27″ iMac Review

I bought a new iMac this weekend. It was time to upgrade my 24″ iMac, which I bought the same weekend OS X Snow Leopard was released. I remember that because they hadn’t started shipping Snow Leopard pre-installed. I bought a Leopard machine and they gave me a Snow Leopard disk for free.

I had reviewed the 27″ iMac a year or so ago and decided it wasn’t worth my money then. My 24″ iMac worked great and had no real problems. But, I started working full-time at home and in dealing with an ever-increasing load of photos and videos, I decided that I needed more processor cores. So, I bought the quad-core i5 flavor at the Apple Store here in Indianapolis.

While I was playing with it, I tried breaking it. I even loaded up some of my huge InDesign and Photoshop files and loaded them via my Flash drive. The sales reps were all too eager to throw it in and push it to the limits. I did to that machine what I normally do: 10+ tabs open in Safari, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver all running at once with multiple docs open. Pages is almost always open. Mail, NetNewsWire, Tweetie, Skype all running and iTunes playing podcasts in the background. That’s a pretty tall order.

My 24″ iMac gets testy after the first few open Photoshop documents. This 27″ iMac keeps humming along. Yesterday, I was rendering video from Final Cut, moving effortlessly in a huge 50+ page InDesign file, listening to music, working in Word and Pages and even spent some time organizing photos in Aperture. It got a little sluggish with Aperture because the video render was hogging all the processor cores, but it wasn’t bad. It held together well.

The screen’s extra size isn’t that much different. 3″ inches isn’t that much to write home about. But, what I missed before and didn’t realize until I was at the store looking at them again, is that the 27″ iMacs have ridiculous resolution. My 24″ sported a 1920 x 1200-pixel display. The 27″ goes up to 2560 x 1440 — that’s a lot of extra pixels and it’s in a 16:9 display ratio. The end result is much more screen in not a lot more physical display.

As a bonus and a testament to Apple’s amazing stores, I asked to get a keyboard with a number pad, which don’t ship by default. They agreed and opened the box, swapped the smaller keyboard for the larger and packaged it back up. When I was walking out the door of the Keystone mall, the sales rep came running out with the other keyboard. She said, “It’s your lucky day. Our manager said to just give you the original keyboard, too.” She explained they have no real use for that, so they just gave it to me. That’s a $69 keyboard they just gave me for no real reason. Neat.

The 27″ iMac does run a lot hotter than the 24″. Enough so that I can hear the fans kick on sometimes, which has never happened. I know Steve Jobs hates the sounds that come from fans, and it doesn’t stay on long, but they sure can swirl some air around quick when they need to.

One unusual step I didn’t do this time around was transfer all my files from my previous Mac. For one, I never have the right FireWire cord because they keep changing the plug sizes from Mac to Mac. But, I’ve transferred files across an iBook, a MacBook, a white 21″ iMac and again to the last 24″ iMac. I have files on top of files on top of files. And while OS X does a good job of clearing out the junk, other people don’t. I’m looking at you Adobe, Microsoft and mostly Adobe. I had running versions of CS3, 4 and 5! So, I decided to start from scratch and copy over only the files I needed to via WiFi. It took it all night to transfer my Documents, Pictures, Movies and iTunes folders, but after reinstalling only the Apps I use and need, my hard drive is surely GBs lighter in size. This ought to free up a bunch of Time Machine space, too.

A good upgrade, a fair price and a lovely display with great service from Apple as usual. Makes me proud to be a Mac user.

Ironically, I ended up working on a client’s PC on Friday as I was troubleshooting some email issues in Windows Mail. Good lord, what a reason to use a Mac. That HP laptop had all the signs of a traditional PC: bloatware, sluggish, laden with Intel/Windows/ATI/HP stickers and Windows Vista is such a chore. To delete a single email file via Explorer required me to enable hidden files, authenticate to make sure, go to the Windows folder, authenticate to be sure I wanted to, find the mish-mash of files in need of removal and try to cut/paste for backup purposes. Turns out, it won’t let you. Vista won’t let you cut or copy system files at all. I could only delete them to the Recycle Bin, but only after authenticating again to make sure I wanted to. OS X FTW!

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