Mac Musings

The New iMac and eMac Value Equation

Daniel Knight - 2003.02.05

It's pretty much a no brainer looking at the new iMac value equation in light of yesterday's product introductions.

Either the 700 MHz Combo drive G4 iMac got boosted to 800 MHz or the 800 MHz SuperDrive G4 iMac traded its SuperDrive for a Combo drive, but either way you look at it, the end result is a US$1,299 800 MHz G4 iMac with a Combo drive. That's $200 less than the old Combo drive version and $400 less than the old 800 MHz one.

On the 17" side of things, we got a 25% improvement in clock speed, a 33% faster system bus, twice as much video memory, five times faster wireless networking, and a SuperDrive that burns DVDs twice as fast - all at US$200 less than the price of the previous 800 MHz 17" G4 iMac.

Like I said, it's a no brainer that these are a better value than the models they replace. But with close out prices on the "old" G4 iMacs, which models offer the most bang for the buck?

The 15" iMac

You can buy the old 15" 800 MHz SuperDrive iMac for $1,499, which is $200 more than the Combo drive version. That's the typical Apple markup for swapping out a Combo drive for a SuperDrive, so if you'd like to burn DVDs and don't need a 17" display (or can't afford yet another $200), snatch up one of these while they last.

Do keep in mind that the 15" iMac still supports the old AirPort standard, not the new AirPort Extreme.

The 17" iMac

As $1,699, the old 17" 800 MHz iMac isn't a real deal compared with the new 1 GHz model at just $100 more. With a faster SuperDrive, AirPort Extreme, and twice the video memory, the new 1 GHz model is worth the extra $100.

I hope dealers won't get stuck with too many of the old 17" models; they'll be awfully hard to sell with such a small price difference compared with the new version.

The eMac

Apple already dropped the price of the entry-level 700 MHz eMac, which has a Combo drive, to $999, and reduced the price of the 800 MHz SuperDrive model to $1,299. The base model is compelling if you're on a budget, but picking between a 15" Combo drive iMac or a 17" SuperDrive eMac at $1,299 - well, I'd hate to have to make that choice.

I don't burn DVDs yet. Shoot, I don't even use a camcorder. But my wife does, and she'd like to be able to tape seminars, edit them down, and make them available to her clients. I'm beginning to see where a SuperDrive could be a real asset.

Of course, if you can come up with $1,499, you can get off the horns of the SuperDrive eMac vs. Combo drive iMac dilemma and just buy a SuperDrive iMac while inventory remains available.


Instead of just offering more MHz at the same price, Apple has shown that it is really concerned about value with recent releases. The Power Mac G4s have faster CPUs and lower prices than the models they replace. The introduction of the 17" PowerBook G4 let Apple slash $200 from the price of the 1 GHz 15" PowerBook G4. And now they offer the existing eMac at a lower price and improved iMacs at lower prices than the models they replace.

Although the Apple product matrix has grown much more complex since the four quadrant era, the values are steadily improving.

I wonder what they'll be offering next.