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Review: iMac DV SE
By Mike
Review date: 10/27/1999
Video and Audio Test Results
Intro | Apps/Game Performance | Benchmarks | Software Bundle | DVD/Movies | Specs | Summary
Multimedia Performance

DVD Playback:

The software decoder/player application supplied on the current iMacs and G4/AGP systems is still a beta version. Therefore comments here are likely to be addressed in a future update.

DVD player performance was a bit sluggish (changing controls or trying to switch to the finder) but the image quality was very good. The following are some notes on the current beta version, based on my experience and those of many readers with iMac DVs. (Note - even G4/AGP system owners reported similar comments - so these issues are software related - not a reflection on the iMac's hardware).:

  • Loss of Audio lip sync during playback (I didn't see this in 'A Bug's Life' played at standard window size, but it is a common complaint even with G4 systems). Playback at full screen is one common factor in complaints.
  • Very low audio volume (due to the wide dynamic range of DVD I'm told, but the level still seemed lower than my B&W G3 DVD player with hardware Rage128 decoder card). For now I'd recommend using headphones (there are two jacks on the iMac).

Note: My first disc insertion on the iMac would not eject from the machine. (This apparently is a very common experienced based on reader feedback). After several attempts to eject the disk normally, I ended up grabbing the edge of the disk and manually removing it. The problem has never appeared since. Although it's covered by the gray felt over the slot opening, there is a manual eject hole on the far right side of the drive. A note in the iMac manual should be made about the manual eject hole to prevent unnecessary calls to Apple or dealers.

Quicktime Movie Playback

Rather than using MacBench's movie tests, I decided to record framerates using the Quicktime 4 movie player (Pro version required to report framerates). I selected my new standard test movie - the 44KHz audio, high quality trailer from the Star Wars Phantom Menace.

I set the iMac to 1024x768, millions color mode (the highest possible) and set the movie to playback at full screen. The movie aspect ratio is such that it does not fill the screen vertically of course. Reported framerates were always at or near the movie's original 24 frame-per-second rate and never fell under 23.3 fps. In some cases it exceeded 24 fps by a fraction, a slight variation from the nominal framerate being normal I think . (Perhaps even recording/displaying the framerate may have some effect). I saw no difference in framerates from video modes of 800x600 thousands colors to 1024x768 millions colors.

Audio Quality:

The two small Harmon/Kardon speakers sounded surprisingly good in multimedia and games. I didn't expect these small speakers to perform so well. I look forward to the $99 optional USB driven subwoofer which should be available soon. Audio is another area where the iMac has been substantially improved. DVD audio volume was very low as noted previously, so I'd suggest headphones as a solution. Perhaps the DVD player might be revised in the future to increase gain for DVD movies.

The new iMacs also feature 3D audio enhancements via Spatializer technology. The image below shows the Sound control panel's adjustment panel where you can customize each speaker's volume individually:

3D audio settings
(Click on the image for a full size picture)

The next page has details on the hardware specifications, interfaces and features.

Index of iMac DV SE Review

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

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Copyright © Mike, 1999.
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