iMac Build Quality: White vs. Aluminum

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Fahrwahr, Feb 15, 2008.

  1. Fahrwahr macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    #1
    My parents' first-generation 17" iMac G5 took a turn for the worse last weekend: it will boot through the gray Apple screen, but once it reaches the blue screen prior to the desktop loading, the screen turns dark blue, and the fans start blowing like crazy. Apple Hardware Test lists a Video RAM error. Although we're taking it to the Genius Bar on Saturday to see if it might be a covered or inexpensive repair, we're not all that hopeful about it.

    We'll likely be looking into a refurbished Core 2 Duo iMac from the Apple Store online. There appear to be several options at any given time in both the white and aluminum form factors. I know that the build quality of the Intel-based Macs has been uneven compared to the PowerPC-based models (growing pains, I suppose), so I was wondering if anyone has any anecdotal evidence of the aluminum iMacs having a higher build quality than the white ones, or vice versa.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. JSchwage macrumors 6502a

    JSchwage

    Joined:
    May 5, 2006
    Location:
    Rochester, NY
    #2
    At this point in time I'd say that you should probably get an Intel-based Mac, and I'd recommend getting the older white iMac. The current aluminum ones seem to be having lots of issues. This is probably because all the bugs haven't been ironed out yet.
     
  3. ryannel2003 macrumors 68000

    ryannel2003

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Location:
    Greenville, NC
    #3
    I've had my refurbished 17" Core 2 Duo iMac since December, and I've had some issues, but they are all related to Leopard, not the iMac itself. It's been a great machine, and the build quality has been good or even better than my previous Macs. I would recommend my iMac over and over again, and the fact it was only $850 really makes it amazing.
     
  4. davidwarren macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    #4
    I have a 2.4 GHz Al iMac, haven't had a bit of trouble with it.
     
  5. brn2ski00 macrumors 68020

    brn2ski00

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2007
    #5
    What issues? My 20 incher ALU is working like a charm. I would say go for the newest model, you will not be disappointed and you are keeping up with the ever changing technology world.

    The only issue I had was the color calibration of the screen -- which ws fixed quite easily right after a software update and a quick color check.

    I had this model as well and it was a great machine. I am just a fan of the ALU look much better and the glossy screen to boot.
     
  6. JayLenochiniMac macrumors G5

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    Nov 7, 2007
    Location:
    New Sanfrakota
    #6
    No difference in build quality. It's the components used in some models of Alu iMac (worse graphics card and cheaper LCD panel) that make them worse.
     
  7. HLdan macrumors 603

    HLdan

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2007
    #7
    Same here, I have the 2.8Ghz Alu iMac and no issues. The build quality of the aluminum shell and plastic back is top notch.
     
  8. ryannel2003 macrumors 68000

    ryannel2003

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Location:
    Greenville, NC
    #8
    I agree, I think the Alu iMac is a much sexier design overall. Depending on the OP budget, I would try to stick with the newer models. I have checked them out at the Apple Store, and I saw no difference whatsoever in the build quality. I do think the glossy screen is amazing, and the new iMac's are just better. Period.
     
  9. AlexisV macrumors 68000

    AlexisV

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2007
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    #9
    Disagree. My machine, bought the day they came out, is absolutely perfect. You'll always get people posting problems on forums because nobody's interested in 'my Mac's great' threads. What's the point of posting a new thread if you don't have a problem?

    The only reason to get an old white Mac is if you can get a really really good deal. Otherwise, you're making a financial error investing in old(er) technology. Especially when it comes to resale.
     
  10. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2007
    Location:
    Singapore
    #10
    got a 24" iMac. NOTHING wrong with it at all.... works perfectly as of yet
     
  11. netdog macrumors 603

    netdog

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #11
    In my opinion, the white 24" iMacs were incredible. Great screens. No issues.
     
  12. neiltc13 macrumors 68040

    neiltc13

    Joined:
    May 27, 2006
    #12
    I think the design of the new aluminium iMacs is absolutely hideous. I think it was Apple changing things for the sake of changing things and it's blatantly obvious that a LOT more consideration was put into the design of the old machine over this. The black parts are completely out of place and quite harsh on the eyes.

    As for the build quality it's very high on both - I never had a problem with my white iMac and so far with my aluminium one I haven't had a problem either. The aluminium machine does get significantly hotter than the white one ever did though.
     
  13. jonswan macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2007
    #13
    Ditto, here. My ALU iMac 2.0 is a dream - best computer I've ever owned. The older iMacs look far too bulky and white is definitely out....
    Only problems have been Leopard related.
     
  14. cohibadad macrumors 6502a

    cohibadad

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2007
    #14
    I have several of both the white and alu iMacs and both are excellent. Personally, I think the alu iMac screen is much more beautiful to look at. I wouldn't choose one over the other due to build quality as I have had zero problems with any of them.
     
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #15
    You might base the decision on if you like the new glossy screen or not. The old white iMac has a screen like your G5. The new iMacs have a glossy screen that does well if the machine is mostly used as a media player.
     
  16. Fahrwahr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    #16
    Thanks for the replies so far. A few comments…

    I'm not as concerned about the LCD panel as I am the graphics card, as my family does tend to get into some of the puzzle games (Big Kahuna Reef, the Diner Dash series, etc.) that are somewhat graphics-intensive (although certainly not as much so as a 3D shooter game). The iMac G5 tended to bog down with some of those games.

    Is the latest white iMac line that much farther behind the aluminum line in terms of technology? Do you think it's likely that Apple would have a Mac OS X "cat release" that would cut out some of the Core 2 Duo iMacs but include the aluminum ones for some reason? Would the RAM limit also be a significant factor in longevity?

    Considering that I've been struck by Apple heat problems before (the CD MacBook random shutdown issue) and the aforementioned graphics-intensive games my parents play, I am concerned about deterioration of the electronics inside the iMac due to heat. Does the aluminum conduct heat better than the white plastic, or does it actually hold it in?

    I should note that my uncle bought a new 20" aluminum iMac (2.0 GHz) after Christmas, and my office in the new building into which my department moved in January was equipped with a 20" aluminum iMac (2.4 GHz) as well. We've had no issues so far, but I can't say I have much "experience" with them having only used them for a couple of months. My parents seem to be satisfied to remain at the 17" screen size if necessary, and the spread between a 17" white iMac (2.0 GHz) and a 20" aluminum iMac (2.0 GHz) among Apple's refurbished models is about $200 ($849 vs. $1049) when they're available.
     
  17. Sun Baked macrumors G5

    Sun Baked

    Joined:
    May 19, 2002
    #17
    Aluminum is a good cheap conductor, which is why it is used in pots and pans instead of plastic.

    So it will always feel hotter to the touch, and it is moving heat to the outside of the case instead of keeping it inside the case.
     
  18. ryannel2003 macrumors 68000

    ryannel2003

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2005
    Location:
    Greenville, NC
    #18
    Personally if your parents are satisfied at the 17", I wouldn't even bother with the Alu. A lot of people think the bigger screen is so much better and worth the $200, where some people (like myself) have been extremely satisfied with the 17" and feel no need to upgrade to something larger. Plus, the 17" White has the same processor as the base 2GHz 20" iMac, so the only difference is the graphics card, screen, hard drive, and of course the design. It all depends on what you think it best.
     
  19. Fahrwahr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    #19
    Thanks again for all the replies. The appointment at the Genius Bar today had an unhappy outcome: apparently the original purchase was in October 2004 (ours was a gift purchased on eBay), so we are four months beyond the end of the repair extension program. It doesn't seem worth $650 (parts and labor) to invest in a flawed design (in fact, the genius said the logic board looked like the replacement part, so it may have already been replaced once).

    My parents settled on a refurbished base model aluminum iMac. The heat-conducting property of the aluminum enclosure makes sense -- the tight plastic enclosure of the white iMacs would seem to lead to more component failure. The Apple Store originally stated that it would be 3 to 5 business days until the iMac ships, but it's on its way to FedEx now.

    Any ideas on what to do with the problematic iMac G5? I would hope the working parts of the machine would be worth something.
     
  20. Leon Kowalski macrumors 6502a

    Leon Kowalski

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Location:
    Gondwanaland Reunification Front HQ
    #20
    Good theory. OTOH, my white 20" iMac's internal temps run significantly
    cooler than any of the ALU iMac temps I've seen posted. For example, my
    HDD (the most heat-sensitive comoponent) is currently at 37C, as usual,
    (after many days of continuous operation) -- while the internal HDDs in
    many ALU iMacs seem to run 10C-20C hotter.

    iMacs are air-cooled by the internal fans, so the conducting properties
    of the case should have no significant effect on internal temperatures.
    If the case gets hot to the touch, basic physics tells us that the internal
    temps must be even hotter.

    ...heat kills hard drives,

    LK
     
  21. Fahrwahr thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    #21
    Interesting, and disappointing. Could this be the result of a component change that results in more heat (perhaps the graphics card), or a difference in placement of some component? What do you do with your white iMac (anything that would drive up the temperature)?

    I guess that makes Time Machine all the more valuable for backups.
     
  22. Leon Kowalski macrumors 6502a

    Leon Kowalski

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2007
    Location:
    Gondwanaland Reunification Front HQ
    #22
    I don't think it's related to the graphics card -- it's pretty much at idle
    during my normal mix of apps (web browsing, blogging, iPhoto, etc.).
    My best guess is that it's related to airflow pathways in the new "slim"
    ALU iMac case and/or changes in fan design or fan control firmware.

    Nothing in my normal apps mix is very disk-intensive, but even when
    copying multi-GBs of random files, I've never seen HD temps go above
    the low 40C's. As a test, I just copied 30+ GB from the internal drive
    to an external drive, and the internal HDD temp never got above 41C.

    The fans (all of them) speeded up by about 100 rpm -- but that might
    well have been caused by rising CPU temps (CPU load went to nearly
    100%) as much as the 4C degree rise in HDD temp.

    BTW, I'm not using smcFanControl.app or anything similar, because my
    iMac's internal temps have always been very comfortably cool.

    LK
     
  23. Fahrwahr thread starter macrumors member

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    May 23, 2007
    Location:
    Southeastern U.S.
    #23
    I didn't realize that the Aluminum iMacs were slimmer than the iSight White iMacs, though I did know about slimming between the pre-iSight and iSight iMac G5 models. You're probably right about the airflow pathways -- considering how many revisions there were to the iSight whilte iMacs (at least four, if I'm counting correctly), Apple had a few chances to get it right. The aluminum design may be a whole new ball game. I wish Steve would obsess less about thinness and more about one of his original obsessions, quietness -- better airflow means quieter fans (not that they're loud now, but I'd like the side effect of cooler temperatures).

    I've played with fan control applications on my MacBook, but I have yet to try on an iMac, and I haven't checked temperatures at all on my aluminum iMac at work.
     
  24. SaSaSushi macrumors 68040

    SaSaSushi

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2007
    Location:
    Takamatsu, Japan
    #24
    Well, you are entitled to your opinion but I happen to think the aluminums are more attractive than the white were. I owned a 20" Core Duo (white) before my current 24" aluminum iMac. This new one is work of art while the old one always struck me as a bit "plasticky" (new word I just invented)

    I had to LOL when I saw in your signature that you actually own an aluminum iMac.

    You can't have hated it THAT much. :p There are still plenty of white ones out there at great prices.
     
  25. luffytubby macrumors 6502a

    luffytubby

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    #25
    The main thing that I can see, seems to be the fact that the remote control is not magnetic with the Aluminium Imac, so it can't stick, which was kinda cool:p

    Overall, both the White and the Alu looks slick. I think it's impossible to choose which looks better.



    As for the graphics card. The White Imacs had a 7600 GT right? Is 7600 GT really better than a 2600 Pro?

    Was this a backward upgrade? What will they upgrade to next? Geforce 5200:D?

    I actually owned that card.... Dont laugh:(
     

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