TRY this simple test at home: What's the name of Dell's best-selling PC? Anybody? Anybody?
Right. Nobody knows.
And nobody cares. Today, it's all about phones and tablets, baby. Nobody buzzes about the PC anymore. Innovation is dead. Sales are down, right?
Actually, there's one pocket of surging sales and innovation in PC land: the luxury all-in-one computer, of the type made famous by the iMac. I took a look at three silver, high-design, screen-on-a-stalk competitors: Apple's new iMac ($1,300 and up), Hewlett-Packard's SpectreOne ($1,300 and up) and the Vizio All-in-One Touch PC ($1,000 and up). (Lenovo, Dell, Samsung and Acer also offer, or soon will offer, similar all-in-ones.)
What characterises these computers? First, a tremendous emphasis on looks. They're shiny, sleek, futuristic, uncluttered and cordless (they come with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and trackpad or mouse). They're sculpture. In your kitchen or on your desk, they contribute to the decor even when they're turned off.
The usual box of innards is missing. In the iMac, the guts are concealed behind the screen. In the Vizio, they're in the foot of the monitor. In the HP, they're inside the stalk that supports the screen.
The second common trait is state-of-the-art components. These computers offer gorgeous, vivid, high-definition screens. And they're fast; they're powered by the latest Intel chips and lots of memory.
Third characteristic: no DVD drive.
What? Do these companies really think that the era of the disc is over? That nobody will ever again want to digitise music from a CD? Or burn some files to a disc to hand to a colleague? Or borrow a DVD from the library?
Apple, HP and Vizio seem to believe that everything is online now. Well, it's not. Want to rent an Indiana Jones movie, "Jurassic Park" or "Schindler's List"? How about "Star Wars," "A Beautiful Mind," "Bridget Jones's Diary" or "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"? Too bad; they're not available to rent online.
You can, of course, buy an external DVD drive. But aren't these called "all in ones"? An external drive just looks stupid.
Now, on a laptop, eliminating the DVD drive is understandable. You carry laptops. Weight matters. Bulk matters. But why eliminate DVD drives on computers that stay in one place?
All right, end of rant.
The new iMac, clad in its traditional aluminium, is stunning. The stand is still a thin, curved L of metal but now, the screen appears to be just as thin (0. 2 inches). Where are the guts?
Turns out it's a trick an illusion. Behind the screen, you see a substantial bulge; Apple tapered the aluminum as it approaches the screen, so that from front angles it seems that the whole screen is razor thin.
Apple has also eliminated much of the glare that has long dogged today's glossy screens. Viewed side-by-side with its rivals, the iMac is a lot less reflective.
There are two iMac sizes: 21.5 and 27 inches. The $1,300 and $1,800 base models come with a 1-terabyte hard drive, 8 gigabytes of memory and an i5 Intel processor. Each has four USB 3.0 jacks, two Thunderbolt jacks (for video input or output or external hard drives), and a camera memory-card slot, awkwardly positioned on the back. Apple has ditched the FireWire jack it spent so many years promoting.
On the 21.5-incher, you can't upgrade the memory yourself; what you buy is what you'll have forever, unless you take it into the shop.
On the 27-inch model, you can install as much as 32 gigabytes yourself, through an easily opened door. (That, for the record, is about 262,144 times the memory as the original Macintosh.) Online, you can order your iMac with a 3-terabyte hard drive, 32 gigabytes of memory, a 768-gigabyte flash-memory drive and a $3,700 invoice.
Vizio isn't a company you expect to be in the PC business; it made its mark selling high-quality, low-price TV sets. And sure enough, by far the best pa