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June 11, 2004

An eMac Plaint Before I Go Back to Having Fun With It

Posted by Mike on June 11, 2004 7:55 PM

Face to face with one bit of discontent about the eMac line: The graphics card is, while not quite "underpowered," not exactly spiff, either. It's a 32MB ATI Radeon 9200. It can push pixels for almost everything I care about (Warcraft III, StarCraft, Diablo II) except Unreal 2004.

The Unreal 2003 demo I found for it runs pretty well in the middling resolutions, but finding a copy of that is getting hard because it looks like MacSoft has dried up the entire backstock in order to push more of Unreal 2004. Such is the world of Mac games, I think: Almost every major also-on-PC game I've seen for Macs (with the exception, perhaps, of Blizzard's) are the result of a license-and-port deal, much like late, lamented (but still kickin' on the web) Loki did for Linux before dying a grisly death. So where the less disciplined (and more massive) supply channel of PC games might allow for the occasional lucky score of an older, superceded game, it gets sort of hard to find stuff that had a limited run anyhow.

The rest of the machine is pretty nice for a sub-$1000 system: Decent processor power, SuperDrive, decent built-in speakers, plenty of horses to do all the iLife apps (and I'm comfortable in asserting that my 1.25Ghz G4 with 512MB RAM is handling Photoshop Elements better than my Athlon 1800XP with 768MB RAM). But if you want the extra kick of a semi-modern video card, you're making the hop up to the iMac line, which has some "value pricing" for tiny, 15" displays but rapidly hops upward of $1799 for something with the same specs as an eMac but with a better video card. So it becomes "$800 for nicer video card and an LCD display."

This probably would have been a showstopper, but when I look up at my list of "favorite games," only one of them is anything approaching "modern." StarCraft is really, really old but it remains fun for "30 minutes to kill on a small scenario" in such a way that I find myself thinking computer games might well be like pop music: Eventually you sort of find the era in which you're comfortable and stay there. Activision got me to pay good money to turn a Playstation 2 into an Atari 2600 with its "Greatest Hits" collection, too, because for my money there's just no beating Pitfall, Freeway, Megamania, or Laserblast.

I suppose the moral of the story is: This is mostly a work machine, and only slightly a game machine. If you want to play games on a Mac, start with the iMacs and work up from there.