Regular readers will know that I purchased an iMac G5 back in December. I based this decision partially on the recommendation of Walter Mossberg in the Wall Street Journal. He called the iMac G5 the "Gold Standard" of home PCs. Additionally, we had seen a friend with a Powerbook and loved the ease of use when it came to video and picture editing and creating sideshows and DVDs of the end result.
Long story short, I loved the iMac. It was relatively fast, easy to use, stable, secure and looks great. However, a few weeks after purchasing the G5, and despite the iMac G5 being only a few month old design, Apple released a new iMac with the new Intel Core Duo processor. As I outlined here, I called Apple a bit peeved and they responded by allowing me to exchange the G5 for the Intel iMac.
So how is the new iMac? Opinions and reviews have varied. Many seem to think it is lousy. However, this is more a function of software. Most titles have not been recompiled to run on the Intel Mac's. Apple has included a software program called Rosetta to act as a translator for these programs as a stopgap until the software is rewritten. Based on the performance hit that the translation takes on the iMac, several commenter's recommend not switching until the software is ready. But what does The Opinionator think? As someone who has now had his iMac for a few days I can say the following; on Apple software that has been recompiled for the Intel iMac such as the iLife Suite and Apple's pre-loaded software, (iTunes, iDVD, iMovie, Garageband 3, Addressbook, iCal, Safari, Mail, iPhoto, Quicktime), the Intel based iMacs are considerably faster. The difference is quite noticeable. Definitely made me glad I made the change.
But what about the software that is not yet rewritten and is being translated using Rosetta? Short answer, they are quite a bit slower. Opening Firefox takes much longer. Quicken 2006 is slower as is MS Office. The lost performance on the non-Apple software is greater than the performance gain on the Apple software. The programs are definitely usable, however. In fact, this post is being typed on the iMac in Firefox. The good news is that the reduced speed usually makes itself most apparent when opening a program. Once Firefox or Word are open, the performance lag is barely noticeable. If you use Photoshop or like programs however, that is not the case.
Would I buy the new iMac again? Absolutely! Many reviewers have focused on the lost performance on the programs that are using Rosetta to translate them. However, this is a stopgap solution. Over the next year, most, if not all, of these programs will be rewritten to not only run on the Intel processor but to take advantage of the greater processing power and dual cores. The reason I decided to return my G5 and purchase this model is that over the year, the performance of the Intel model will only improve while the G5 is already as powerful as it will get. Therefore, the Intel iMac was a better long-term computer. As I was still in my return period, it was a no-brainer. If you run "professional" applications such as Photoshop or have a perfectly usable computer you may want to wait a few months for the software to catch up. But for most users, the Intel based iMac is a great solution that will only improve with time.