back to article Apple's skinny new iMac line: Farewell, optical drives

The new 7.85 7.9-inch iPad mini and the upgraded fourth-generation iPad weren't the only bits of kit featured during Apple's "a little more" event this Tuesday in San José, California. Also announced was Apple's new eighth-generation iMac lineup. Sadly, the event also signaled the end of the presence of optical drives built …

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  1. James 100
    FAIL

    Never worked well anyway!

    Having had 3 of my 4 "super"drives die on me, I concluded the name was intended to be ironic (never bothered getting them replaced: under warranty policy at the time, it would have meant leaving the laptop with the Apple store for a week to be repaired!) - not really any great loss. It wasn't until I was weighing up the week of laptop-deprivation against long-term DVD drive loss that it hit me just how little use I had for the slot in the first place; I think I've ripped two audio CDs so far this year, while every single piece of software has come electronically in the first place: ISOs from MSDN, Apple App Store stuff, things on the servers at work - nothing send by disk any more!

    It would have been nice if Apple had switched to non-turkey drives instead, but you really only need one on each network for most use these days - and don't most of us already have a perfectly good USB one around somewhere, without buying an extra to take up space in the machine?

    1. Arctic fox
      Megaphone

      Re: "Never worked well anyway!" I do not have a huge quarrel with the trend towards............

      ..........slimmer and more lightweight machines meaning that some equipment that has been traditionally built in now becomes a peripheral. I in fact installed a blue-ray player in our front-room HTPC and any ripping I need to do is done by means of an external drive via a USB port. I do however have a considerable problem with snide gits representing the company concerned saying things like "And for those who are still are stuck in the past" by way of brushing off questions about that design decision.

      1. rh587
        Coat

        Re: "Never worked well anyway!" I do not have a huge quarrel with the trend towards............

        "I do however have a considerable problem with snide gits representing the company concerned saying things like "And for those who are still are stuck in the past" by way of brushing off questions about that design decision."

        Here here. These are desktops - they can afford to be a little more bulky than their portable notebook counterparts. Especially one which is built into a 27" monitor - that's a lot of body, even if it is uber-thin. It's a 27" desktop - it's not going anywhere, it can weigh as much as you like - makes it less nickable if anyone breaks in!

        Aesthetically, I actually don't like the new thin profile so much as the Mid-2010 Generation iMacs (one of which I'm typing on), and it's not like you can actually tell the difference when you're sat in front of it...

        Worse, from a pragmatic and usability viewpoint, given Apple have high penetration in the creative industries (one of the few industries they have any penetration in whatsoever), the inability to either rip media from a CD or DVD or indeed say, burn the media you've generated for a client to a DVD (so they can actually play it without buying a smart TV with USB port or fiddle with the right dongle to make it talk to their laptop) seems more than a little perverse.

        Yes yes, I know, everyone has ipods or smartphones or unholy non-Apple MP3 players, but when you've been in the meeting rooms of Fortune 100 companies and their A/V provision is a steam-driven 25" CRT monitor with the world's first DVD player, having a shiny macbook with a slew of adaptors to DVI/VGA/HDMI is less than helpful. You actually need a spare copy on old optical media sometimes!

        Mine's the one with pockets full of legacy hardware formats.

    2. jai

      Re: Never worked well anyway!

      have to agree. both the intel iMacs i've had have both lost functionality of their optical drive. Oddly enough, the tray-loading drive in the old G4 iLamp iMac is still working perfectly.

      but i don't see why people get so uptight about needing the optical drive inside the machine. USB drives to read/write dvds are cheap as anything these days - far cheaper than Apple would charge you for putting one inside certainly. And that way you get to choose between cheap DVD drive, or splash out of a blu-ray drive if you wish.

      god the new iMacs look nice. I'm desperately trying to find an excuse to get one, but sadly, apart from the optical drive, my current iMac is still working perfectly

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Maliciously Crafted Packet

          Re: Never worked well anyway!

          Taking the piss? I think jai is spot on.

          Unless you prefer that car battery-esque styling often found on PC's and the like these days.

          1. wpjchris
            Joke

            Re: Never worked well anyway!

            I just wanted to confirm that the sole reason jai wanted to buy one was based on aesthetics.

            Maybe Apple do know what they're doing...

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Never worked well anyway!

        If you can, wait till the mid-2013 iMac comes out, it's rumoured to be inspired from Toshiba's design.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never worked well anyway!

      I had a SuperDrive die on me recently (refused to eject discs), but for 40 quid I bought a replacement and replaced it in 25 minutes flat. The drive that died was 5 years old.

      With iFixit, you don't even need to send it away, you can do it yourself with the right tools. Granted, it involved removing the fascia and the screen and it would probably be daunting for your average person, but it's nonetheless something you can do. :-)

  2. Bad Beaver
    Flame

    Never again

    iMacs are nice machines overall but I sure as hell will not get another one if I have to pay for it. Too expensive for the single point of failure they have been designed to become. Also, I do live in the past and love to get stuff on shiny little discs. And I am not paying extra so that Apple can promote its own business model.

  3. Chris 171
    WTF?

    Incredible...

    These are not computers, they are things. A lamp as an example.

    Do you need extreme thinness from a desktop device? at the cost of losing functionality? Big fat no on both. More functionality in the same size box as before please.

    Can't even rip a CD on a machine over 2 feet across.... that's some 'design' right there.

    1. Aaron Em

      'Appliance' is the word you seek

      And, yeah, if I'm splashing out a zillion bucks on a gigantic desktop iMac, it's really going to be the extha eighty bucks for an external DVD drive that's going to break the bank...right.

      Never minding, of course, that the computer as general-purpose hot shit box paradigm is for us geeks, and that for ordinary human beings, a computer that's as reliable -- and replaceable -- as a lamp, is pretty much the ideal. Means they don't need to put up with us, for one thing; for another, it means we don't need to put up with them. Take those reasons in whichever order you like; they're both good ones either way.

      1. Captain Underpants
        FAIL

        Re: 'Appliance' is the word you seek

        @Aaron:

        That's flawed logic on your part ; if people are buying an appliance (and a bloody expensive one at that) then one of the things they expect is that, by virtue of paying for quality they are bypassing the Ryanair sales model. If the Superdrive is so cheap, why isn't it bundled? (I question the assertion that it's cheap, too - I've used several better and cheaper external optical devices in my time, and while many of them didn't come with a shiny looking brushed aluminium chassis that was the only way in which they could be seen as inferior to a Superdrive).

        "Nobody uses DVD or Blu-Ray any more" is a patently bollocks answer, because if it it were true you wouldn't be seeing hugely profitable film releases appearing on disc. A more honest answer is "we want it to be more convenient to use iTunes & the App store than to install from/use discs". Which is a win for Apple, not the user - so why's the user expected to pay for it?

        On a laptop I can grudgingly understand the space constraints making "access to optical media" something to trade off in favour of "lighter, thinner device". On a desktop, it's irrelevant. (Of course, I say this as one to whom the physical appearance of computers is generally irrelevant...if the aesthetics of your home desktop are supremely important, perhaps this move on Apple's part makes more sense).

    2. McBeese
      Holmes

      Re: Incredible...

      "Rip a CD"? People still have music on CDs?

      1. BernieC

        Re: Incredible...

        Yep, 2000 or so of them.

        Won't be buying a Mac any time soon.

        1. jai

          Re: Incredible...

          re: "Won't be buying a Mac any time soon."

          if you still get your music on CDs sounds like you don't buy anything until it's outmoded and old fashioned. I'm surprised you're even on CDs and not listening to vinyls instead.

          1. Swarthy Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Re: Incredible...(@ jai)

            ODFO. I love my vinyls. I actually own more big, black CDs than I do the regular kind. They store much better, for one thing.

      2. J 3
        Devil

        Re: Incredible...

        My wife decided to play one of her games on her iMac today, only to discover the optical drive would not get the disc in (mechanical failure of some type, apparently, since the OS recognizes the drive as being there). She has other, recently bought disc-dwelling software laying around, like language instruction program and data CDs. I'm sure she will be glad to hear it's now all part of the past...

        1. Richard Cartledge

          Re: Incredible...

          £29 is just too much for a USB DVD drive?

          In fact, you can get a caddy on ebay for under £5 and pop in al old one from your spare part pile or some 5 year old Acer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Incredible...

          The reality is fewer and fewer people need CD/DVD drives - especially on laptops but even on desktops. It's almost a 'legacy' format and I'm sure people said the same when hi-fi's stopped coming with a record player as standard and how many have audio tape now?

          CD and DVD is still fairly prevalent but there are external USB drives you can use and face it - streaming / downloading is the future or do you really think you will be buying DVDs in 5-10 years time?

    3. Michael Habel Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Incredible...

      Yes but, think how much happier Apple you'll make Apple after you repurchased all those Audio CDs' 'cause you couldn't actually rip them like the filthy Pirate that the like of the RIAA (and Co.), think everyone is.

    4. Wyrdness

      Re: Incredible...

      As a Linux developer and OS X user, I'd say that, far from being toys, they're actually the best desktop *nix machines you can get. OS X still beats Mint and Fedora for usability.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Niche legacy hardware?

    Client: Here Mr Designer, I've got all the files for you to print out on this DVD.

    Mr Designer: Great.... er...

    Client: ...

    Mr Designer: Just bear with me while I get on ebay and buy a cheap DVD rewriter!

    Just one of the many real-world scenarios I'd face every day if I didn't have an optical drive. Another might go like this:

    Mr Designer: Damn, my Mac's hard drive just borked, better boot up off my install DVD to reformat and reinstall.

    Mr Designer: ...

    1. Chad H.

      Re: Niche legacy hardware?

      Hey Mr Designer, here's my USB drive/Dropbox account/etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Niche legacy hardware?

        That's great thanks, but how does it let me boot from my installer disk to reformat my drive and/or reinstall the system? Oops! ;)

        1. Chad H.

          Re: Niche legacy hardware?

          Bootable USB. Job done. Old tech to the rescue.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Niche legacy hardware?

            Have you tried this? I have recently and it seems to be a no-go. It'll boot from an external USB hard drive if it has a system already installed on it and is properly formatted, but I've had no joy getting it to boot from an installer disk in an external USB optical drive, so how do I get the system installed on there in the first place? Hmmm, now where did I put that ancient Firewire DVD writer? :/

            1. Steven Raith
              Stop

              Re: Niche legacy hardware?

              I swear you people are making this up.

              If I've had a problem with booting from USB, I've been doing it wrong. A quick google to find out how to do it properly has sorted it.

              The Mac USB booting has never failed if I'm honest, much to my chargrin, arf.

              Astroturfers, 13 year old trolls and people who just don't have a fucking clue what their talking about - it's The El Reg Forums Way!

              Steven R

        2. The FunkeyGibbon
          Facepalm

          Re: Niche legacy hardware?

          Target Disk Mode anybody? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_Disk_Mode

        3. Snapper
          WTF?

          Re: Niche legacy hardware?

          You'd do it a LOT faster if you installed it from a recent clone on a USB or FireWire drive. Have you SEEN how many updates you have to install with the OS and apps these days!

          If you didn't know this why are you posting on a tech site?

      2. Nanki Poo
        FAIL

        @chad Re: Niche legacy hardware?

        "Hey Mr Designer, here's my USB drive/Dropbox account/etc."

        Try "Hey Mr Client, why don't you turn around, go back to the office, learn how to use the internet, join DropBox, upload your file there, come here, I'll then download it, and we can discuss what you want to do then . . . "

        However you word it, that's what they'll hear. Especially if it delays their project.

        Just saying.

        nK

        1. Aaron Em

          And this is why they sell an external optical drive

          Of course, that's only for those of us who'd rather get the job done, than whine about problems which don't actually exist -- and, as I said above, for someone who's dumping gobs of money on a desktop Mac, the relatively tiny additional cost of a $80 external optical drive is a problem which doesn't actually exist.

          1. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: And this is why they sell an external optical drive

            It isn't really the cost (though that's annoying).

            Its the fact that the DVD player becomes an ugly beast to have around your beautiful imac and you start thinking that your all-in-one was achieved by taking everything out.

            Lots of people still buy on CD. iMac's sound is not great and if you want music in the Lounge as well as the study, you may not want to buy another computer & screen for there too. Yes you could do BT from your tablet, but that starts being a pain to pair and unpair devices all over the place when you really just want to put a CD in. I might actually wish to share my music collection with the proper hifi in the Lounge.

            --

            Written on my desktop, with over 6TB of internal disk, a very nice Dell 27" screen, a nice 20" screen and an OS where focus follows mouse.

        2. Chad H.

          Re: @chad Niche legacy hardware?

          If your client hasn't figured out email by now, I think you're going to have bigger problems than where your CD rom drive is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @chad Niche legacy hardware?

            "If your client hasn't figured out email by now, I think you're going to have bigger problems than where your CD rom drive is."

            I think you overestimate your chances of keeping clients in a recession when you start telling them they're idiots for not trying to email those 6Gb of photoshop files for their latest van livery. And if you start telling them they have to now subscribe to a service like dropbox (the free account won't handle that much data), they'll most likely choose the easy option and just use one of your competitors who'll take the disk off them with a smile and say 'no problem'. Welcome to the real world of working for a living.

            1. Chad H.

              @ AC Re: @chad Niche legacy hardware?

              And I think you overestimate the actual amount of people who need an optical drive by stretching to a circumstance that simply does not effect the casual user, and even in your example have viable alternatives to a burned DVD, such as a *Reusable* Flash disk

      3. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        Re: Niche legacy hardware?

        "Hey Mr Designer, here's my USB drive/Dropbox account/etc."

        Hey Mr Designer, I don't want to put my data on a 3rd party website that could be breached. Equally, I don't want you to alter the data I've given you. If you don't like a DVD, I'll find a designer with a Mac Pro or the last generation iMac - or a generic PC.

        1. Michael Thibault

          Re: Niche legacy hardware?

          Equally, I don't want you to alter the data I've given you.

          Come again! Oh, wait! I think I see where the gob got smacked: there's a world of difference between what you want and what you can effectively ensure. Ask the MIAA types. They have some experience with optical media.

          I'll find a designer with a ... generic PC.

          'PC-using designer' verges on the oxymoronic.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            @ Mr Client with the optical disk

            Mr Designer, I'll just drop the DVD-R through your letterbox. Don't bother posting them back (5p ea.)

            Or Mr Designer, I'll just drop the USB stick through your letterbox, please return them. (£5 - £20 ea.)

            Also, never underestimate the bandwidth of a box of DVDs. Even today, posting a few DVDs next-day is often faster than uploading and downloading.

            These days clients tend to bring source data on either DVD-R or external hard disk, depending on the amount.

            Which raises another annoyance - it look like that new iMac doesn't have any front or edge USB ports. So how do you plug in the client's USB stick or USB HDD without looking like a class berk?

            1. Monkeigh
              Meh

              Re: @ Mr Client with the optical disk

              As far as I know the last two generations only had back mounted USB ports. Unless you had a wired keyboard in which case it has 2 on the back of the keyboard.

              I can confirm that plugging a USB stick into the back of the iMac has always been a pain. Unless you reach around and just stab it at ports in the back until you find the right one then you have to swivel the whole thing round. So every time you want to plug in or unplug anything you have to readjust the tilt of the screen.

              In practice most people buy an external USB hub and use that which is hardly an elegant solution. I really don't see the point of making the iMac smaller if it means you have to have your desk littered with peripherals.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                @ Monkeigh

                Ouch, thanks. I didn't realise that, I thought the previous generation had screen-edge USB ports.

                - I've only got a Mac Mini for test purposes at work.

            2. Richard Cartledge

              Re: @ Mr Client with the optical disk

              Don't do business with someone who can't spend £10.70 inc. P&P on an USB DVD drive.

              Hello, you could even post them the DVD & DVD drive and say don't bother posting it back.

    2. Steven Raith
      WTF?

      Re: Niche legacy hardware?

      USB optical drives, or shock horror, USB drives, which are also bootable.

      And have been on Macs for *years* - same as they have been on all x86 hardware.

      I have recently rebuilt my crummy old 2008 Macbook from scratch with an SSD in it (no recovery partitions on it, natch), with one USB drive. No App Store usage either, other than to verify the Mountain Lion purchase I made whenever I upgraded from Lion.

      Piece of piss.

      Seriously, I haven't used an actual install DVD in anger for many a year - pretty much all my installers (Windows and Mac OS apps) are copied to USB drives - far, far faster for a start, which was my primary justification for it! Linux of course, I just use repos....

      Steven R

      1. Franklin
        Happy

        Re: Niche legacy hardware?

        "Seriously, I haven't used an actual install DVD in anger for many a year..."

        I just used the DVD drive on my iMac for the first time ever last night, as it turns out. To install Windows 7 in a VM.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Niche legacy hardware?

          "I just used the DVD drive on my iMac for the first time ever last night, as it turns out. To install Windows 7 in a VM."

          What VM software are you using? Just curious as I thought all of them had the ability to mount an iso file as a virtual optical drive. I don't recall ever having to fanny about with actual physical media when it comes to virtual machines.

          Re: the new MACs, seems like not a bad decision. It obviates a pretty onerous failure mode from the machine (multiple moving parts, optics exposed to the elements, fluff ingress, etc). It still has USB ports at least. If they'd only gone for some proprietary bus format that combined PCIe, eSATA, USB and DisplayPort/HDMI into a single connector and charged a hundred bucks per adapter then there would be more of a justification for bitching about it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mount an ISO

            Yeah, sure you can, but you've got to get it into ISO format first. Last I checked Microsoft don't actually sell their operating systems in electronic format.

            1. MCG
              Thumb Down

              Re: Mount an ISO

              In actual fact, all versions of Windows 7 and 8 can be purchased as downloads in ISO format.

              Christ, I hate you anonymous twats.

    3. Aaron Em

      Re: Niche legacy hardware?

      You do, of course, know that OS X install media has been a bootable USB stick for, oh, at least a year or two now...

      1. a_been

        Re: Niche legacy hardware?

        I think they should bring back the 5.25 floopy, when they droped that I swore i would never buy an Apple product. They just want to keep us on the upgrade treadmill. They should follow the example of companies like Tandem and DEC , when was the last time you saw them make a product that wasn't backwards compatible. Im pretty sure you can still connect stuff from the early 90s to Tamdems PC's.

    4. tony
      Happy

      Re: Niche legacy hardware?

      If "Mr Designer" can afford the £2k+ for the none base model but can't afford the dvd drive knowing that a portion of their client base has in the past brought in optical media for use then maybe they should re-evaluate their spending.

      They've probably spent more on entertaining / advertising to get the client through the door in the first place.

      Unless we want to spend the day designing more and more elaborate scenarios to find reasons why /why not a person would spend less than the cost of a decent bottle of wine during a client jolly to keep in a drawer.

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