Sunday, January 16, 2011

# 10: Apple's 27-inch iMac Desktop MC511LL/A

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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful: 4.0 out of 5 stars Upgrading from an older iMac, August 5, 2010 This review is from: Apple iMac MC511LL/A 27-Inch Desktop (Personal Computers) First things first: the iMac offered on this page has the quad-core Intel Core i5 processor. A configuration with a dual-core i3 processor is also sold by Amazon. A more powerful quad-core processor, the i7, is available as a build-to-order option from the online Apple Store. Be sure you're looking at the configuration you want. Apple makes four 27" Aluminum iMac processor setups in all: an i3, two with the i5, and an i7 (see the Comments on this review for a link to Apple's official tech specs).

Now then, on with the show. Many reviewers of the previous release of the 27" Aluminum iMac have already discussed the essential hardware and software features. So, rather than repeating stuff that has already been said, I am going to focus this review on my experience of upgrading from a G4 igloo iMac that was running System 10.5.8 .

Migration Assistant
*I used a Firewire 400 to Firewire 800 cable to move the contents of my old computer to the new machine with Migration Assistant.
*The process was virtually seamless, with only a few minor adjustments necessary to the transferred data. Only four applications required reinstallation: ClamXav, iTunes (due to the Soundflower plugin--in any case, no music was lost or damaged), Microsoft Expression Media 2, and a Juniper Networks remote access program (part of a corporate telecommuting package).
*Rules for Little Snitch, a third party utility, need to be reestablished.
*Customized preferences for Spotlight must be reentered.

Magic Mouse
*iMacs now come with a wireless mouse as standard equipment. The Magic Mouse is a vast improvement over the Apple Mouse (aka Mighty Mouse) because it doesn't have a roller ball that eventually stops working. In fact, there aren't any external moving parts on the Magic Mouse, other than the on/off switch.
*Expos? and Dashboard functions are now on the top row of the keyboard, not on mouse buttons.
*If you're interested in the new Magic Trackpad, you'll have to order it separately. It doesn't come as standard equipment right now.

*The chiclet style keys took me a little while to get used to, but now I prefer them to traditional "long stroke" keys.
*For some reason, Apple has made a compact laptop keyboard the standard iMac keyboard (Steve Jobs must be nostalgic for the original 1984 Mac keyboard). Anybody who relies on Page keys for navigation or on a numeric keypad for data entry is out of luck.
*An extended keyboard with Home/Pg Up/Pg Dn/Delete keys and a number pad is available as a build-to-order option, along with additional memory and other treats, at the online Apple Store.

Audio System
*Optical digital audio input and output requires cables or cable adapters with 3.5mm plugs. Standard size TOSLINK connectors won't work. Also, digital audio I/O is run through the microphone and headphone ports. It is consequently impossible to use headphones or an external mic when the computer is setup for optical digital audio use.
*The speakers are a weak point in the design. They are small, underpowered, and sound tinny. I think the igloo iMacs had much better sound. If I recall correctly, they had a specially tuned amplifier--plus the speakers were fairly large and were not built into the computer housing. Users who use their iMac as their main music source or who work with music and sound will want to buy a separate pair of speakers.

Using the computer: screen, fan noise, heat, Rosetta
*This iMac is all about the gigantic 27" screen. It's incredibly sharp and bright, with better-than-HD resolution. Excel users will love being able to see columns A-AE and rows 1-95 all at once at 100% zoom. No more wasting time scrolling around and splitting windows. Photos, movies, and graphics all look absolutely fabulous.
*I initially thought I would hate the glossy finish on the screen, especially after seeing how much glare demo models at the Apple Store showed. But, as it turns out, the shiny glass isn't distracting at all in my home office. That said, anybody who hasn't ever seen a glossy screen computer in person should go check one out before placing an order.
*Something that I miss from my igloo iMac is the ability to move the screen both from left to right (x-axis) and up and down (y-axis). Aluminum iMac screens can only be swiveled up and down, in a fairly limited range.
*Under most conditions, the computer runs very quietly. Fan noise is normally inaudible.
*The top of the computer can become noticeably hot to the touch. Not hot enough to cook the proverbial egg, but definitely warmer than most other electronic devices (except for the original PlayStation3, otherwise known as the Sony Spaceheater).
*PowerPC applications run well under Rosetta. Once it is downloaded automatically, upon demand, it runs invisibly.

Bottom line: it's the screen, the SCREEN, THE SCREEN!! Massive amounts of screen real estate, combined with fast performance, make the 27" Aluminum iMac a true joy to use for both work and play. One star penalty for not making an extended keyboard standard and for the terrible built-in sound system.

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Very fast, very quiet, plays burned DVDs just fine (will update review frequently), August 15, 2010 This review is from: Apple iMac MC511LL/A 27-Inch Desktop (Personal Computers) BURNED DVDS:
My big concern is that the DVD drive would not play burned DVDs. (Out of the box, my MacbookPro did NOT play burned DVDs very well, if at all. After a couple OS updates, that seems to be a thing of the past, but a new concern for this drive.) DVDs tested that worked on the new iMac are: Imation DVD-R 8x; Taiyo Yuden white; Verbatim DVD+R DL; Verbatim DVD-R; Memorex DVD-R 4x; Princo DVD-R 'white star'.

Upgrading memory on the iMac is easy. There are 4 slots for memory: 2 'upper' and 2 'lower', as Apple calls them, but they are really 4 side by side slots on the bottom (behind the Apple logo.) The 2 upper slots are populated by Apple's memory, but the 2 lower slots are open (unless you upgraded already.) The 4 memory slots are accessed by unscrewing 3 screws with a Philips screwdriver (a normal size will do.) Apple recommends "For the iMac (Mid 2010) models, use 2 GB or 4 GB RAM SO-DIMMs of 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM in each slot." Removing the aluminum screen is a one-screw deal, then push in the memory, and power the iMac back on. That's it. If you are planning on running VMWare, or playing games, or doing video, you will likely need to upgrade to another 2 or 4GB. I recommend 2 cards of 2GB each. VMWare running Win7, while OSX is running PS and a browser takes up about 60-75% of the 4GB installed memory. And remember: saving a little and buying janky memory is like putting used, dirty oil in your car - what are you really saving by doing that?

The older remote control for my MBP worked just fine. That is until we started watching some streaming video through Safari. For some reason that video knocked out the ability to use the remote, and I had to restart the iMac to get it to see the remote again. Don't know why, and it was only for video being played through website. May be a rare issue.

It only took 63 mins for me to move 93GB of data from an external drive using USB 2.0 cable. Loading Mac Office took less than 10 minutes to load from DVD (default config) - fastest I have ever seen, yet. One thing I noticed is that I can hear this hard drive writing to the disc, whereas I cannot here my older iMac's drive at all. I have to put my head up near the screen, but I can hear the thumping more prominently than I can on the 2-year old iMac. This might be due to the way the housing/area around the drive is designed: might be creating an echo chamber? Don't know why, just do.

Whoa! The wireless keyboard worked from over 50-feet away! I walked through a thick wood door, down the hall (cinderblock walls) and around the corner and it still worked! I have no idea how far away I can go, but across the room is no problem. Same goes for the wireless mouse. The mouse does not have the right-click set up as a default. I also found that the left-right swipe action was dangerous while browsing websites, for a left-swipe is the same as the 'back' button - and when filling out an online form hitting the back button (or accidentally swiping left on the mouse) can erase your inout data.) The vertical swiping action of the mouse is just like the iPhone, smooth and screen slides to a stop. Best mouse ever made.

This card is definitely showing a stronger signal than my MBP sitting the same distance from the router (which is a G-band). It also shows a lot more networks to choose from than the MBP.

Out if the box, the iMac needed to be updated. Nothing ridiculous, just about 7 updates (Safari, Java, AirPort, iTunes, OSX security...) with a half hour of download and updating.

People new to Mac, and those that haven't bought one in years, will find the contents of your retail box sparse: keyboard, iMac, mouse, 2 DVDs, small booklet, power cord and batteries for the keyboard and mouse (installed.) That's it. PC users/converters will be shocked at how little documentation there is in your box: no yellow pieces of paper screaming out warnings and 'do this first!' type messages. This is true plug and play.

These speakers sound just the same as the 2-your old iMac I am comparing all of this to. Maybe a little less tin/bright... Still not the best, most amazing speakers out there, but are far better than the majority of embedded computer speakers. I still recommend you buy a set of desktop speakers if plan on watching movies, playing music loud, or want a rich deep sound.

Still not super-stoked about the glossy screen, but I think I am starting to get used to it. Bright rooms (especially where the light behind you is brighter than the light behind the iMac) just suck to work in. That's when I break out the MBP and it's matte screen. The 178-degree viewing angle statistic is ONLY for the most optimum viewing conditions! Again, a bright room where there are reflections on the screen will just turn it all to a kaleidoscope: colors are seen but good luck figuring out what you are seeing! In a pitch black room, yes, you can benefit from the 178-degree viewing angle and all is good.

While having the quad core CPU makes for a very snappy and almost lag-free iMac, it does NOT speed up your old programs. It's NOT like Office programs are suddenly using all four cores to compute your Chemistry spreadsheet or create that graph. It just means that there are more pipelines for your programs to run on. In short, the program has to be written to utilize the multiple cores at the same time. Not even my Adobe CS4 is using all four cores.

The new thinner pedestal ("foot") is great for pushing back the keyboard/work. The old iMac had a 1/4 inch tall foot, almost brick-like, whereas this one about an 1/8 of an inch or less. Works like a ramp.

All said, I have to say that this is the best iMac so far. I know that should go without saying, but you can't always take this for granted. If you have a 1-year old iMac, I can't see upgrading unless you are having problems with it. If you have a 2+ year old iMac, or even a G5 rig, I can easily say that you should/could upgrade to this one. You will not be disappointed.

Will update this review as I come across more revelations.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars Better than ever, August 12, 2010 This review is from: Apple iMac MC511LL/A 27-Inch Desktop (Personal Computers) I got this to replace my three year old iMac. Transfer of files,settings and apps was easy. It took me less than ten minutes to pull the new iMac out of the box and set it up for transfer. The transfer took about 2.5 hours and occurred perfectly while I was away.
The 27 inch display allows me to have as many as three large pages open in the same view. The resolution is incredibly high.
Photos appear like I'm looking through a window.
I use a lot of video and photo software. The processor speed is high. I can render videos about three times faster than I could with my older iMac that I thought was pretty fast.
A bonus for buyers of Macs is the high quality service you get from Apple Care. Wait time is reasonably short and the competence of the tech service staff is higher than any computing organization I've had experience with in the past 45 years. Apple Care covers you for three years and costs about 170 bucks from Amazon. Most of my questions were answered on Apple's website, but Apple Care bailed me out a number of times.
Hardware reliability is unknown because the machine is so new. My past experience tells me that, if something doesn't work, then Apple Care will either figure it out or help me get service without the hassle I used to get from HP and,especially, Dell. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews Was this review helpful to you? 
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