Second Class Macs & Road Apples

350 MHz iMacs


Dan Knight - 2007.10.15

Second Class Macs are Apple's somewhat compromised hardware designs. For the most part, they're not really bad - simply designs that didn't meet their full potential. (On our rating scale, the more brown apples, the worse the hardware.)

When Apple introduced the slot-loading iMacs in October 1999, it was the first time the iMac sold in multiple speeds. To keep the cost down (it sold for only US$999), the blueberry 350 MHz entry-level iMac was slower than its 400 MHz siblings, had a CD-ROM drive instead of a DVD-ROM drive, and didn't have the FireWire port that was standard on the faster models.

In July 2000, Apple refreshed the iMac line with new colors and more options. The fastest model ran at 500 MHz, and the slowest was the indigo 350 MHz iMac, but it now retailed for an even lower price - US$799. (It was the least costly Mac until the Mac mini shipped.)

The 350 MHz iMacs aren't bad computers, and they offered a lot of value. For many users, they still do today. They are supported through Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and can handle 1 GB of RAM. They handle drives up to 128 GB without the need for special third-party drivers. And the ATI Rage 128 graphics with 8 MB of video memory is competent, albeit dated.

So why do we label the 350 MHz iMacs Road Apples? Because Apple left out one very important feature that made these two models incompatible with iPods and FireWire Target Disk Mode: They don't have FireWire, a feature that would not have impacted price, as the motherboard was already designed for it. It was a marketing decision pure and simple, leaving these machines with no high speed interface for backup.

A second reason to recommend against these is that more and more software is shipping on DVD-ROM these days, and these came with CD-ROM drives as a cost-saving measure. (We're not arguing that it didn't make sense at the time, nor was this a factor in awarding the 350 MHz iMacs the Road Apple label.)

As was often the case, there was really just one factor that argues against picking up a 350 MHz iMac. Of course, if you don't need FireWire and are content with a CD-ROM drive, these are very affordable iMacs than handle Mac OS X 10.3 quite nicely. LEM


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