This being the fourth Thursday in the month there is no Imaging in Livewire or the other Fairfax publications, but this does not mean I am sleeping in! I have stuff for testing. And right now I am up to my bottom in doodads under review.
Two new Apple products are demanding attention – the 27” 5K iMac and the unimaginatively named New Macbook, the 12” laptop with the Retina display.
Neither is new and I have had them on the test bench before, but only for a week because units were in short supply at the time of their release. Now I have them for a longer review period and they are both spectacular devices.
The tiny New Macbook is so slim and light that it occupies a place between the iPad and the Macbook Pro. It really is the go-anywhere laptop. Its one defect is that it has only one port [unless you count the audio socket] for everything, and that means you need adapters for things like memory card or USB stick connection. I can live with that.
The big 5K iMac is the best photo editing computer that I have ever seen. The screen resolution is such that the pixel grid is invisible and images appear for all the world as continuous tone. Compared with my 18 month old iMac, which I have always enjoyed using, this is chalk and cheese.
All of which set me thinking about the Apple mystique and what it is that has made the brand dominant in the field of display-centric devices. I think I know the answer.
Apple makes only one product. The difference between iPhone, iPad, iMac and Macbook is size. There is no difference in quality or functionality. Apple make only premium products and they charge accordingly. Shopping for an Apple product is easy – you decide on the device and how much you are prepared to pay and go into the shop and buy it.
Contrast this with the shopper’s dilemma when buying a Windows-based device. There are many brands and they carry many different prices. The specifications vary widely, and they don’t mean much to the average shopper anyway. What is the difference between a $399 Lenovo and a $1999 HP laptop? How will I judge the display for resolution and colour/tonal accuracy? Does the display show true whites and blacks? Are the keyboard and trackpad any good? Apple answers all these queries in the factory where initial calibration of the displays is as near as dammit to perfect every time, and you can take it straight from the box confident that colour and tone are right.
I have been running the Windows 10 review betas for a couple of months and would like to be able to say that it promises to challenge the Apple operating system. After all we need competition to improve products and control prices. But so far Windows 10 has failed to impress. It has one big advantage over Apple OS and that is in file management, which is simpler, more logical and intuitive, but apart from that it is not looking like much of a challenge to Apple’s dominance. And as things stand, a few weeks before the final release, Windows 10 is ugly. It is hard to believe that the awful aesthetics of the new operating system will persist into the release version, but right now it is looking like it will.
Having been a loyal Windows chap for decades it pains me to see Microsoft failing. I haven’t been able to get hold of a review unit of any of the Microsoft Slate devices so I can’t say if they are a serious challenge to the iPad. I have not seen a Windows laptop that challenges any of the Apple portables.
One furphy needs to be dealt with – Apple computers are not more intuitive and easier to use than Windows computers. All the big programs from Microsoft [Office] and Adobe [Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign etc] are exactly the same on both systems. It’s just that the Apple OS is a more congenial and pleasant environment in which to use them.