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Are the new Macs worth the leap?
February 28, 2006 4:15 AM   Subscribe

So is there a "MeFi concensus" on the new Intel Mac's?

I'm thinking about purchasing one of the new Intel based iMacs, but I'm wondering if the current batch is worth taking the plunge this early or if perhaps I should wait for the next release.

I don't get the price differential between the 17" and 20" models. The only hardware difference I've been able to see was more screen real estate and a bigger hard drive. Worth $400?

Also, how likely is it that a VMWare or VirtualPC type emulator will soon be availble for these machines?
posted by hwestiii to Computers & Internet (26 answers total)
 
I'm wondering if the current batch is worth taking the plunge this early or if perhaps I should wait for the next release.

Conventional wisdom on brand-new, first-iteration Apple products suggests waiting to see if any bugs manifest themselves. Wait for Revision B and all that. There have been a couple of reports of processor noise from the MacBook Pros, but nothing as yet about the Core Duo iMacs, which have been on the street a month longer. Unless I've missed something.

I don't get the price differential between the 17" and 20" models. The only hardware difference I've been able to see was more screen real estate and a bigger hard drive. Worth $400?

The 20" model has a faster processor (2.0 GHz vs. 1.83 GHz), a larger hard drive (250 GB vs. 160 GB) and its video chipset is upgradable to 256 MB. And, of course, a bigger screen. When you spec out the 17" model as close as you can to the 20" model (which in the case of the Core Duo models, means upgrading the hard drive; in older models you had to do a couple of other things), the price diff is about $300 for the screen and processor.

What's the price difference between a 1.83-GHz and a 2-GHz Core Duo processor, and the price difference between a 17-inch and a 20-inch TFT?

Also, how likely is it that a VMWare or VirtualPC type emulator will soon be availble for these machines?

AFAIK there has been no definitive word from Microsoft as to whether Virtual PC will be available for Intel Macs.

Personally I'm not worried about hardware issues on the iMacs at the moment. The real question in re taking the plunge is whether the software you regularly use has been Universalized yet.

Me, if I had the funds, I'd grab one of them; my G4 iMac is starting to look awfully long in the tooth, and I don't use Photoshop. Most of my apps are already Intel native.

Bottom line: Do you need a new computer? If you can wait, wait; if you can't wait, buy.
posted by mcwetboy at 4:44 AM on February 28, 2006


I've never used it on MacOS, but the free qemu emulates a full X86 system and can boot several flavors of Windows and Linux. Its source code contains drivers for graphical display on MacOS systems.

I have used it on Linux systems, to run some old DOS software and also to run Linux.
posted by jepler at 5:12 AM on February 28, 2006


There isn't a Mefi consensus on anything.
posted by box at 5:27 AM on February 28, 2006


Given that all current PPC software should run on the Intel Macs, wouldn't the current iteration of Virtual PC work?
posted by jalexei at 5:44 AM on February 28, 2006


Given that all current PPC software should run on the Intel Macs, wouldn't the current iteration of Virtual PC work?

No, this specifically will not work. Virtualisation isn't your average application, and Rosetta doesn't emulate acomplete PPC. (Just like Classic won't work on x86, it's hard to "nest" emulators of different architectures.)

I suppose that it's only time before one of the many virtualisation efforts (VMware, Qemu, ...) releases a IntelMac version.

As to the original question: general consensus (don't know about other Mefites) seems that the new iMacs are pretty decent. If you don't need Photoshop and the likes, Rosetta seems to work good enough, and most "smaller" apps (Shareware and freeware like Adium, Cyberduck, ...) are already universal.

With every Rev. A hardware product in general, and with Apple in particular it's quite possible that some problems will surface. Usually though Apple will easily swap your computer if this is the case. (As with previous widespread problems like logic boards, screens, ...) For this reason, I wouldn't buy a MacbookPro just now, as laptops in the past have shown to be more prone to such problems as desktops.
posted by lodev at 6:02 AM on February 28, 2006


I bought a new iMac two weeks ago. I have been needing a new machine for ages, and I was sick and tired of the PC audio-production software. The Mac seemed like a good choice. I like my iMac so far. There have been some reports of problems in the Apple forums, but many of them seem like worst-case-scenarios. The one major, widespread problem (bad video in the 256MB-equipped 20" iMacs) was quickly fixed by the 10.4.5 update. I haven't experienced any glitches yet.

I suppose that it's only time before one of the many virtualisation efforts (VMware, Qemu, ...) releases a IntelMac version.

QEMU already works on the Intel Macs, and it's pretty fast. It's not virtualized yet, so it's not nearly as fast as it should be sometime soon, but it's fast and, for the most part, it works. (But there are problems: you can't install WinXP or 2K3 on an Intel Mac yet, but you can transfer the disk image from a PPC Mac or a Windows Machine). Check out the Q project for more info.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:13 AM on February 28, 2006


With every Rev. A hardware product in general, and with Apple in particular it's quite possible that some problems will surface.

You read this a lot and I've never seen it substantiated. There are plenty of examples of Rev B and Rev C hardware that's brought up new issues, and an equal number of Rev A products that have been absolutely rock solid. There's no pattern here.

or if perhaps I should wait for the next release

I can't think of any good reason to wait.
posted by cillit bang at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2006


I have a MacBook Pro.

Rosetta is amazing. Photoshop and the like don't run quite as snappy as the "Universal" apps, but honestly... they feel just as fast as my old G4 based PowerBook.

Q is a front-end to qemu, for virtual PCs, and I currently have it loaded, and running Windows 2000. Unfortunately XP doesn't work yet.

Apple's support is good enough that I've never worried about buying a rev. A product. They make the hardware and the software, so there's never really a run-around about whose fault it is, or what to try. I've had to send mac hardware back for support, and I'd rate it as inconvenient, but hardly a huge problem.

As for the idea that Apple rev As are somehow worse than other rev As... I'd be willing to wager a delicious steak, that the person who said that is repeating conjecture. The return/repair statistics that I've seen indicate that Apple hardware, of any revision, is equivalent to high-end PC hardware in terms of reliability. (which is to say, not as good as you'd hope, but not bad).

The only applications that haven't run at all for me are a few compilers from darwinports, where the configure scripts clearly seemed to be making some rash assumptions about what it means to be on an Apple.

In short, I wouldn't be afraid of the the new Intel iMacs.
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2006


sorry, I meant to wager a delicious steak taco. My browser must've accidentally ate the taco.
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:23 AM on February 28, 2006


The new macs look amazing. Apple is supposed to announce a new product any minute now (today), and will probably announce something on their 30th anniversary, so i would wait till then.
posted by chunking express at 6:29 AM on February 28, 2006


Q is a front-end to qemu, for virtual PCs, and I currently have it loaded, and running Windows 2000. Unfortunately XP doesn't work yet.

Yeah, I suspected the serious geeks would already have some emulation going. How's the speed on that?

I predict ~6 months for X11-based emulation (qemu, wine) to become generally useable for those who are willing to do a little UNIX work. Look for VMWare and VPC around the end of the year.

But that's just my opinion...
posted by mkultra at 6:37 AM on February 28, 2006


I've bought Rev. A Apple hardware before and never had a problem. I think 'buy it when you need it and can afford it' is the best plan. That said, you might want to at least wait until this afternoon.... Mr. Jobs is said to be pulling something out of his hat today around Noon EST. Whatever it is may or may not effect your plans.
posted by spilon at 6:48 AM on February 28, 2006


Q's speed is less than stellar, maybe comparable to VirtualPC on a G4. There's a bunch of stuff that should make it a whole lot faster in the pipeline, but it's not there yet. I'm using it for some fairly undemanding Windows-only batch jobs.

qemu is pretty much ignored by all but the hardest core geeks, since Q wraps it all up in a relatively tidy, mac-like package. I haven't the foggiest clue if it runs or not.

I'd guess that it does, since Rosetta has been able to run literally everything so far. (and is far faster than I expected.)
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:49 AM on February 28, 2006


At this point I would say it is less about the sturdiness of the product and more about how long you are willing to wait for prices to drop and for new models to hit the shelves. Once Apple releases a few more lines, and hits another quarter or two, and the things stop flying off the shelves, the prices will drop considerably (as they always do). Next fall (school rush) is probably going to be the ideal time, if you can wait that long. By then, the emulation software will be robust, kinks will have been worked out, etc. But if you can't resist the new computer aroma and have some cash to drop, go for it.
posted by sophist at 7:01 AM on February 28, 2006


Once Apple releases a few more lines, and hits another quarter or two, and the things stop flying off the shelves, the prices will drop considerably (as they always do).

Actually, Apple has had fairly consistent pricing over the years within a given line. They just upgrade the specs every once in a while.

So, you wouldn't be saving money, but you would get an incrementally better machine.

Personally, I wouldn't have any qualms about buying an Intel Mac now- they're apparently rock solid and OSX has been running on Intel since Day One.
posted by mkultra at 8:58 AM on February 28, 2006


Besides being bigger, the 20" display has a wider viewing angle than the 17".
posted by D.C. at 9:05 AM on February 28, 2006


I'd buy one — I actually am buying some kind of Mac for my wife, as her PC was killed by a rolling blackout recently.

But I'm waiting until this afternoon to decide on what — Apple is releasing some kind of product today, and some of the rumors say it might be an Intel Mac Mini.

So wait until at least this evening.

(And from trying out the Intel iMac at the Apple store, it's a really sweet machine. To compare: I have a Rev. A iMac G5 — this batch has lots of problems. Which is to say, it's needed a hardware repair, which Apple covered [bad caps]. This was absolutely no big deal. I would have bought the same machine again. The Intel iMacs have had no big problems like this that I have heard of).
posted by teece at 9:08 AM on February 28, 2006


mklutra is right, Apple's prices usually stay the same. What does happen is that the prices drop on older models when newer ones come out. When I bought my iBook (many moons ago) it was a few hundred dollars cheaper because some slightly faster iteration had just been released.
posted by chunking express at 9:08 AM on February 28, 2006


I'd buy one — I actually am buying some kind of Mac for my wife, as her PC was killed by a rolling blackout recently.

Don't let it happen again. UPSs are cheap. A computer should never, ever be plugged directly into the wall.
posted by dmd at 10:09 AM on February 28, 2006


VMware is already running on the Intel Mac… under Linux! An OS X version can't be far behind.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:32 AM on February 28, 2006


Early reports claim that an Intel mini has been launched.

"Mac mini specs: Core Solo and Core Duo. 1.67GHz Core Duo model with 80GB hard drive and SuperDrive, DVI video out is US$799. 1.5GHz Core Solo model is US$599 with 60GB drive, DVD-ROM/CD-RW"

It might be worthwhile if you have a monitor you like, (assuming they fixed the power bug on the vga converter.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2006


I've owned an Intel iMac for a few weeks now. The one slightly concerning bug is that there have now been two instances in which the speaker has let out a bit of a crack, and then the sound range has suddenly diminished -- no sound at all has been heard until about 35-40% up on the volume dial. However, per Apple support, resetting the power management unit (which is done by holding down the power key while inserting the plug into the unit) has solved the problem each time (although it also seems to activate the fans at full speed, requiring a normal power off and a normal power on to get them going again). I'm nevertheless glad I bought AppleCare for this thing. The $150 may well be worth it, especially with a first revision of hardware.

The above having been said, note that it is a total fallacy to say that all PPC software runs on the Intel chip. It very much does NOT. Almost all applications do, yes. However, if you have anything that runs via a contextual menu item, a preference pane, or a screensaver, it will not run until its author makes it a universal binary. Some menu extra items do, some do not.
posted by WCityMike at 10:50 AM on February 28, 2006


Apple just announced new Mac Mini's. One is a solo core, one is a dual core.
posted by chunking express at 10:58 AM on February 28, 2006


If you need it for a work environment, you should wait. The iMacs are having wired networking problems (rendering them completely unusable for wired networking), the MacBooks have a similar problem as well as a problem with "any wireless network that uses EAP authentication", which is apparently lots of places. We have lots of them here and nobody seems terribly happy with them yet.

I would wait, if you can. They will only get faster and cheaper as time goes on.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2006


I upgraded from a first-generation 1.8Ghz G5 17" iMac to a 20" Core Duo 2Ghz iMac back in January when they first became available. No major problems; thanks to a couple sites I've got Universal Binary versions of all my applications.

It's *fast*, and I've had zero wired or wireless network issues (I normally use gigabit wired, but ran on the 802.11 wireless for a couple days to test it out).

As someone else mentioned above, check out The Q Project. I've run various Linux distributions under it with no problem (see here for a screenshot showing Plan 9, Damn Small Linux, and the NetBSD installer all running at the same time).

I've had no problems with the system at all, which is surprising for a first-generation unit (I had to have the midplane replaced on the G5 six months after I got it, and the power supply replaced back in December).
posted by mrbill at 12:50 PM on February 28, 2006


I'm extremely pleased with the 20" Core Duo. I've been pushing it pretty hard for six weeks with nary a hiccup. I chose the 20" because the widescreen layout makes the 17" seem a bit compressed vertically. I've also read reports that the 20" display looks siginificantly sharper (800:1 contrast ratio vs 500:1).
posted by sockpup at 4:11 PM on February 28, 2006


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