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Apple iMac Review (From a PC User)

My desk
My desk with shiny new iMac back in 2007.

This page outlines my experience since incorporating a Mac computer into my Windows network way back in 2007. The purpose of this record is to discuss both immediate and long-term implications of migrating to Macintosh and answer questions such as:

Timeline

October 2007: I purchased my first iMac with the intention of using iLife to manage my photos and serve as an alternate video editor for simple tasks. You can see my full reviews here and here but the short version is that it was a big mistake—iLife is hopeless unless you only ever want to use iLife to manage & view your content. As a media management tool, forget it. Instead I opted to use the iMac for general web browsing and other tasks, and in those areas it worked very well.

After one week I upgraded from Tiger to Leopard. The computer began crashing regularly and was pretty much unusable until Apple released a patch (I can't remember how long that took, maybe a few weeks).

2008-2009: I used the Mac most days to do light work such as browsing and text editing. I tried various apps and a few became part of my normal workflow (e.g. Audacity). Despite a few minor frustrations (like only being able to resize windows from the bottom right corner) I really enjoyed working on the iMac.

January 2010: Just out of warranty, the hard drive failed. This was very disappointing given that the computer was only two years old and had been used fairly lightly. I had never had a PC drive fail in under five years. I drove the computer to the nearest city because there are no authorised repairers in my location. The drive replacement took a week—for a simple job that could have been done in one hour by any number of PC technicians in my home town. The job cost around twice that of an equivalent PC job.

January 2010: I upgraded to Snow Leopard (finally). It was quick and painless. This is a fairly minor OS upgrade—certainly not much to report on the interface.

June 2013: A new Mac Pro was announced but I decided to stick with my PC as my main working computer.


Conclusion

Buying my first Mac was like going to a movie with very high expectations. When you're hoping for an exceptional experience, any flaw stands out badly. I had high hopes for a rock-solid, hassle-free computer packed with amazingly intuitive and productive software. In reality I did get a great computer but it's not without flaws. Here's a summary:

My Expectation   My Experience
Perfectly stable OS that doesn't crash, even if an application crashes.   My first OS update caused regular crashing until a patch was released. Since then the OS has been fine, although occasionally some programs do cause the OS to crash.
An OS that is better and nicer to use than Windows.   Overall I'd give this a pass. I'm not sure that Mac OS is really much (if any) better to use than Windows—there are certainly some features that are better but there are also a few gripes. It's a matter of personal preference. What won me over was the similarity to Linux with the familiar file structure and user management approach, which is much better than Windows.
Well-engineered hardware that seldom fails.   My hard drive failed after about 26 months. Also, the mouse's spin wheel never worked properly (apparently this is a common problem). The keyboard is awesome though.
Wonderful, out-of-the-box productivity software in iLife.   I can see that iLife is perfect for some people but it's useless for me; it's too simplistic, non-standard and proprietary.

On the whole I love my iMac. I felt quite lost while it was at the shop being repaired. I think I'll always own a Mac.

Unfortunately, based on my own experience I can't honestly say I would recommend a Mac for the average PC user (for either home or business). It's more expensive than a PC to purchase, it's more difficult and expensive to get support & repairs, and it's more difficult to find software.

Note to extreme Mac fans who are already composing their email to me:

As I say, I love my iMac but I think the advantages of owning a Mac are frequently exaggerated. It's a fine computer but it's not the panacea that some Mac users want you to believe it is. Just expect a good computer with the usual risk of problems and you probably won't be disappointed.

Author: ,  Originally published: 2007-11-21,  Last updated: 2010-03-02
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