The G5 iMac | October 4, 2004

G5 iMac

When the G5 iMac was launched I have to admit that I was less than impessed. While the specs were great, I just wasn't taken by the design. To me the G4 iMac was revolutionary. It's a beautiful piece of equipment that looks great in any home. In fact It's probably the nicest looking thing I own and still gets people talking when they come round to visit. By comparison then G5 iMac looked fairly plain and awkwardly proportioned.

One thing I love about the G4 iMac is it's ergonomic design and the fact that you can move the screen into pretty much any position you want. Apparently Apple did some research and found that people never really adjusted the height of the screen, so I guess that I must be one of the odd ones out. I share my iMac with my girlfriend and while I like to have the screen up at eye level, she usually has it lower and tilted up (I find this gives me neck ache). Also we'd occasionally watch a DVD on the iMac in which case we'd lower the screen completely so it was closer to our sitting height. This was one of the coolest features of the G4 iMac and one reason why the G5 felt like a step back.

However I thought it was best to reserve final judgement till I saw one in person. When the iPod mini was launched I also wasn't impressed by the design. The images on the apple store made them look a little cheap and garish, yet in real life they were actually pretty cool. So despite moving flats over the weekend (remind me not to buy any more stuff), I took half an hour out to check out the new iMac at my local Mac dealer.

My first impressions were a lot more positive than I'd expected. While the images on the Apple site make the G5 look a little dull and lacklustre, in reality they have quite a nice finish. The large space at the bottom of the screen looks much more prominent on the images than in real life, so the G5 iMac doesn't look as out of proportions as I was expecting. So while not as attractive as the G4 iMac, the G5 isn't as ugly as I thought it was going to be and could possibly even grow on me.

The machine was easy to swivel on it's base and the tilt range was pretty good, just no where near as nice as the G4 iMac. The pics made the stand look a little unstable which was confirmed by "bump testing" the table at the shop. I could quite easily see the whole thing coming crashing to the ground if you accidentally knock the table it's on a little too hard. I had a play with Photoshop, running through some actions. I have to admit that I'd expected blisteringly fast results, so as a little disappointed as the speed. However this could have been a memory thing (256MB is far to little memory for even a consumer computer these days). They didn't have Halo installed but Nanosaur 2 ran pretty smoothly. Just a shame you can't change the graphics card yourself or even get a better one as a built-to-order option. As such while the G5 iMac will be fine for the current slew of Mac games, It probably won't do so well with the next generation of games.

So on the whole I was pleasantly surprised. While I love my ageing G4 iMac, it just doesn't have the power or storage I need, so I think upgrading to a new G5 may be on the cards. You do get quite a bit of bang for your buck, but it's still gonna set me back over 1,500 for the 20-inch model with a bit of extra RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth and a wireless keyboard. That's quite a lot to spend on a home computer, especially as my G4 is only a few years old. I guess I better start saving.

Posted at October 4, 2004 12:35 PM


francois said on October 4, 2004 4:21 PM

We had a fun little design test in the office when the G5 iMac came out. We found a designer who hadn’t seen the pictures, and made him guess what the new iMac would look like. We fed him details like, consider what’s happening with screen technology, new PC hardware formats; also consider what an ideal computer “in the future” should look like.

He managed to guess it, pretty much. A tablet PC on a minimal stand. No system box. Almost no cabling. Very few visible slots, buttons, etc.

So anyway, that’s a roundabout way of saying I like the new iMac design. It’s kind of inevitable. No gimmicks. I thought the Luxo Jr G4 design was beautiful, too, but I can see how it had to evolve into this. Like that old aphorism, a design is perfect when there’s nothing left to take away. (Incidentally, haven’t I heard the neck of the G4 iMac is prone to becoming loose?)

Disclaimer: I’m a committed PC user and have no desire to own a Mac, but I am in awe, like everyone else, of their product design, even if it results in the occasional folly

HK said on October 5, 2004 9:42 AM

Funny, my reaction was pretty much the opposite. I’ve always thought the G4 iMac was a poor replacement for the G3 (in design terms). It seemed over-styled to me from day one - like they were trying too hard to give it a ‘personality’. When I saw the G5, it just seemed a far cleaner, more elegant and confident solution.

Small Paul said on October 5, 2004 1:09 PM

I’ve got a G4 iMac, and the arm is a little looser than when I first got it - but it doesn’t affect the use of the machine at all. Screen still swivels swimmingly. I’ve found the movement useful too.

But I really like the G5. It may not be as visually quirky as Apple’s previous iMacs, but it’s so thin. That’s pretty ground breaking in itself. Just not visually so.

I think the G5 iMac’s innards are also a bit more accessible - I think the whole back panel comes off, so although you might not technically be meant to upgrade the graphics card, I think it’d be easier to hack an upgade than on previous models. I reckon a few companies will provide the tools and card to do so in a few months.

Me? I’ve gotta get me a PowerBook.

jake said on October 5, 2004 4:14 PM

Well when it first came out I heard a whole lot of complaints about the fact that the arm was gone. What no one seemed to notice, and I discussed, was that it’s VESA compatible and you can buy a mounting bracket and mount the thing anywhere, including with an arm. I had the vision of putting on the wall and then sliding a desk up to it, but when not in use pull everything away and it’s a very nice picture frame, sorta, you could even run a movie like a museum exhibition.

jake said on October 5, 2004 4:19 PM

Well I guess I should have read the comments from the previous post first, the VESA mounts were mentioned. My bad…

Dave Woodward said on October 5, 2004 5:53 PM

Everyone says that the design is “so thin” (even the marketing), but when I saw them in person at the Apple Store they still looked a little chunky to me. But maybe its because I have a PowerBook, and that gets you used to a rediculously thin display. And as to the tall space at the bottom, it really isn’t bad. Its just like when you matte photos for galleries and the bottom of the matte is a bit thicker to even out the visual weight. That is the first thing I though when I saw the pictures, and you’re really staring at the screen the whole time anyway. Just my $.02 (USD).

Lea de Groot said on October 6, 2004 1:56 AM

Hang on, Andy - you told us to remind you not to buy any more stuff ;)

Small Paul said on October 6, 2004 11:22 AM

Yeah, I meant thin compared to every other desktop computer out there (let alone 64-bit desktop computers), as opposed to Apple’s PowaferBooks, which are pretty thin even for laptops.

As for the VESA mount thing, I really can’t be bothered with buying another thing just so I can tilt and swivel the screen a bit. And I don’t want my iMac fixed to a specific wall.

But if most of the market isn’t bothered about the swivel as they say, then hell yeah, remove the cost of manufacture and assembly, and make a 2” thick 64-bit desktop computer with integrated 17” flat screen available for 919.

Awesome, frankly.

Mats Persson said on October 6, 2004 12:13 PM


My only wish is that Apple would come out with Rev. 2 of it real quick!!! After having bought a G3 B&W and PBook G3 (Wallstreet) and PBook G4 Ti as 1st revs, I have promised to wait for rev 2.

Why ? Well, they always make rev 2. better and any teething problems are removed by then. That’s not to say rev 1 is bad, it’s just that rev 2 is generally better.

So, if any Apple guy reads this, please push out rev. 2 real fast, cause I know of five 20” versions that will be sold then. : )

HK said on October 6, 2004 2:41 PM

Got to agree with Mats, I always try to avoid version 1 Apple products - purely because v2 is always MUCH better.

It just occurs to me that losing the G4’s arm must be a significant factor in the price drop - there’s a whole lot of bespoke engineering in that arm, the new ‘bent sheet’ look must be far less costly to manufacture (and less likely to need replacing under warranty).

Nigel said on October 7, 2004 4:54 AM

Well, for myself, the G4 iMac was the sucker and the G5 iMac is the winner. I really dislike the G4 iMac design. I had to work on one for half a year, roughly, and I just have to say - carrying them is the biggest pain ever. Very awkward design.

Small Paul said on October 7, 2004 9:19 AM

Yeah, Nigel, I think if you’re going to be carrying your computer a lot, maybe it should be a laptop?

jesse said on August 4, 2005 8:35 PM

there is noooo way the g4 imac looks better than the g5 imac, i think the g4 imac is discusting…but that can only come down to opinion.

but youre wrong about the “bump test”. the stand is actually really stable(i cant even push it over sideways).

i feel like just because you own the g4 imac you make it sound better. id rather have my g5 imac any day.

peter clarke said on August 18, 2005 2:17 PM

I have a G4 imac and i love it. G5 is nothing special ,i could buy one but as soon as i seen the G4 i had to have it .G5 might have the power but i have had way to many comments from people who seen the G4 in my home saying the want one because it looks so modern and cool.Would not part with it for the world keep your G5.