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The Source for Mac Performance News and Reviews
Review: iMac DV SE
By Mike
Review date: 10/27/1999
Documentation, Compatibility Notes and Review Summary
Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Software Bundle | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary
Documentation

The testament to the iMac's ease of setup is shown in the installation guide - a greeting card like foldout that has 7 pictures for setting up the system. No words - none needed.

The iMac User's Guide is a colorful, well illustrated and organized manual for getting comfortable with the machine. The only omission I saw was the lack of a note on the DVD drive's manual eject hole (mentioned earlier). I'm betting the next printing of the User Manual will have this noted.

The User's Guide includes a section on installing RAM upgrades and an Airport card via the lower rear access panel (which opens with a coin). I installed a 64MB dimm upgrade in a matter of minutes.

The iMac user guide also mentions the extensive software based help should you need more details than are in the printed manual. The documentation was typical Apple - very good. OOBE (out of box experience) was excellent - only the one-time CD failure to eject prevented it from being perfect. I don't think there is an easier or faster machine to setup and begin using than the iMac.

Compatibility Notes:

So far I've run most all of my applications with no problems (as shown on the Apps/Games tests page of this review). I also used the following add-ons with the iMac DV under OS 8.6:

  • Panasonic PV-DV910 Camcorder (capture/control/print to camera worked well)
  • Adaptec USB Connect 2000 USB/SCSI Adapter
  • Yamaha 4416S SCSI CDROM recorder (via the above adapter)
  • Toast 3.5.7 (used to burn CDRs at 2x rates with above CDR/Adapter)
  • Kodak DC280 digital camera w/USB. (Note: the capture twain plugin worked fine in Photoshop 5 as did the Kodak border transfer program. However the image transfer program (v1.0) failed to work, returning only an SDK error when attempting to transfer files. This has been reported to Kodak Tech support via phone.)


The DVD page has links to Apple's iMovie Gear page for tips on issues with some models of DV camcorders when printing to the camera. Although there was note on a workaround for printing video to some Panasonic camcorders on the Gear page, peformance with my PC-DV910 was truely plug-n-play for both capture and printing back to the camera.

iMacDV SE and PV-DV910


Summary

I'm extremely pleased with the improvements Apple has made in the new iMac models. Literally every aspect of the original design has been improved. The new models feature faster CPUs, graphics chip (Rage128 VR w/8MB), larger hard drives, better audio/speakers and have new features like Firewire (DV models only). Other changes are more subtle, such as easier access to (two) RAM slots which now take standard PC100 SDRAM rather than the SODIMM 66MHz modules previously used. The iMac is now a well-rounded computer that can handle literally every task you will need.

Nits: Some sort of standard removable/rewriteable media device should be included. Especially considering the target market of the iMac. Without it new computer users may form a habit of not backing up personal data. This omission usually results in an immediate purchase of additional hardware which adds to the total system cost. Networking your Macs can allow easy file transfers and backups from other machines, but many buyers won't have a home network or other computer.

Of less importance is the fact all iMacs I've seen (even demo models) have had some visible convergence (RGB gun alignment) errors - resulting in a thin colored stripe visible on the edges of the display (the amount and location varies, mine has a greenish edge on the lower left and a reddish edge on the upper right corner). However my iMac looks better in this regard than some display models I've seen. Although there are several monitor geometry adjustments in the control panel (see the specs page), there were none to correct this issue. At 800x600 mode (best for this size display) it's not really noticed during normal use.

The lack of uniform focus and sharpness at 1024x768 didn't bother me as much since a monitor this size is best run at 800x600 resolution.. Some may not find these monitor issues noticeable, and I mention it only to make readers that are highly critical of monitor quality aware of them (I don't want to be accused of overlooking it).

Of course the small keyboard and round mouse are common complaints (but the same as all new Macs). The snap-on mouse extenders really help, as within an hour of use you'll find the round shape makes it hard to determine mouse orientation by feel. Partly due to the light weight and USB cable, the mouse tends to rotate when you lift your hand off it, requiring you to often look at the mouse to orient it properly (if the shape was oblong you could orient it by feel). This is hard to describle, but within an hour of use you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

The beta DVD player audio sync issues should be addressed in a software update. I've honestly not seen it here so far in limited DVD play at the default playback window size with this 128MB machine. I'll update this review if I do encounter the problem as I intend to relax and watch a new movie right after I post this.

Is the iMac DV Right for Me?

The answer for the large majority of computer buyers is yes. You get a lot of capability in a classy package with the new iMacs. And let's admit it - they look good doing it as well (you'd be surprised how many computer buyers that do care about esthetics). I don't regret buying the iMac DV SE for a second.

If you're a hard-core gamer or tinkerer who likes to upgrade CPUs and Video cards as faster components become available, you would be better served with other models that have PCI slots and upgradeable CPUs; but for the target market of the iMac, this machine is hard to beat.


Bottom Line:

As you already know by reading this review, I am very pleased and satisfied with the iMac DV SE. I'm also confident it will hold its value, both in resale and in utility for some time to come. I only wish I could afford to have one in every room of the house. If you're looking for a computer that is simple, easy to use and uncluttered - give the new iMacs a serious look. Warning - to see an iMac DV SE in the flesh may result in uncontrolled urges to buy one (trust me...).

The true test of any computer is to ask its owner how they like it 6 months after the purchase. I suspect owners of iMac DVs will report they've never regretted the purchase. Unlike many buyers of low-cost PCs that end up collecting dust after several months or have been more problems than productivity, the iMac DV will likely get more use as time goes by.

4 Macs Rating

iMac DV SE Review Summary
Pros: Compact, Rage128 Graphics Chip, DVD, Firewire, Uses PC100 RAM, Fast CPU & Hard Drive, Quiet Operation, Easy to Use, Addictive design...
Cons: No removable/rewriteable storage, non-upgradeable CPU/Video. Round mouse. Close to G4 Yikes in cost.

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Pricing and Availability
Current iMac DV SE list price as of the date of this (1999) review was $1499. Prices and features may change in the future so always check the Apple Store for the latest information. In some cases Apple dealers may offer other incentives or special promotions as time goes by. I bought my DV SE just as they first shipped, it were somewhat hard to find in stock.

Index of iMac DV SE Review

Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Software Bundle | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary

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