Apple iMac Core Duo review: Apple iMac Core Duo

The story continues with another nonnative app, the video-encoding application Sorenson Squeeze 4. In Mac OS X, Rosetta really takes its toll, to the tune of an abominable 24 minute score on CNET Labs' benchmark. Switching to Windows, the score drastically improves to 4 minutes, 16 seconds.

Looking at the iMac Core Duo's performance under Windows against other Windows PCs shows no real surprises. For example, the iMac Core Duo's performance fell right between two recent, midrange, multimedia-friendly Viiv PCs from Dell and HP on both our SysMark 2004 Windows application benchmark and our Sorenson Squeeze video-encoding test.

There has also been some talk online about iMac Core Duo being able to boot faster than the old iMac G5. A video posted on Web site YouTube showed the iMac Core Duo booting faster. Then Apple enthusiast site Silver Mac posted test results showing that the iMac G5 was actually not as bad. Curious, we ran our own boot-time test, comparing this iMac Core Duo to the 2.1GHz iMac G5. Each system started from its fresh-from-the-box disk image, then we updated all of the default software via Apple's autoupdate tools. Under those conditions, we ran three clean boots and stopped the clock when every component finished loading. The iMac G5 booted in an average of 46.6 seconds. The iMac Core Duo came up in an impressive 25.7 seconds. Your mileage may vary based upon a number different configurations and installed software, but conditions being as equal as they can be given different chipset and operating systems, the iMac Core Duo has a clear edge in this regard.

But back to core performance. If you find those nonnative scores in Mac OS X alarming, you're not alone. You can take heart in the fact that some third-party programs--Quark, for example--have already been ported over to the so-called universal binary that will run on both Intel-powered and older PowerPC-based Macs. Canon, Epson, and HP have all also announced that full universal binary drivers for their Apple peripherals will come with the iMac Core Duo as part of OS X 10.4.4. Photoshop maker Adobe and other major software vendors have committed to updating all of their Mac products. And in fairness, the iMac Core Duo came out six months earlier than its software partners expected. Whether they're able to complete the updating process before a new iMac comes out we can't say. Until then, you can always download Boot Camp and buy a copy of Windows, along with any Windows apps that are near and dear to you.

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.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  
Dell XPS 400

Adobe Photoshop CS test (in seconds)
(Lower times are better)

Apple iTunes MP3-encoding test
(Lower times are better)

Sorenson Squeeze 4 video-encoding test (in seconds)
(Lower times are better)

Doom 3 Custom Demo 1,024x768, High Quality, with 4X antialiasing and 8X anisotropic filtering (in frames per second)
(Higher scores are better)

System configurations:
Apple iMac Core Duo (Mac OS X)
Macintosh OS 10.4.4; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X1600 PCIe; 250GB Maxtor 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Apple iMac Core Duo (Windows XP)
Windows XP Pro SP2; 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo; 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X1600 PCIe; 250GB Maxtor 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Apple iMac G5 2.10GHz
Macintosh OS 10.4; PowerPC G5 2.10GHz; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 128MB ATI Radeon X600XT PCIe; 250GB Serial ATA hard drive

Dell XPS 400 (Viiv)
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 3.2GHz Intel Pentium D 940; Intel 945P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 (PCIe); two Maxtor 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel (RAID 1)

HP Pavilion Media Center TV m7360n
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005; 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D 920; Intel 945G chipset; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6200 SE (PCIe); Maxtor 300GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

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