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New iMac – First thoughts

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I recently started playing around with audio software, Ableton in particular. Which is an amazing piece of software that allows you get musical ideas up and running really quickly.

However running this on a Windows Vista laptop was very frustrating, for a few reasons:

  • The application was slow to load and even slower importing audio files
  • It often crashed (especially when loading full mp3 songs into it for DJ’ing)
  • It needed a 3rd party ASIO driver to reduce the latency to an acceptable level
  • When running it locked the soundcard for exclusive use so I wasn’t able view a youtube tutorial while using Ableton…doh!

After spending a short amount of time seeing how the audio software and hardware behaved on my friends 3yr old MacBookPro, I simply had to buy a Mac!!
I decided I could live without the portability of a MacBookpro in exchange for the fantastic screen and surprisingly small foot print of a 27” iMac J
The iMac has been up and running for a few days and I thought now was a good time to run through my findings so far, so here goes:

The Good

The Display

The screen and graphics hardware is amazing! Crystal clear, amazing definition and a super fast refresh rate. It really creates a Wow factor in the room, but without seeming too big

Ableton runs flawlessly

No more hangs and crashes runs and so much more fits on the screen I no longer have to jump/scroll around the screen

iPhoto

A great application, when used in conjunction with the great display it really makes the photos from the Ansell SLR (Nikon D5000) come to life.

The main features I like are:

  • Face Recognition: When viewing a picture enter the name of the person (Which can query the built-in Address Book) and it searches for other photos of that person
  • Places: Place your photo collections as pins on a map of the world. Can also use GPS data embedded into photo’s by many devices E.G. iPhone
  • Whenever you want to add an image to anything on the Mac you can search your photos held within the iPhoto DB by event etc
Did I mention the display?

No really did I mention the display….? 🙂

iMail

Setup with gmail took less than 2mins! It asked for my email address and password then automatically detected everything else and set up the IMAP connection and folders etc

Magic mouse and keyboard

They are both really comfortable and intuitive to use and because there are no cables the aesthetics are so much better

Integrated PDF creation

You can choose to save anything as a PDF and email it in just a few clicks, this is really good for quickly saving a copy of an online receipt or purchase confirmation

Plex

It makes your TV shows and movie collection browsing a really enjoyable experience.
However HD movie playback is a bit of a letdown at the mo (Update: I have got this working OK now, will post another blog entry to run through how I managed to do this)

Installing Applications

How easy is it to install applications!!!!!
I am so used to double clicking a setup.exe/msi and being asked loads of questions, then watching a progress bar for a while (sometimes a long while).
With the Mac you simply drag the application into the applications folder, drag a shortcut to the Dock(Optional) and that’s it I like this a lot 🙂

Exposé

A great way to see all the applications you have running and select one.
Compared to the Aero app shuffle on Windows 7+Vista (Which I also really like) this seems just a little bit quicker

The Bad

The wireless adapter

Not a major problem but this is not quite as good at picking up a very weak signal than the one on my HP Vista laptop.
My study is just at the outer perimeter of the wireless signal downstairs and my HP Vista laptop seemed just a little bit better at handling the weak signal.
This promptly triggered my running network cables all round the villa so not too bad after all…

SMB Integration

This works out of the box which is great, however the refresh rate is slow for files that have changed on the Windows server (By slow I mean 10-20 seconds).
I am not used to this being a problem, BUT.. in Finder (The default MAC app for exploring your files etc) there is no refresh button!!

After a very small amount of web research I managed to package a “Force Refresh” applescript into an application and place it on the finder toolbar to allow a manual refresh of the folder contents.

So although this is in the Bad section there are two “goods” 1)Out of the box SMB integration & 2)Applescript!

HD Movie playback

Update: This is now working with only minor issues (Check out future Nik’s blog post :))
This is a bit hit and miss (Which is very disappointing).
Playback of 720p (Using mkv, vob and mpg) is great, however the playback of 1080p is a different story.

File menu Location

This sometimes seems too far away. 
I have got used to the file menu always being at the top of an application I am using in Windows.
However with the Mac it’s always at the top of the screen, which wouldn’t normally be a problem but with this HUGE screen I sometimes feel I am moving my mouse a really LOOOONG way to get to the file menu.

Summary

I love the iMac. It does lots of things very well and it’s very reliable. HD movie playback was initially disappointing and it would have been great to have a built in Blu Ray drive but I guess that’s too much to ask.

I will report back at some point in the future, after I have used it for more than a few days. My perspective may have changed a little by then.

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Categories: Fun, Personal, Technology