Are Apple's New iMacs Ready for Your Living Room?
Is Apple trying to sneak into our living rooms? That's what I found myself wondering after Apple announced the new 27-inch iMac on Tuesday. This gorgeous all-in-one desktop looks too pretty to hide in your home office. Moreover Apple packs a lot of living room friendly features into this computer such as a hi-def display and a very quiet performance (no loud internal fans groaning in the background). The problem is, while computer makers would love nothing more than to invade the living room, there are practical reasons why this iMac, no matter how capable or beautiful, would ever be able to replace your clunky TV.
The Case for Moving the iMac to Your Living Room
First off Apple keeps cord clutter down. The iMac only needs one power cord since the mouse and keyboard are wireless, and the AirPort can take care of Wi-Fi connectivity instead of using the Ethernet outlet. That means less of a tangle of cords messing up your living room. The iMac display uses LED backlighting for a brighter screen, has a 16:9 display ratio, and the 2560-by-1440 resolution is supposed to give the screen a better output than a 1080p high-definition display.
No one likes to listen to a computer's fan, so Apple designed the iMac with silence in mind. For example, Apple keeps the whirling sound of computer fans to minimum by separating the two components that generate the most heat, the CPU and the GPU.
Then there's the fact that the glass display pushes all the way out to the edge of the product. As Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive points out in the promotional video for the new iMac, "it's just display and then no display." That design element in itself is enough for me to wonder where Apple wants home users to place this device.
Who wouldn't want a beautiful 27-inch display sitting in their living room? The stuffy computer monitor look is gone, and you get a device that's made for watching high-definition video content. The iMac's in-plane switching (IPS) technology is also supposed to make the display viewable from any angle, making this a great device if you have people scattered about your living room. The new iMac also has a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse, which can work up to 30 feet away from your iMac. So you can sit back on your couch, watch your favorite movie in Hi-Def or browse the Web.
Why The iMac Isn't For The Living Room
While the new all-in-one looks promising, there are a few problems with moving the iMac from the study to the living room.
First off, there's no TV tuner, so that makes using the iMac as regular television or DVR replacement more difficult. Also, if you want to use the new Apple remote to watch your saved content, you won't be able to access any of your rented iTunes movies through Apple's built-in media center, Front Row. That may be a small annoyance, but there's a huge difference between clicking through a list of content with a remote and balancing a keyboard and a mouse on your lap. If you can access your purchased television shows and movies on Front Row, wouldn't a complete product allow you to access your rented movies as well?
The biggest reason, however, for not bringing your iMac into the living room is a matter of practicality when it comes to getting work done. I doubt many of you would want to have your wireless keyboard and mouse sitting on a TV tray, while you're staring up (or down) at a display sitting in your media center. It's just not a practical solution when you're trying to type a document, work on a spreadsheet, send e-mail or read the news online. The new iMac is great for video content, but other than that is it really worth the $1699 price tag?
In the end, I'm left scratching my head when it comes to the new iMac. There's no doubt it's a gorgeous piece of equipment, but why are you going to buy it, and where is it going to live? It would be a shame to place the new iMac in your study, where it may not be that comfortable to sit and watch a movie on a regular basis. But if you put it in your living room, then you're making it very impractical to use the iMac as a regular computer.
So why not save a few dollars, buy a cheaper desktop PC or laptop to get work done, and pick up an LCD TV and Blu-ray player for your living room. You could do all that for about the same price or less as a new 27-inch iMac starting at $1699. The alternative may not be as cool as the new iMac, but isn't it far more practical?