Apple had included 2GB of memory, as is standard on most new Windows PCs, but the Mac operating system Leopard needs less memory than Vista. A PC running Vista really needs 2GB but this iMac gets by with half that.
The graphics card could be more powerful: the Radeon HD 2400 XT used here doesn’t provide particularly good performance for running games with demanding 3D graphics. But there aren’t many games available for the Mac and it's true that keen games fans are better off buying a PC or games console instead.
But though games are a weakness, the iMac does well as a versatile multimedia machine. There’s a webcam and microphone built into the unit, along with the stereo speakers.
It has the latest wired and high-speed wireless (802.11n) technology for networking and Bluetooth for connecting to devices such as mobile phones (so you can synchronise calendar and contact information between phone and computer). There’s also a good set of software supplied with the iMac.
As well as the ubiquitous iTunes music software, Apple’s iLife software collection also includes programs for organising your digital photos, video editing and DVD burning, music composition, and designing a website. This means that you’ve got everything you need to create, organise and share all your digital music, photos and video in a single – rather elegantly designed – box.
There are cheaper Windows PCs available but they rarely have the same range of hardware features and added software that you get with the iMac. That makes the iMac a good choice for anyone who wants a versatile and compact multimedia computer.