Review: Apple's newest 24-in. iMac 'a sight to behold'

Better than that, it's also $300 cheaper than before

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Of note, too, is the noise Apple's been making lately about how green its products are. This machine gets an Energy Star 5.0 rating, marking the first time that the iMac -- all of them, actually -- has gotten an EPA gold rating.

Given the list of features included across the iMac line, there's not much more you need. If you have more money to spend, the two pricier models offer the same refined aluminum-and-glass look, with faster processors and more video RAM. They cost $1,799 and $2,199, with the top model offering a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo chip, 512MB of video RAM and 1TB of storage space. Solid-state disk drives (SSDs) aren't yet an option. That's not surprising, given the higher costs for SSDs and Apple's desire to keep prices reasonable.

As for the model in hand, it's the 24-in. glossy screen that makes this a standout value. Just for comparison's sake, Apple's standalone 24-in. display sells for $899. Getting this iMac is like buying one of those displays and getting a well-outfitted Mac for just $600.

Specs never tell the full story about a computer; time spent using one is essential. And while I've been working with this 24-in. for only about a week, I've concluded that what Apple has produced here is a solid system with a beautiful screen at a price point that makes this an attractive buy. Given the recent dip in sales of its desktop models, Apple is no doubt hoping the update will spur new sales.

Setup and the out-of-the-box experience is as simple as ever, especially when you're already using Apple's services or upgrading from an older Mac. For instance, my preferences and settings for all of my applications, my passwords, my contacts, my calendars, my e-mail accounts, my notes, and my bookmarks were all automatically transferred once I entered my MobileMe e-mail and password in Mac OS X's MobileMe preference pane. For those who aren't MobileMe customers, the Mac's setup assistant helps transfer files and settings from previous Macs or Time Machine backups. With iMac customization automatically done for me, I was able to dive right into using the iMac.

The current iMac is a sight to behold, as were its recent predecessors. Even though the basic design hasn't changed since the move to aluminum in 2007, it still manages to look modern and fresh. The iMac may have been the biggest influence for last year's "unibody" laptop makeover, as if someone at Apple looked at the iMac's thin aluminum casing, its darkly framed glossy display, and said, "This. We need a portable version of this."

Obviously, the big, glossy screen dominates the design, with an emphasis on glossy. These screens, while producing vibrant colors and deep blacks, reflect back a lot of light, almost like a mirror under normal conditions. To some people, Apple's decision to settle on glossy screens as the standard has been controversial, because the screen reflections can be distracting and annoying.

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