Sure, the iMac is a cool-looking computer. And the translucent aquamarine box is helping Apple regain profitability. But interim CEO Steve Jobs' boast that the iMac is faster than the quickest Pentium II is pure hype - and it falls apart under scrutiny.
To see whether Apple would make believers out of us, we pitted the iMac against two Intel-based PCs: a pricier Pentium II-400 system and a Celeron-based machine that costs about $US300 less than the iMac. The results: in its base $1299 configuration, the iMac finished last in each of our application tests. The system was nearly as easy to use as the company claims, but its poor performance means Apple failed in its core mission.
When Apple launched the iMac in August, the fastest PCs you could buy ran on Intel's 400MHz Pentium II. Could a cheaper computer built around Motorola's 233MHz Power PC G3 processor dust a high-end Pentium, as Jobs claimed? Forget it.
With 32MB of RAM (its standard shipping configuration), the iMac got clobbered on our Excel and 5MB-image Photoshop tests; in fact, the slower of our two test PCs, a Packard Bell Multimedia 945 with an Intel Celeron-333 processor, finished ahead of the iMac by 55 and 80 per cent respectively, on these tests. And when we compared the iMac to our high-end system, a $1799 Micro Express MicroFlex-c400A with a Pentium II-400 CPU, the contest was, well, no contest. The iMac took more than three times as long to finish a standard series of Excel operations, even after we doubled its RAM.