Apple recently introduced iMacs with Retina displays in both 21" and 27" sizes, for real-world prices. I b'lieve the physical design dates to the last makeover in 2012. (Mine is a mid-2011 model.)
Whether the design is good or bad probably depends on what you mean by "good design." If you're talking about whether it looks slick and beautiful and clean and all that, well, duh. It's a gorgeous design.
If you're talking about whether it's as practical as it can be, well, that's an aspect of design too, and maybe that's another story.
All the ports are still on the back. If there was one good potentiality about St. Steve passing to a higher plane of existence, it was that finally they could put at least one blowdy-bejeebered USB port on the front, where you could reach it.
Instead, they moved the SD card slot to the back, where you can't reach it, either. Now you can't reach anything.
Of course the iMac still retains the effects of its ancient ancestry as the mid-line desktop by having a limited number of ports. And finally, since they got rid of the drive, now you have to have a USB hub and a disc drive dongling off your superslick iMac, spoiling the pristine cleanliness of its lines.
And is it true what I hear that the Magic Mouse 2 has to be cord-charged, and the connection is on the bottom? Is that true? So while I wait for the mouse to charge, I can't use it? I have to endure downtime? Downtime that I never had to endure for more than about 40 seconds when the mouse used rechargeable AAs?
The stand is well designed (sense 1), but maybe it's not well designed (sense 2), either. You can tilt the screen forward and back, but not side to side. The lack of side-to-side adjustment is not terrible, because it's easy just to rotate the whole computer. But what if you need the screen to be higher? So now you have a super-clean Bauhaus-sleek computer with two peripherals cluttering the desktop, and it's sitting on a pile of books, where it's easier to knock over when you contort yourself around the back of it to change out SD cards in the maddeningly out-of-the-way, hard-to-reach slot.
Does good design cause bad design, sometimes? (Happens with cameras, too.) And may I just ask, does anybody care how slim the edge of the display is? I mean, is there one person, in any country?
Disclaimer: I know nothing about computers. I am just sayin'.
Last question: Is anyone else sitting slumped in a GAS-imploded glassy-eyed sweat about how nice a display of digital "photos" would look on an iPad Pro? No? Well then me neither.
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Featured Comments from:
Scott L.: "And the power button is mostly annoyingly on the back! Where you have to feel around for it. Form destroying function. Old Apple fans are reluctant to see that the company now targets the fashion crowd. Two former Apple designers spell it out here."
Mike replies: Insightful article, and you know what? All camera designers ought to read that, too.
Alex Buisse: "I am waiting to see the screen in person, but I have a feeling the iPad Pro will be the ultimate portfolio showcase for client meetings. Making a strong first impression with a large and beautiful screen can go a very long way toward getting the job. Just a shame I can't see myself using the iPad Pro for anything else...."
Mike replies: Sounds like you don't have an iPad already. If you get one, gradually you'll find lots to do and you'll gradually get attached to it, too. I couldn't figure out what to do with the thing for about the first five months with it, and now I'm on my second one and they'll pry it out of my cold dead etc.
As I am wont to say, it's my least necessary device, but my favorite. Although the 6+ now gives it a run for its money as the fave.
Matthew: "I am typing this on a shiny new iMac (my first ever and unpacked yesterday.) While I agree with everything you say, I still felt that this was the best option when my other choice was a PC running either Windows 10 or Linux. Maybe after a month or two I will change my opinion, but after a day of mucking about on it, I am very happy with my decision."
Richard Howe: "You've really touched a nerve with this one, Mike.
"A little over 100 years ago (I think it was in 1910) the Viennese architect Adolf Loos published an essay called 'Ornament und Verbrechen' ('Ornament and Crime')—you don't need to read it to get the idea—which became one of the founding texts of a trend that is now exemplified in the Apple product lines (but by no means only them).
"This is not to blame Loos, who apparently had a good sense of how things would have to work in the real world of buildings: he also advised students: 'don't think about the roof! Think about rain and snow!'
"What was always so great about Macs was their ease of use. What Apple's designers seem to have forgotten is that eliminating useful, real function (like the color 'labels' for files in the older Mac OSs, that have been replace by little colored dots that so much harder to see that you have to hunt for them on-screen, but don't get me started…) for the sake some aesthetic or other is just as 'ornamental' as the kind of highly ornamented architecture that Loos was protesting against.
"The faults you point out, and an increasingly long list of others, are anything good design, and Apple's products ,which were once the best designed in the industry (meaning the easiest and most straightforward to use) are increasingly becoming fashion accessories, expensive trinkets and baubles, to be seen with (and now even wearing) rather than to use.
"I'm torn between rage and grief for what was once a great product line (and still is, though one that's increasingly being buried in an avalanche of pseudo-elegance.
"After nearly 30 years of using Macs, I've reached the point where I dread the prospect of sooner or later having to 'upgrade' to something where (with apologies to another famous architect) less really is less, not more.
Mike replies: That's the glimmer I was getting, too—the possibility that maybe one day an "upgrade" won't be. I'll get a machine that's clearly better in some ways but "dis-improved" in other ways for reasons of mere fashion, or model line protection, or some other disreputable reason.
Regarding several readers' complaints that the SD card slot was next to the DVD slot on the old machines, yes, I had to learn that one the hard way too. But the SD card slot really should be handier than being on the back where you can't see it—SD cards are meant for frequent interchanges. It makes no sense to have it on the back and it would make the most sense to have it on the front, below the screen.