I’ve had an ongoing relationship with Apple computers since 1990, when I was put in charge of an in-house publishing project and handed a Macintosh IIfx, a copy of Quark Express and told “to go at it!” Since that time, I’ve owned several Apple computers for personal use, and have continued to use them in a work environment.
Last Christmas, I decided to replace my old laptop with a brand new Apple iMac, choosing the 21.5″ iMac with the base 4 gb of RAM at a price of about $1300.
I use my iMac for personal use, as well as running a small home-based business. So it didn’t take me long to load it up with several needed applications. After installing GIMP, OpenOffice, Komodo, and setting it up for my network and printer, I was ready to go.
At first, the machine performed flawlessly, but it should do this when you first use it, right? But how is it doing today, about 1 year later?
Crashes: The machine has crashed on my a total of three times. Yes…three. Each time, it was a somewhat graceful crash, with a simple reboot taking care of whatever problem it encountered. I don’t shut down my machine for months at a time. In a nutshell, I have to rank this operating system as pretty darn stable. Rating: A+
Performance: When I first got the machine, I timed how long it took to load GIMP (a rather resource-intensive application) and compared it to how long it took to load on my previous Dell. One year later, it loads in almost the same amount of time, maybe taking only a few extra seconds. It does take a few seconds longer to boot up, but this could be because of the upgrade of the OS from Snow Leopard to Lion. Ever since I upgraded, though, I do need to run my memory cleaner a bit more frequently. I probably can use a memory upgrade to perhaps 8gb…again, probably because of the OS upgrade. Rating: B- (probably A if I was still using Snow Leopard)
Noise: So many people made comments about how incredibly quiet iMacs are. When I booted my machine for the first time, I wondered if it even had a fan, it was so…well…silent. Today? Still quiet as a mouse. In fact, I can safely say that my backup hard drive makes more noise. Rating: A+
Display/Case: It was a big, beautiful display that partially got me hooked on wanting the iMac. Today, the display is still clear and sharp. Colors are still balanced. The case is still in excellent condition. If it gave it a decent cleaning, you’d probably swear I just bought machine brand new only yesterday. And this machine has been moved from room to room more than a few times…some moves more graceful than others. Rating: A+
Keyboard/mouse: The wireless mini keyboard still works great, even after spilling a serious amount of Mountain Dew on it. The wireless mouse also continues to work great, but it seems to be devouring batteries at an alarming rate; I think I can attribute this to (again) Lion, with its increase in mouse gestures which I use constantly. I wouldn’t think all that swiping would make a difference, but obviously it does. Rating: C+
Hard drive performance: I don’t think there’s such a thing as hard drive thrashing on an iMac, at least not mine. I don’t even have to “de-frag” it since the OS does this for my automatically, without my even being aware when it’s being done. Even when the OS has to go to the hard drive because it’s out of memory, it still is extremely quiet. Rating: A+
Playing well with others: It was able to connect to my home wireless network with extreme ease. My printer, though, was another story. It’s an older Epson printer, but it took me close to 30 minutes to get them on speaking terms. Hooking up my back-up hard drive was a no-brainer, as was getting it to play nice with my digital camera. Rating: B-
“Happiness”: OK, not a real objective category, but I do have to admit that I am extremely happy with the machine so far. Still runs fast, still looks good, haven’t had to remove/re-install anything. I know I could have gotten a decent Windows machine for half the money. But the quality construction, ease-of-use, and consistently acceptable performance of my 21.5″ iMac reminds me of a great adage:
The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.
Although I still remember the pain I felt handing $1300 over to that guy at the computer store!