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Summary:

Is it a lemon? It’s not a question I like to have to ask about an Apple product, but it’s starting to look like Apple’s problem-plagued 27-inch iMac fits that description. And that’s not just a clever joke I’m making about the yellow screen complaint that […]

Is it a lemon? It’s not a question I like to have to ask about an Apple product, but it’s starting to look like Apple’s problem-plagued 27-inch iMac fits that description. And that’s not just a clever joke I’m making about the yellow screen complaint that seems to be popping up everywhere recently. Even beyond that cosmetic (though no less valid) complaint, the machines just aren’t living up to Apple’s reputation for quality.

Before the holidays, Apple put its foot down and delayed shipment on all new larger iMac orders until after Christmas. The ordering page for the 27-inch machine changed today to three weeks, extending delays further still. Maybe it’s just a backlog resulting from the initial delays, but reports of problems don’t seem to be slowing down, so that doesn’t seem likely.

Let’s review the storied past of the iMac that held so much promise when it was announced. Very shortly after that announcement, as soon as the first units started shipping, reports came in from users about problems with Flash performance, hard drive spindowns, bad Snow Leopard installs and permissions issues. So it tripped a bit out of the gate, but this is a distance race, not a sprint, right?

But as the race continues, the iMac in question doesn’t seem to be improving its performance. The display seemed to be the primary cause of concern as time went on. People reported cracked displays on delivery, screen flicker that drove a whopping number of customers crazy, and visual noise and dead pixel issues. The latest and most talked about complaint is significant screen yellowing and gradient change from top to bottom of displays on the 27-inch model.

The screen isn’t the only problem, though. Out of the box, some users are reporting DOA machines that just would not boot, and more complaints than any other about processor performance. A friend of mine had to return theirs twice for the same issue, and still hasn’t received a problem-free unit. Apple has tried software fixes, too, but they haven’t worked for everything.

The question isn’t really whether or not the 27-inch iMac is a lemon, it’s how Apple let this happen to begin with. Cupertino is not known for a tendency to rush machines into production before they’re ready, but this has all the earmarks of that exact situation.

Perhaps Apple was distracted by the tablet it’s apparently been developing, and if so, I’m not optimistic about the future of the Mac line. With the iPhone and a brand new similar platform in the tablet, will QA suffer in other areas? Apple’s reputation depends on two things: innovation and reliability. I, for one, am not willing to sacrifice one for the other. Are you?

  1. They are going to update the iMac in the next Apple event!

    Imagine that! A lot of people would be angry!

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  2. I just hope the delay is so that they can catchup on reseller orders, I’ve been waiting for mine since November!

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  3. Ordered and received a refurbished 27″ iMac last Thursday, and when I powered it up, there was a small dead pixel near the center of the screen. A pixel test program showed that when the screen was supposed to be black it was noticeably unevenly backlit such that the corners were differing shades of gray. Ran the same pixel test on my 4 year old 24″ iMac, and it performed flawlessly. I returned it and am waiting on a new one from China that’s supposed to ship out Monday. So will mine be delayed 3 weeks even though the order is in the pipeline? Haven’t heard back from two calls to Apple. I guess I’d rather get a good one three weeks delayed than another defective one next week. I’m disappointed as I thought iMacs were supposed to be getting better, not worse.

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    1. Had the same exact issue (dead pixel in center of screen) with my first 27″ imac that I purchased on 1/1/10. Still have been debating on trying again as I returned it the very next day.

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  4. I (for the life of me!!!) don’t know why people WITHOUT ANY FACTS have to go off half-cocked and make statements (or leading questions) about whether or not the new iMac is a LEMON, of all things. This is getting absurd! Does anyone know EXACTLY how many iMacs have been sold since their debut in late 2009? Answer: NO! Does anyone know how many new iMacs have been found with problems, exactly? Answer: NO! Does anyone know exactly how many of those sold with problems, have been successfully repaired, fixed, upgraded, etc. to now function correctly? Answer: NO! Does anyone know exactly how many of the remaining iMacs (defective AND unfixed) there are? Answer: NO! Does anyone know how many of these remaining iMacs will be repaired and reissued in the future? Answer: NO! Now for the final question – Does anyone know EXACTLY what the percentage of permanently defective iMacs is compared to those produced in total…and oh, yes…how EXACTLY does that percentage compare to other Mac products sold in the last 5, 10, or 15+ years? Answer: NOT KNOWN! All this meaningless, negative, idle speculation and gossip (yes gossip!) for what? Just because hundreds of angry consumers (along with Windows Trolls) are populating the Apple Support Forums, and blogs, does not equal the Final Days of the New iMac! GET A LIFE! I love my new 27″ Core i7, by the way.

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    1. It’s called tech blogging, friend. Facts don’t put eyeballs on pages. Antagonistic bylines fueled by vacant speculation put eyeballs on pages.

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    2. You don’t have to have facts when you are a consumer who has just spent $2000 on a brand new high-end computer on to get it home and find that the hard drive makes more noise than my 5 year old vaio. That fact is that people do NOT just go out of there way to return goods that they were excited to purchase and then write about it for No reason.

      I am a huge Apple fan, but sorry, there is no smoke without fire!

      Does 5 bad units out of 110 make it okay??? Do you buy a new car and 5 out of 100, the brakes don’t work? Is that okay?

      Tim???

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  5. Unfortunately, I couldn’t agree more.

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  6. Robert Allard Friday, January 22, 2010

    I’ve got my Core i5 at the beginning of December.

    Works perfect.

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  7. spot on Tim. maybe The New iLife package is The cause og The delay. maybe maybe maybe…
    tjat Said, I Think its important to have a consumer advocacy group some issues a valid.

    love my iMac i7

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  8. Hmmm….I just returned the i7, and sorry to say cause it’s a beauty, but screen flicker, yellowing, bad performance and overheating is not where I opted for….discussed it with apple sales, who told me that those problems where ironed out….well not so….

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  9. We have several i7′s at work and from what I can tell have had no problems with any of them. And the people who use them everyday are sure to let us know. I, however, will be stuck getting the 21.5″ iMac for home. Not for any technical reason, I’m just really anal retentive and the height of the 21.5″ is only .05 inches higher than my current 23″ Cinema Display. So I wish they at least offered an i5 option for the 21.5″s.

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  10. You don’t have to have facts when you are a consumer who has just spent $2000 on a brand new high-end computer on to get it home and find that the hard drive makes more noise than my 5 year old vaio. That fact is that people do NOT just go out of there way to return goods that they were excited to purchase and then write about it for No reason.

    I am a huge Apple fan, but sorry, there is no smoke without fire!

    Does 5 bad units out of 110 make it okay??? Do you buy a new car and 5 out of 100, the brakes don’t work? Is that okay?

    Tim???

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