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Tech Report – the new iMac

By Paul O’Reilly

You might be forgiven if you had forgotten that Apple makes computers. With the launch of the iPad and all the publicity – good and bad – surrounding  the iPhone 4, it’s understandable that the Mac has taken a back seat when it comes to the latest fortunes of the ever-expanding Apple empire.

However, despite the fact that it may no longer be Apple’s flagship product – that description must surely go to the iPhone – the Mac is alive and well. To underscore the point, Apple this week unveiled an updated version of its iMac desktop line.

Mac aficionados will know the iMac as the productivity workhorse of the Mac range. Slotted in between the various laptop versions – MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air – and the top-of-the-range MacPro, the iMac is the natural alternative to the Windows-driven PC; the go-to machine for everyday home or office use.

With one notable exception, this year’s updates are relatively low-key. Most of the enhancements are “under-the-hood”, focusing on CPU power, memory upgrade and improved graphics. The technical reviews have been almost universally positive, with commentators noting increased processing speeds and better multi-tasking. The new graphics card improves the already excellent multi-media experience, most notably for gamers.

The iMac comes with a choice of four configurations: two with a 21.5-inch screen and two with a 27-inch screen. The absence of any external upgrades may have prompted some reviewers to suggest that the smaller screen is too small given the trend towards mega-screens embraced by some PC manufacturers. Others have also highlighted the continued absence of an HDMI input and lack of support for Blu-ray.

We mentioned the one exception to the low-key updates and it comes in the form of the ambitiously-named Apple Magic Trackpad. The Trackpad gives users a new way to interact with the iMac by introducing the touch controls from the MacBook Pro, the iPad and Apple’s various mobile products.

The Trackpad is a faceless aluminum and glass pad that’s designed to sit in front of the iMac screen at the same height and angle as the wireless keyboard. Users can click or double-click the pad to use it like a mouse, swipe the pad to flip through pages, pinch to zoom, and use all the other gestures that have become so familiar with regular touch screens.

Although it will take some getting used to, and we can eventually see the Trackpad incorporated into the keyboard, the device adds a lot of flexibility to the iMac and makes more sense than constantly reaching up to smear a screen. The TrackPad costs an additional $69 and, while it will also work with other Mac computers, they will need Bluetooth wireless capability and a Magic Trackpad software update.

The new iMac range starts at $1,199 for the 21.5-inch 500GB hard drive version and goes up to $1,999 for the 27-inch Quad-Core model. For power users that can afford the lofty price tag, the iMac range remains the Rolls Royce of desktop computing – an enviable combination of beauty and brains!

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