16 August 2007

I got to play with Apple's new Keyboard/iMac

I am, no doubt, a bit of an Apple whore. My workplace uses Apples, I've got an iBook for when Linux pisses me off and I downright like the aesthetics and attention to detail Apple has placed into products. I'm such a fan of Apple products, I actually enjoy using a Mighty Mouse (GASP!). That's why I was delighted that my office at work had two Mac Pros and two of the new iMacs for me to play with earlier this week. I ripped open the boxes and got to work on these machines that were previously in the realm of "yeah right, maybe in a couple of *years*."

Since there are so many reviews of the Mac Pro out there, I'll keep it short. If you love tinkering on hardware, the Mac Pro offers expandability out the wazoo. You'll have a good time if you like your computer like a muscle car; huge, heavy, metal, powerful, impractical, and fun to work on.

As for the new iMacs? Whole different animal. Like their older, glossy white sisters, these beasts are darn near impossible to work on short of adding more RAM to the already crammed ram-bin (couldn't think of a better way to describe where the RAM is stored). So, that already hurts these computers in my book. Also, the aesthetics are not up to snuff, if you ask me. The best feature of the iMac, externally, is the glossy screen. I even adjusted to the black trim around the display that I hated initially. Even though the screen isn't LED back lit, it is still gorgeous. Other than that, the new iMac looks like a freaking iPod on the outside. The cheesy black plastic on the back made me frown and the aluminum has a lot of sharp corners. The new iMac is definitely a lot more aggressive, much less friendly looking computer, especially considering the first two iMacs were downright cute. So, in terms of aesthetics, the new iMac doesn't cut it for me. I like my Apples to be cute and my PC's surly and ornery.

Well, now that I have picked on the outside, I'll tell you about the inside. There is a much heavier duty ATI card in this machine than on previous iMacs, so Quartz operates like a million bucks compared to the Intel GMA 950 chipset iMacs that I am used to. Another nice feature is the iSight camera is much cleaner and has a higher frame rate than the one on my older iMac. I have to wonder if this isn't because my older iMac was the cheapest model from that generation. Nonetheless, even though it has some nice new internal hardware, you're paying for the same shit in a different case. So, if the new iMac body style and glossy screens don't do it for you, look at some third-party retailers to see if you can pick up a previous generation iMac for cheaper. Especially since this bugger only came with Tiger and the new version of iLife... that's right, no Leopard, just Tiger.

Lastly, the new keyboard has been a hot button for a lot of Apple geeks (get it? Hot button? I am so clever.). I spent a couple of hours typing on it and found that while it was reasonably comfortable to type on, it had enough problems that I decided to revert to my Apple Pro keyboard. For instance, this new keyboard is INCREDIBLY low. It sits so close to the desk that you should forget a wrist rest. The low profile made it difficult for me to type. Another issue is the buttons are all flat and the same level, exactly like the keys on a Mac Book. This really stinks for touch typing and I found I was fat fingering keys all the time. The buttons are so nondescript when touching them, even compared to my relatively flat Sony Vaio. Also, the distance your fingers travel when depressing a key is really short. I heard many people complain that Mac Books were really uncomfortable to type on because of this, especially if you hammer keys like I do.

However, the new keyboard does have it's merits. For one, the two USB ports are USB 2.0 and provide power! So, hooking up a flash drive works perfectly with the new keyboard. So long as your flash drive isn't too fat and ends up lifting your keyboard up on that side. Also, the keyboard his highly responsive thanks to it being USB 2.0 and Apple having some solid drivers to go with it. Another neat hack that Apple did with the keyboard is that the media keys are tied directly to iTunes. So, you can change tracks without actually having to call iTunes up! Lastly, there is also the fact that because all of the keys on the keyboard are covered, you're very unlikely to get shit stuck between the keys like on the Pro keyboards. You could practically use the keyboard to hold up your PB&J sandwich and not have crums fall to a translucent bottom for the world to see. So, Apple earned points for finally fixing that flaw with their keyboards.

While the new iMac wasn't a disappointment, just the same iMacs from before repackaged with a couple of updates, the keyboard was the biggest disappointment for me. Apple had a VERY aesthetically pleasing product with their new keyboard and a lot of technology in the little sucker but it failed to deliver due to ergonomics. I realize I am very demanding of the keyboards I use, and I doubt I will ever like a keyboard until I get my hands on a Model M, but Apple is really slipping, especially in comparison to Logitech and Microsoft who are producing just awesome keyboards now. I really hope Apple keeps producing the Apple Pro Keyboard, or I'm going to have to switch to Logitech in the future.

Final word? Buy the last revision of iMac if you are still in the market for one. That, or wait for the next revision, something you should do with most Apple products anyway.

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