iMac DV SE


Released : October 1999

Price: $999 – $1,499

Acquired: September 2011 (Craigslist/Freecycle)

Cost: $35 / FREE

About the Machine

The Graphite iMac DV SE

After its introduction in May 1998, Apple’s innovative iMac remained largely unchanged for the next year and a half.  The internals were tweaked here and there, the processor was bumped from 233 MHz to 266 MHz and later 333 MHz, colored models were introduced – strawberry, lime, tangerine, blueberry, and grape – but it was otherwise the same machine.  That changed in October 1999 when Apple introduced the first major refresh to the iMac line – the slot loading iMac, iMac DV, and iMac DV SE.

Although they still looked like their predecessors, the slot loading iMacs had an updated case and design.  The plastic was more translucent and the metal shielding from the first generation was gone, offering a glimpse at the internals of the machine. Never before had the guts of a computer looked so sexy. You could literally peer right inside the machine and see the chips, wires, and heat sinks but there was just enough fogginess and color to the plastic that it didn’t look gaudy. The easy-to-break tray loading CD-ROM drive was replaced with a slot-loading CD or DVD-ROM drive. The slot loading drive worked like a car CD player and automatically fed in the  media.  It was a first for a Mac and the beginning of the end for tray loading CD/DVD drives on most Macs.  Steve Jobs hated noise so the slot-loading iMac didn’t include a cooling fan, instead relying on heat sinks and convection cooling which resulted in a very quiet machine. The speakers were upgraded to a Harmon Kardon “sound system” with an optional subwoofer (that looked like a jellyfish).

iMac with the Harmon Kardon iSub

The CPU speed was bumped to 350 or 400 MHz (still a G3), the memory and hard drive were increased, and the graphics were upgraded.  The slot-loading iMac was still available in the five colors, but for the first time was priced using Apple’s good-better-best scheme.  The “good” model cost $999 ($200 less than the previous model).  It only came in blueberry, had a CD-ROM, a 350 MHz G3, 64 MB RAM, and a 6 GB hard drive.  For an extra $299 you could get the “better” iMac DV, which included a 400 MHz G3, a DVD-ROM drive, a 10 GB hard drive, two FireWire ports, and a hidden VGA port for video mirroring.  It was available in all five colors. If you were really serious about your iMacs, you’d spring for the “best” model – the $1,499 iMac DV SE.  The SE  included a 13 GB hard drive, 128 MB of RAM, and only came in one color – Graphite – Apple’s new “professional” color that was already used on the PowerMac G4 tower. Each model shipped with Apple’s cramped USB Keyboard and round puck mouse which matched the color of the iMac.

Software Bundle

The slot-loading iMac shipped with Mac OS 8.5.1 and included Internet Explorer 4.5, Outlook Express, AppleWorks 5, Quicken 2000, fax software, and Bugdom. The DV models also shipped with a copy of “A Bugs Life” on DVD to showcase the DVD capability of the Mac. The DV models also included the first version of Apple’s iMovie software, although only the SE model really had enough memory to run it. The DVD drives on the DV models reaffirmed Apple’s focus on the direction of the Mac.  At the time they were introducing their “media hub” strategy and started treating Macs more like entertainment devices.  While PCs at the time were shipping with rewritable CD-ROM drives, Apple chose only to ship read-only DVD drives, again leaving the iMac without any built-in way to share data.  It wouldn’t be until 2001 that the iMac would include the ability to write CD-ROMs. Save for faster processors, bigger hard drives, more memory, better graphics, different optical drives, and different colors the iMac would remain the same for the next two years.

iMovie 1.0

What it Means to Me

Of the two iMac G3 designs, this is my favorite.  I wanted an original iMac but I coveted a slot-loading model. I prefer the less-cloudy casing that allows you to see the insides of the Mac.  I always pictured a slick Indigo model on my desk. Now I actually have two graphite iMac DV SE models in my collection. One of them I got for $35 and another I got for free.  One is the stock model with a 13 GB hard drive and 128 MB of RAM and the other is upgraded with a 20 GB hard drive and 256 MB of RAM.  The 20/256 model has a sticky slot loading drive, a slightly discolored front case, and the speakers don’t work.  The stock 13/128 model works fine, but was owned by a smoker so it smells like a cigarette every time I turn it on.

Although its old, the iMac still looks nice in a room. When lit from above the case almost seems to glow and it looks pretty cool. The iMac DV boasted improved speakers at the time so I was interested to see how they sound. They aren’t bad, they have a little bit of bass to them, but they certainly don’t beat my JBL Creature IIs. A big thing about this model was the fact that it didn’t have a fan, making it “silent”. I put that in quotes because it doesn’t make the hard drive silent. I’m not sure if it’s due to age or just a cheap hard drive, but both of my Graphite DV SE hard drives sound almost as loud as my Rev D iMac.

There isn’t much that one can do with an iMac of this generation anymore. It can still play DVDs, but that’s about it. I used it for an iPhoto slideshow at a party and it could barely fade from one photograph to the next. Regardless, it is a find piece of design and I’m glad to have a few around.

Tech Specs
Processor 350 or 400 MHz PowerPC 750 (G3) w/ 512k L2 Cache
Memory 64 MB (base, DV) or 128 MB (DV SE) PC-100 SDRAM
Hard Drive 6 (base), 10 (DV), or 13 GB (DV SE) Ultra ATA
Other Drives Slot-loading 24x CD-ROM (base), or 4X DVD-ROM (DV, DV SE)
Video Card ATI Rage 128 VR w/ 8 MB
Screen 15″ 1024×768 pixel CRT
Speakers Dual Stereo
Expansion Slots NONE
Ports 10/100 Ethernet, 56k modem, 2 USB, 2 FireWire 400 (DV, DV SE), 1 VGA (DV, DV SE), Audio In, Audio Out, Dual headphone, Airport (optional)
Performance
Geekbench 177 (400 MHz)
XBench
Speedometer
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