Apple G5 review:

Apple G5

The iMac's case is just as elegant as the software. We still wish you could adjust the iMac's height, but we love the extremely easy 30-second setup procedure and the absence of an outlet-hogging power brick. If you already have a wireless network, simply plug in the iMac, and you're ready to go online, thanks to its standard 802.11g wireless modem. All iMacs now also come with Bluetooth 2.0 Enhanced Date Rate (EDR) capability. This model is slightly thinner than the previous one (though with the stand, it has the same desktop footprint), and the new arrangement of horizontal ports along the bottom edge of the backside preserves the iMac's aesthetics through better cord management. Buying an iMac still means sacrificing expandability, however, as you're limited to adding RAM. (The iMac comes with a respectable 512MB, but you can add up to 2GB more for an additional $1,200 at checkout.) The stand has RAM-installation instructions printed on the bottom, but bear in mind that opening the case for DIY upgrades is difficult and will probably result in scrapes and scratches.

The iMac's impressive showing on our benchmark tests confirms that it's developing into more than just a pretty face. While at first glance, its specs don't seem all that different from those of the previous high-end iMac (a 2.1GHz processor vs. a 2.0GHz one, with the same 512MB of RAM standard), this model uses 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM (up from 400MHz) and includes a PCI Express graphics card (the ATI Radeon X600 XT with 128MB DDR SDRAM) instead of an AGP card. The result is a system that holds its own against comparably priced Windows PCs. It fared especially well in our Photoshop and iTunes MP3-encoding tests but was less successful at encoding video. The 250GB Serial ATA drive, the vivid 20-inch wide-screen LCD, and the versatile double-layer SuperDrive DVD burner are holdovers from the previous model, along with the impressive software bundle, which includes iLife '05 productivity software.

Apple has improved the iMac's specs and features, but it still hasn't come through with that support upgrade we were hoping for. Apple offers 90 days of free phone support and one year of repairs, but that's too skimpy; the phone support, especially, should be longer. For a reasonable $169, you can opt for the Apple Protection Plan at checkout to increase both plans to three years. If you're having trouble and the warranty period has ended, look to Apple's fine support pages, especially the user forums. Mac fanatics love to help others and are usually quick with worthwhile responses to problems.

System configurations:
Apple iMac G5 (2.0GHz, 20-inch)
Mac OS 10.4; PowerPC G5 2.0GHz; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon 9600; Maxtor Serial ATA hard drive

Apple iMac G5 (2.10GHz, 20-inch)
Mac OS 10.4; PowerPC G5 2.10GHz; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X600 XT PCIe; 250GB Serial ATA hard drive

Apple PowerMac G5 dual 2.7GHz
Mac OS 10.4; Dual PowerPC G5 2.7GHz; 4,096MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra AGP; 250GB Maxtor Serial ATA hard drive

Dell Dimension 5100C
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 830; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Intel 945G chipset; 224MB (shared) integrated Intel 950G; Maxtor 6L160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Gateway E-6500D
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 830; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; Intel 945G chipset; 128MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 PCIe; WDC WD2000JD-22HBB0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

What you'll pay

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