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Hands-on Friday: The newly redesigned 24-inch iMac [update]

With a new design and impressive specs, the new 24-inch iMac is a must-see.

24-inch iMac
24-inch iMac Apple

As a Mac Mini and MacBook owner, I think it's safe to say that I know my way around the Mac. My MacBook comes with me wherever I go and as for my Mac Mini? Well, the Mac Mini was an impulse buy that was designed to make my life a little more comfortable. Along with the purchase of the lowest-end Intel Core Duo Mini, I purchased a wireless keyboard and wireless mighty mouse for distant computing. Once home, I hooked it up to the HDTV in my bedroom and it has sat there ever since. Why in my bedroom you ask? Well, who really wants to wake up in the morning and get out of bed immediately? I'd rather flick the device on and do my morning routine from the comfort of my own bed. Trust me -- it's not a bad solution. Try it out if you think that sounds appealing. You won't regret it.

But enough about other computers I own. You're here to read about the new 24-inch iMac and I'm here to deliver.

After two days of debating whether or not I really needed another computer, only to discover that no, I really didn't, I went out and bought the 24-inch iMac with the 2.4GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. The hefty 320GB hard drive is a nice touch and while running Mac OS X, I've never had a better experience.

The new design

To be entirely honest, the old iMac design was just plain ugly. That awkward white look with an unattractive screen made it look like it was lost somewhere between the late nineties and early oughts. But the new design of the iMac is simply gorgeous.

Offering an attractive black bezel to accent the glass, reflective display, the iMac will immediately jump out at you. The Aluminum finish is a nice touch and the stylish black backing with the Apple logo adds even more character to an already appealing design. The right side still features the slot-loaded DVD-RW and on the back you will find a host of handy inputs, including three USB 2.0 and two firewire ports.

iMac Backside
iMac Backside Apple

A hidden iSight camera is neatly tucked away above the screen and the same black Apple logo rounds out the most handsome design I have ever seen in a desktop.

The experience

When I talk about an Apple product, rarely will you hear me mention the functionality or the capabilities of the machine. Simply put, the iMac doesn't offer anything special in terms of specs and chances are, you might be able to find a similarly-equipped device running Windows for a fraction of the price. But what other Windows-based machines don't offer enough of is an experience.

The first day I brought my iMac home, everyone who saw it was taken aback by its design and overall usefulness. Mac OS X is still the OS heavyweight and on a device like this, it really shines. The new iMovie is quite appealing and it runs much quicker than the older version on my MacBook, but that can also be attributed to upgraded specs.

Regardless of what some might like to believe, Macs are still prone to freezes and the need for a shut down here and there, but the iMac is probably the most stable Apple computer I've used in a long time. In a matter of minutes, the OS was up and running and I have yet to witness any beach-balling or any other Mac abnormality. Simply put, Apple did a nice job with this machine.

Adventures with Boot Camp

Part of the (poor) justification I used for buying the new iMac was my need for another Windows machine. Sure, I could have gone out and bought a Windows-only machine that would have cost me less, but where's the fun in that?

So, in an attempt to run both, I decided I would go with Boot Camp instead of Parallels for one simple reason -- it's cheaper. Parallels is quite costly, I would need to buy more RAM, and to be honest, I wasn't in the mood for that after I just dropped all of that money for a new computer.

Installing Windows was a cinch. First, I downloaded the Boot Camp software from Apple and burned the Apple drivers to a disc. From there, I partitioned my drive and gave Windows a respectable 50GB of space. Next, I installed Vista Ultimate and in a matter of minutes, I was running Windows on a Mac. It was probably the most gratifying and stress-free twenty minutes I have ever spent partitioning a drive and installing a new OS.

If you're a possible Windows covert and you're still a little skeptical about the move, I recommend using Boot Camp to ease your transition. Running Windows on a Mac with the help of Boot Camp gives you the best of both worlds and trust me, you won't regret it.

Since I purchased the iMac last weekend, I've been using it exclusively as the computer that I write on, surf the web on and even do some photo and video editing on. Without a doubt, it's the best computer I've used for any of these situations.

While the iMac may not necessarily appeal to the serious video and photo people who have a strong distaste for the glossy, glass screen, it is, without a doubt, the best home-use computer I have ever used.

UPDATE: Thanks to Zeb who pointed out an extremely dim-witted mistake on my part -- Parallels is NOT free! Not sure what I was thinking on that one, but it's fixed now.

Check out what the CNET Reviews editors have to say about the 20-inch iMac here.

Check back each Friday on The Digital Home as Don performs a hands-on evaluation of some of the hottest home products around. Next week: The Samsung HT-TX75. If you want to see prior Hands-on Friday articles from Don, click here.