The iMac: not so great long, long after

I received an email from Apple a couple of days ago, advertising the new iMac. The title of the ad was: “Amazing right out of the box. And long, long after.”

imac-ad

I disagree with that characterization. Perhaps it’s true of the new iMac, but it’s not true of our iMac. First, let me get something out of the way. I’m a Mac guy. I love Macs, I use a Mac all day long, I love their design and performance, and I love OS X. Unfortunately, my long-term experience with the Mac hardware, particularly when it comes to our iMac, isn’t so positive.

You see, we purchased an iMac G5 in late 2006, with an Apple Care plan. Thank goodness we did that, because we had problems with it from the get-go. A year after owning it, I wrote a post where I detailed the problems I’d been having. At the advice of some of the readers, I took it into an Apple Store to have it checked out. They replaced the motherboard and did a couple of other things. The repair experience was problematic in itself. Then, a short while afterward, the computer died again. This time we took it into a different store, where they replaced the motherboard again and did some other repairs.

Although that second repair experience was more positive, I had to take it into the store once more in 2008, for related issues. I can’t find the repair receipt at the moment, so I don’t know the date and I don’t know what they fixed, but yeah, that was the third time I had related repairs done to it, very likely for the same problems.

Then, inconveniently, about two months after the Apple Care plan expired in September 2009, our iMac died, just as it had died a couple of times before. It refused to boot up altogether. When I’d plug it in and press the power button on the back, nothing would happen. But, if I was extremely lucky, every once in a while, some noises would be heard in the back of the machine, as the cooling fans and hard drive started rotating, only to die a second or so later.

When this last hardware failure occurred, we were packing for an extended stay in Romania. I took the iMac along, since we had data on its hard drive that we needed. Once here, I was able to open it and retrieve the data from the hard disk. Unfortunately, the computer itself is still dead. What’s worse, I’m nowhere near an Apple Store. There are no official Apple stores in Romania. None at all. Where do I take it for service? And will I have to pay for the repair? A logic board replacement on an iMac G5 is somewhere around $900, and that’s only for the parts. It hardly seems fair to pay for a lemon repair, because that’s basically what I have — a lemon. Our iMac G5 has had repeated hardware failures of the same parts (at least three failures) while the Apple Care contract was still valid. The right thing for Apple to do would have been to replace it with an equivalent model, or to offer me a significant rebate on a newer model, allowing me to upgrade as painlessly as possible to more stable hardware. But none of that happened, and now I’m stuck with dead hardware.

So yeah, I don’t think the iMac is so great, long, long after. I’m sorry I spent our money on it, actually, and sorry it never worked as it should have, from the get-go.


10 thoughts on “The iMac: not so great long, long after

  1. The logic board of my PowerMac G5 also died, which seems a common feature with these machines after 3-4 years. So since last year I have an Intel iMac 24″, no issues yet, loving every minute of it.

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    1. I like that you’re calling the hardware failure a feature, Ken. Perhaps the Apple hardware engineers who designed the hardware were thinking along the same lines… As for the new iMac’s reliability, I’d like to see what you say in a couple of years. 🙂

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  2. Thanks Trev! I also heard the late-generation iMac G5’s were plagued with logic board problems. I guess mine was from that batch of bad ones, and at least two logic board replacements didn’t manage to fix the problem.

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  3. Sorry about your experience, Raoul. I’ve read a bunch of experiences similar, with all forms of the G5 processor. I think secretly Apple wanted to switch to Intel, much sooner. The core architecture of the G5 really isn’t that amazing compared to the G4. I bet that the G5 was simply a “bridge” to the Intel Macs.

    I’ve had, and serviced, 5 Intel Macs and not had one problem, that wasn’t caused by the user.

    Anyways, bummer.

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  4. I’m with you on the Mighty Mouse, Clifford — it’s not so mighty and kind of annoying, ergonomics-wise. Glad you could at least get your iMac going again.

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  5. I bought a 20″ aluminum iMac in Feb. 08. I’m a huge Linux guy but I know that there are some things that it just doesn’t cut it, like video editing. I know my way around a command line which is another reason I opted for mac instead of just another windows pc.

    It was great at first and I opted for the minimum ram knowing that I could get ram much cheaper 6-8 months later. I purchased some Mac approved ram from Kingston about nine months later. It was a good price for it. Unfortunately the ram was bad and it corrupted my filesystem. After Kingston replaced the ram, very quickly might I add, I had to re-install. Unfortunately the hard drive also crapped out on me shortly after I got the new ram. I’m not really too fond of HFS+. There are far better and advanced filesystems, imo.

    Being that it had been longer than a year since I purchased my mac I figured it was up to me to install the hard drive. I wasn’t too fond of taking it in to some “genuis”. I don’t even live close to a mac store. 250 miles to the closest one. It went off without a hitch. No issues replacing the hard drive, just a little deductive reasoning while taking it apart.

    Now my iMac is finally up and running again. I still like OS X but I’m not too fond of the hardware. Don’t get me started on that mighty mouse. It isn’t really all that mighty. Next time I may just stick with a mac mini. That way I can choose what kind of monitor I want. Now that I have experience with a mac I am not too fond of the “Apple uses only the best hardware” sentiments. Its the same hardware just packaged in a smaller box.

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  6. That sucks, Adam, sorry to hear it. My mother bought a 24″ Aluminum iMac (at my recommendation). So far, she hasn’t had any problems with it, although at times the OS gets a little unstable. A reboot usually fixes that. She hasn’t noticed any burn-in either. Perhaps hers is from a different hardware generation.

    At least we can always put a Hackintosh together if we must.

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  7. I bought one of the first aluminum iMacs that came out in late summer of 2007. It was my first Mac, and while I still enjoy using it, it’s had one very obnoxious problem that Apple refuses to recognize. That is “LCD image persistence,” aka screen burn-in. I was not aware that LCDs were subject to screen burn-in until I started noticing faint ghostly remnants of my desktop icons showing up while I was watching fullscreen video. I did some searching online and found many other people complaining of the same problem with their iMacs. Apparently Apple’s response is that this is “normal behavior” for LCD screens, and that the proper way to handle it is simply to run a screensaver or turn the monitor off for an amount of time equivalent to how long it was being used, and also not to leave any static images on the screen for more than a few minutes at a time. (Anyone who uses a computer knows how utterly ridiculous both of these suggestions are. I can’t be expected to rearrange all of the windows on my desktop every 15 minutes.) In any case, Apple’s “solutions” have not proven to work for me. I typically use my computer for less than 8 hours a day, and it sleeps the rest of the time, yet my screen burn-in persists. I did not purchase AppleCare on this computer (in general I think extended warranties are a waste of money) and by the time this screen burn-in started becoming noticeable, my 1-year standard warranty had just expired. So I have just had to learn to live with it.

    I did discover that heat is a likely contributor to this problem, since the iMac’s LCD screen is tightly packed in with a lot of heat-generating components (the CPU, hard drive, etc.). I downloaded a small utility called “smcFanControl” which lets me increase the speeds of the cooling fans inside the computer. By keeping the fans at around 2400 rpm, the machine stays cool enough that the burn-in problem is somewhat reduced, although still noticeable. I could probably improve things even more by increasing the fan speeds even further, but at that point they begin to get annoyingly loud.

    Anyway, I won’t be buying another iMac unless I can find out for certain that Apple has solved this burn-in problem in current/future models. It’s too bad, too, because the Mac Mini is too underpowered and the Mac Pro is too expensive, and I don’t want a laptop. So, basically, if I had to buy another computer today, I would not be purchasing from Apple because they don’t currently have any models that appeal to me, despite my preference for OS X.

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