Hands on: The 24-in. iMac -- talk about a wow factor

I haven't seen this much in-house attention to an Apple product since the Mac Mini

Talk about a wow factor.

A few days ago, Apple Computer Inc. sent along one of its new iMacs for review purposes, offering up the 24-in. version, just released this month. (That's the top-of-the-line iMac powered, in this case, by an upgraded 2.33-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, including the Nvidia GeForce 7600 GT video card with 256MB of video RAM, and stuffed with 2GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.)

The basic 24-incher offers a 2.16-GHz Core 2 Duo chip, an Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT card with 128MB of video RAM, 1GB of RAM, a variety of peripheral ports -- including a FireWire 800 port -- the standard built-in iSight webcam and a 250GB hard drive. Price: $1,999. The one looming over everything else on my desk is a build-to-order model designed to show off Apple's hardware and software at its best. With extra RAM, more graphics power, a bigger hard drive and a slightly faster processor, it sells for an upgraded price: $2,749.

But you can forget all about the inner workings when it comes to pulling this particular all-in-one desktop computer out of the box. The only thing you're going to notice right away will be the screen. As it tugged it out of the box, two or three other online editors popped up to oooh and aaah, and one of Computerworld's graphics gurus -- who has a year-old G5-based iMac -- admitted flat out that he was "drooling."

iMac Screen

The new 24-inch iMac is the largest all-in-one from Apple yet.(Click image for larger view) And he wasn't talking about the fast Core 2 Duo processor.

I haven't seen Mac hardware get this much attention since I pulled out a Mac Mini when they were first introduced in early 2005.

Apparently, when it comes to Apple hardware, size matters -- whether it's really small or really big. And if you haven't seen the 24-in. iMac, I can tell you, it's really big. And with a screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, it's perfect for working with graphics and video in a way that makes smaller computers seem downright puny. (And I'm including my own personal favorite, the 17-in. MacBook Pro, in that latter camp.)

In fact, not five minutes after I pulled it from the box, we were already showing off a co-worker's vacation pictures from Iceland in a slide show that drew even more attention than the initial iMac unveiling.

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