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iCreate Flashback: 17” 1Ghz G4 iMac Review [2003]

10 years of iCreate: We celebrate our 10th birthday by taking a look back over some of Apple's most iconic hardware, and what the iCreate team thought of it at the time.

iMac G4

We reviewed the 17″ widescreen iMac G4 way back in issue 2, which went on sale in August of 2003. It was the first time Apple had released a widescreen desktop display, and with OS X 10.2 Jaguar bundled with the machine we gushed over the power, performance and design that oozed from the new model. Take a look at what we thought of the model below, paying particular attention to our old percentage scoring system, and the level of excitement we expressed for 1Ghz processor.

iMac G4Few things in the computing world generate quite so much excitement as a major Apple hardware update, especially if it revolves around the iMac – a machine that has become the benchmark by which all other Apple designs are judged. The most significant update to the iMac’s form took place back in early 2002, when a stunning new ‘anglepoise’ design was introduced. Now we’re blessed with yet another improvement to the iMac line-up with the advent of a 17-inch widescreen model.

Aesthetically this is one of the most beautiful computers ever created. Like most Apple machines, the widescreen iMac has bags of personality and its elegant contours seem perfectly tailored to the requirements of the creative mind. Has there ever been a more original computer design than this? Of course, the ‘anglepoise’ styling will not appeal to all Mac users, but those that can get their head around the look will also appreciate a series of nice flourishes, such as the way the screen moves and tilts at will to suit your posture and the sheer amount of desktop space recovered by its unique all-in one form.

Turning our attentions back to more practical concerns, however, the 17-inch screen is a masterstroke. The picture quality is fantastic and the dimensions of the screen are perfect for both digital imageers working with landscape documents and those in need of extra screen space for the myriad of palettes associated with digital video editing. But perhaps the best news of all is that the 17-inch iMac boasts a 1Ghz G4 processor. This represents a big step forward for Apple. The speed bump is immediately obvious, especially for those used to the sluggish performance offered by the old iMac. There’s more good news for graphics pros as well, since the new iMac also ships with an NVIDIA GeForce4 MX graphics card, complete with 64Mb of DDR RAM. And if you really want the full-on Macintosh experience, there’s little option than to opt for the high-end model, which sports a SuperDrive capable of reading and writing both CDs and DVDs.

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annotatedOS Xcellence

What will be of most interest to the majority of people, however, is the Operating System that comes with the 17-inch iMac. Early builds of Apple’s supposedly revolutionary OS X were hardly the stuff to cause Bill Gates sleepless nights, but now that OS X has moved into version 10.2, performance has been significantly increased. The latest version of OS X is simply sensational. A tranche of processing power may have been sacrificed just to draw the eye candy of the Aqua interface, but the result is breathtaking. Genuine multitasking is now on offer and the much- hyped Unix core really does appear to be as rock solid as Apple claims. Overall there’s something for everyone in the latest version of OS X – the Terminal allows command line freaks to fiddle to their heart’s content, while those that have already switched to OS X will rejoice at little things like the reintroduction of springloaded folders (how did Apple ever leave these out?)

Ultimately, with a combination of faster processors, a gorgeous new OS and a superb package of bundled software, this is the best consumer desktop machine that Apple has ever created. And it’ll be even better when it’s running Panther, the forthcoming update to Mac OS X. Those in need of maximum power and performance for complex digital video or 3D rendering work are still probably best off with a model from Apple’s professional desktop range (Power Mac G5 anybody?), but if you’re considering buying a Mac for the first time, a new machine for home use or you’re an existing Mac user struggling along with an old G3 and looking to upgrade to a machine that runs OS X, then this is the perfect opportunity to do just that. You’ll also become the owner of what is perhaps the most stylish computer ever made…

What’s good: The best Mac desktop yet, looks sensational, much improved OS X performance and comes with a fantastic bundle of software.

What’s bad: Lacks the processing power of some PC desktops and may require the user to learn a totally new OS.

Overall: 88%

Here’s what the review looked like at the time…

The old iCreate design used a lot of white, and Apple's own font.
The old iCreate design used a lot of white, and Apple’s own font.
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