Despite rampant rumors that Apple would release new desktop Macs (a move possibly held up due to new systems requiring Mac OS X 10.2), the only new Mac that appeared at last week’s Macworld Expo was a 17-inch (43.2 cm) iMac selling for $2,000. Other than the new wide-screen display, the addition of an Nvidia GeForce4 MX graphics controller, and an 80 GB hard disk, the 17-inch iMacs will be identical to the existing high-end iMacs. That means they’ll have 800 MHz PowerPC G4 processors, 256 MB of RAM, SuperDrives, 10/100Base-T Ethernet, a 56K internal modem, Apple Pro speakers, and the usual complement of FireWire and USB ports.
The screen is the most unusual aspect of the iMac – its native resolution is 1440 by 900 pixels, a 16:10 aspect ratio. It can also run at three other resolutions in the 16:10 aspect ratio, plus three resolutions in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Perhaps because of its location, cantilevered out on the iMac’s chrome arm, the display looks more awkward than the screen on the Titanium PowerBook G4 or the two large Apple Cinema Displays, all of which have roughly similar aspect ratios. In contrast, the 17-inch Apple Studio Display provides a resolution of 1280 by 1024, offering a few more total pixels and more vertical height than the wide-screen iMac display.
The 17-inch iMac should be available in a week or two – the fact that it’s nearly identical to the existing iMacs probably helped Apple push it out quickly. Although there will no doubt be those for whom the higher cost of the 17-inch iMac is difficult to justify, Apple’s data show that cost isn’t the deciding factor with iMac buyers. During the keynote, Steve Jobs said that half of all the new iMacs sold were the high-end models with the SuperDrive; this new model adds a mere $200 to the price of the previous high end model for the larger display, better graphics controller, and larger hard disk. Given the known (and viscerally obvious) benefits of a larger screen, I expect the 17-inch iMac to be a hit – I know I’d pay the premium for it if I were in the market for an iMac.