PC alternatives – Part I, the new Apple iMac.

Some of you may remember when Apple first released the iMac, an entire PC which was built into a colourful CRT monitor, designed to be easy to use and to liven up your desktop.For those of you who are somewhat ignorant of alternatives to PC computing, Macintosh computers are used by many home and professional users a viable solution to what most of you would only think about using a PC for.The system has its own Operating System, ‘Mac OS’, which is primarily designed for running specially written Mac software (for example, Microsoft Internet Explorer for Mac OS rather than Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows XP) although there is a degree of compatibility between the hardware and software that runs on a PC and that which runs on an Apple Mac.

Above all, the Mac OS is famed for its reliability when compared with Windows and some people say that it is a lot easier to use although I have never quite realised this latter point.

The new iMacs’ include a number of nice features, firstly the unit itself is extremely compact and, like the original iMac it is essentially one integrated unit with a 15in TFT monitor stemming from the top (A TFT monitor doesn’t have a CRT tube and so is often only a couple of centimetres in depth, somewhat like the display on a laptop).The specifications of the machine obviously vary dependant on the model but to give you an idea, the M8535LL/A has a built in CD-RW & DVD combo drive, 60 GB Hard Disk, built in Modem/Network Card along with a Nvidia GeForce2 MX graphics card.

In terms of the CPU, it uses a Motorola 800Mhz G4 processor, which is somewhat slower compared with the 2.2 GHz Pentium 4 chips that PCs are using.Luckily there are a number of tricks that Apple has in store to allow this machine to compete on a more equal footing.The Operating System, for instance makes use of a special feature that allows the processor to execute more than one instruction at a time, whereas PC processors on the whole can only execute one thing at once.This, coupled with the efficiency of the Operating System compared with Windows should mean that this machine feels far from sluggish.Just to clarify before any of you write in to tell me that your computer can do multiple things at once - PCs give the appearance of being able work on multiple things at any one time by working on one application for a couple of milliseconds, then switching back to another and so forth very quickly so you wouldn’t actually notice it was doing it.

The main problem with the unit is that of upgrade potential, as you can expect from a computer with such a small footprint, you would be unable to simply take the graphics card out of the machine and replace it with another if you needed.On a similar note, this could cause repairs to become a lot more expensive.The only real potential for adding new hardware would be to plug in an external unit via one of the three USB ports which as some of you will know, can be both expensive and cause the performance of the peripheral to be slow.

Because of these problems with upgrading, if you want a stylish looking machine which is compact and reliable then you may also fancy looking at an iBook which is Apples version of a laptop.At least then if you need to, you could pick it up and take it on the train.

Don’t worry if you can’t understand the technical aspects when I’m talking about this machine, I would really recommend that you take a trip to a store such as PC World so that you can actually have a play about it - only you can decide whether or not you actually like it, especially if you have become used to a Windows machine.I would recommend looking around for the best price on the high street and via mail order though; don’t just let the salesman push you into a sale.

The price is fairly reasonable, for such a unit you would typically looking paying around £1550 or so, all inclusive.For more information and pictures please visit www.apple.com.Remember that this unit is compact, stylish, ready to use straight out the box and includes the ability to read DVD’s and to write CD’s.

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.