Review: Core 2 Duo iMacs a joy to use

Review: Core 2 Duo iMacs a joy to use

Posted to MacsimumNews by Dennis Sellers on   Oct 12, 2006 at 2:22am
Written by Mical Wilmoth Carton

Being a sometime teacher, I'm currently eligible for an Apple Educator discount. And I've coveted a new "flat panel" iMac for a long while now, like since the day they came out. There's really been no reason to upgrade though, since my 17" flat-panel "iLux" has been working fine these past 4 years. And so has my wonderful Xerox printer. And my loving Larry has discouraged me from upgrading anything. (Yes: The same loving Larry who still uses a Quadra 630 running System 7.6.)

However, since the service contract on the printer, now up for renewal, costs about half the price of a new printer, and since Xerox has a great rebate offer on their upgraded (and faster, and better resolution) replacement printers, it didn't make sense to continue supporting the existing Xerox printer. And, if I'm upgrading the printer, it didn't make sense to continue using the same old computer. So:

Last week the Apple Store in Towson, MD was very happy to have me visit, along with loving Larry and a friend who was also ready to upgrade. Lois was upgrading from a 7 year old Power Mac still running System I was upgrading my iLux running 10.3.9. We each left the Apple Store with a   20" Flat Panel, "Intel Core 2 Duo" iMac. Mine is wireless, and Lois' C2D iMac has wires connecting the keyboard and mouse to her computer.

Larry is the one who does the hardware stuff in this family. And he doesn't like to rush into things. But he did help Lois set up her computer within a day of its purchase. It turned out to be very easy, if not totally painless. Since she was moving from a System 9 machine to an OS 10.4 machine, some playing around was necessary to move her files. A thumb drive came into play here. As both computers have USB connectors, Larry was able to pretty quickly get Lois' new machine up and running with all the software it needed for her to keep working. He was also very easily able to connect her to a cable modem. The reason for her upgrade, in fact, was so she can use a cable modem rather than her old telephone modem which has been driving her to distraction when friends forward pictures of babies, etc, for her to ooh and aah over. Even her Brother "all-in-one" printer-copier-fax-scanner works just fine with a new driver and the new iMac.

I, of course, had to wait awhile for Larry to agree to move my files over and set up my new computer. We won't mention that I had to upgrade many (read that MANY!) older Multi-Ad Creator files in order to retain their information on the new machine. I should have done this years ago, of course, but it became imperative now as these files are important to one of my many paying jobs. A day or two later and I was ready to go, but not Larry. He dreaded moving my files. In the past this has always been a challenging and arduous task, and it was not one he relished.

So last night my desk got cleared off. The iLux got a complete back-up. And Larry ran the setup software on the C2D. The Apple software had us connect the older iMac as a 'terminal' to the new machine and it ran a bit. Then it said it would take 3 1/2 hours to transfer my information from the older machine to the newer. Then it began to count down. And about 20 minutes later the transfer was complete! The desktop on the new machine matched, exactly, pixel-for-pixel, the desktop for the older machine (except for the spacing, of course). Programs opened flawlessly, without a hitch or a hiccup. We both stood there with our mouths open, staring in disbelief.

After disconnecting the iLux, moving and removing myriad wires, reconfiguring, reconnecting, doing lots of acrobatics to reach the UPS to disconnect and reconnect, etc, etc, the C2D is now happily set up on my almost-cleaned off desk, and I am beginning to use the new machine in earnest.

What a joy to be able to have 2 pages set up side-by side, and to manipulate text on each page without lots of scrolling here and scrolling there in order to move the simplest things. What a joy not to continually bang my hand into the mouse wire as I manipulate text and graphics around on the monitor. The wireless mouse also eliminates the problem of catching its wire continuously in a nearby drawer as I reach for rulers, envelopes, and anything else I might need.

My existing Xerox printer (to be replaced in the morning with its newest cousin) works fine with the printer driver that was carried over from the iLux. With not too much trouble, AOL and my Earthlink account were connected through the Apple v90 External Modem. It's a long, boring, story, but I still prefer phone connection for my e-mail accounts, though I use cable for everything else. (& I won't mention the problem I had with capitalization and my Earthlink access password. It turns out that capitalizing, or not, can create havoc here.)

The C2D is a really cool-looking machine. Setup has been easier than ever before. Wireless connections between the computer and the mouse and keyboard are very, very convenient and very nice. The machine is super-fast. Even without expanding its 1 GB of ram, this machine is blazingly fast with all my programs.

Upgrading the couple of programs I felt needed this immediately, including QuickBooks and MultiAd Creator, has been painless with no loss of data. This is going to be a fun computer! And hopefully loving Larry will appreciate the iLux and older Xerox as they are migrated to his desk from mine.

C2D Specs:
20" Flat Panel screen
2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (same as the 24" model)
250 GB Serial ATA hard drive (same as the 24" model)
ATI Radeon X1600 graphics with 128 MB GDDR3 memory (same as the 17" model)

And all 3 models feature:
8x double-layer SuperDrive (DVD+R DL, DVD +/-RW, CD-RW)
Built-in Airport Extreme and BlueTooth 2.0, and Apple Remote
Built-in iSight camera, three USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire 400 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, mini-DVI video out, built-in stereo speakers, a built-in microphone, and optical digital audio in/out jacks.

What I would like to change: The screen is too high on my desk, and its height is not adjustable. This is due partly to the fact that the screen is on top of the memory chips, hard drive, and almost every other working part of the computer. It puts the bottom of the screen a full 6" above the top of my desk. At 5'3", I am not tall, and it would be nice if I could move the screen closer to the top of my desk. The old iLux had a height-adjustable screen that sat at desktop level and was very comfortable for me to use. I guess I'll have to find a higher chair someplace if I can.

Things I still need to figure out: Widgets, and that pesky widgets button on the mouse. Why more software isn't included with the latest iMacs. Only iLife, much of which I will probably never use, is included. Though most of my existing programs work fine without the need for upgrade.

The one exception to ease of setup: I was looking forward to synchronizing my Palm TX, a holiday present to myself at the end of last year, by BlueTooth to the Palm Desktop rather than using the dinky connector supplied by Palm. Sadly, I was unable to figure out how to do this, even with about an hour's help from a very kind and very patient AppleCare technician. At the end of the hour we both concluded that, since I could sync the Palm just fine with the cable, and since every setting we tried led us down the path of frustration, and since we were both tired (and my ear hurt, and his probably did too), and since the info the technician was able to glean from the Apple site indicated that some folks do great with BlueTooth but others, like me, have a terrible time with it, we just gave up.

I must add here that I had a really tough time making the BlueTooth connection from the Palm TX to my PowerBook as well. This was finally accomplished by bringing them both to the AppleStore where a genius told me that it wasn't his job to do this. He then proceeded to get the two to talk to one another - after about 20 minutes! And he wouldn't (or couldn't?) tell me what he did. I had hoped that the connection he created for the PowerBook to the Palm would also work with the C2D. Sad to say, it doesn't. And neither does anything else we tried during that long hour. I do have four pages of info from an e-mail, though. And one of these days I'll follow the instructions on the e-mail very slowly in the hopes they will work. I was told that one person had success in making a BlueTooth connection by doing a complete reinstall of the System Software on his brand new machine! I just don't have the time or energy to deal with that just now.

The C2D is one very nice computer! And it's really hard to believe the evolution from my very first 128k Mac back in the summer of 1985 to this sleek beauty. (Have I really used a computer for 21 years? How many computers have I had in that time? I'm not sure I can even answer that question anymore.   & How long will it take to get LL to use the newer computer and printer? Maybe we'll run a contest on that one.)

Mical Wilmoth Carton, Ambassador Emeritas
Maryland Apple Corps, Inc.

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