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They're responsible for the boom in translucent candy-colored tech products. They're all the rage when it comes to sizing down and sleeking out desktops. Don't look now . . . they're knocking at your office door. Say hello to iMac, iBook, PowerBook, Power Mac G4 and now the Power Mac G4 Cube. (What the heck is that thing?) Whether you've been a Mac Head all the way or you've finally gotten fed up with Windows, there's an Apple for every office occasion. We'll pick apart the product line and see what flavors go best on which plates.
They're cute. They're cuddly. They come in indigo, ruby, sage, graphite and snow. And starting at a street price of $799, you can almost say they're cheap. The focus on ease of use over bells and whistles makes iMacs ideal for computer novices and "I just need to get online" users. But you might not want to run your business with one of these. Heavy-duty spreadsheet and graphics applications will drag their feet a bit with the basic 350MHz G3 processor. Consider an iMac if you're looking for an inexpensive way to add employee desktops to your Mac-based office.
The cream of the iMac crop is the $1,499 DV Special Edition. A 500MHz G3 processor, 128MB RAM, a 30GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive and two firewire ports position this iMac as a multimedia monster. Compare the DV specs to the slightly pricier G4 desktop we cover later. This is definitely the iMac of choice for intensive resource-consuming graphics and business applications. Still, the built-in 15-inch monitor can be a put-off, especially when it comes to graphics work.
As if iMacs aren't small enough, the Apple laptop line packs in the portability. Remember learning how to form analogies in high school? Well, PowerBook is to iBook as business is to consumer. For a tight budget that still demands a Mac notebook, the $1,499 basic iBook will suffice. It takes $2,499 to move up to the bottom-of-the-line PowerBook. Still, that will get you a 400MHz G3 processor, compared to the iBook's 300MHz G3. The PowerBook screen clocks in at 14.1 inches compared to 12.1, and a DVD-ROM drive and two firewire ports come standard. Those extra features will pay off for you on-the-go professional types.
At this point, Apple's AirPort technology is worth mentioning. Available as an option for most of the Mac line, the AirPort lets you wirelessly network and access the Internet from an AirPort Base Station ($299) up to 150 feet away. An AirPort card for your computer costs $99. It might not be your cheapest networking option, but you can surf nonstop all the way into the conference room.
Nothing tops the brute force of a Power Mac G4. If you're not a mega-tycoon yet, however, it's worthwhile to shop around among the lower-end G4s. A single 400MHz G4 with 64MB RAM and a 20GB hard drive will only squeeze $1,599 out of you. Monitor sold separately, mind you-a 17-inch Apple Studio Display adds on $499.
So what is that G4 Cube? It looks like someone ran a G4 desktop through a trash compactor. It starts at $1,799, and the specs read a lot like a regular Mac desktop: 450MHz PowerPC G4 processor, 64MB RAM, a 20GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM drive. On the other hand, it's tiny and doesn't use a fan to cool the components. That means no incessant annoying hum. Despite the interesting design and plentitude of computing power, somewhat limited expandability means the Cube may be better left to Mac aficionados who "just gotta have one."