Apple iMac 21.5in review
An attractive new design and a host of small improvements combine to make a stunning all-in-one; it’s Apple’s best iMac so far
A process of constant refinement has established the iMac as the best-looking desktop PC around.
Viewed head-on, you might wonder what Apple’s changed with this year’s model. Peer around the side, however, and it quickly becomes apparent: the 25mm edge of the previous-generation machine has been whittled down to an astonishing 5mm.
The iMac isn’t this thin across the whole width of the chassis. It bulges to a more accommodating 40mm in the centre where all the components are housed, but it still makes a considerable difference to the way this all-in-one looks. Approach it from an angle and it seems to float above the desk, suspended in midair.
Interestingly, Apple says this newer, sleeker iMac can’t be manufactured using the old methods, so it now uses a technique called “friction-stir welding” to join the metal section below the screen to the rear panel.
Fancy production techniques aside, though, most of the rest of the design is familiar territory. The screen is still surrounded by a glossy black border, the silver “chin” houses the familiar Apple logo and the curved stand looks as good as ever. Build quality remains sturdy, despite the trimmer profile.
All the connections are located at the back of the screen – there are four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet socket and a headphone jack. There’s no room on the side for the SD card slot or an optical drive, however, so the former has been moved to the rear and the latter has been removed entirely.
This upgrade isn’t merely superficial. Inside, Apple has made major alterations, principally to the iMac’s storage subsystem. Instead of just a hard disk or SSD, there’s the option to specify Apple’s new Fusion Drive. This combines a 128GB SSD and hard disk to provide the best of both worlds – the speed and responsiveness of an SSD and the high capacity of a hard disk.
The idea is to store frequently used applications and files on the SSD for improved responsiveness, while keeping less critical data on the slower, platter-based hard disk. As you might expect, the operating system resides permanently on the SSD, and a selection of key applications is placed there, too, including Safari, iMovie, iCal and iPhoto. Over time, this changes as the system learns which apps and files you use most often, moving them to the SSD, and moving those that are rarely used back to the hard disk. (Note, however, that the benefits of the Fusion Drive aren’t available to those who install Windows via Boot Camp – that’s installed on the hard disk portion of the drive.)
The effectiveness of the system will only become apparent with prolonged use, but we can say categorically that the underlying hardware is excellent.
The iMac boots quickly, taking 15 seconds to reach the desktop, and the 128GB SSD is rapid. It scored 481MB/sec and 330MB/sec in AS SSD’s sequential read and write tests – not much slower than the 497MB/sec and 340MB/sec achieved by our A-List SSD, the Samsung SSD 830.
|Price ex VAT||£1,474|
|Price inc VAT||£1,769|
|Features & Design||6|
|Value for Money||4|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Total hard disk capacity||1,128GB|
|CPU family||Intel Core i7|
|CPU nominal frequency||3.10GHz|
|Processor socket||LGA 1155|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|Graphics card||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M|
|Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?||no|
|3D performance setting||High|
|Graphics chipset||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M|
|Number of graphics cards||1|
|Hard disk||Apple SM128|
|Hard disk usable capacity||112GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA|
|Hard disk 2 make and model||Apple 1TB hard disk|
|Hard disk 2 nominal capacity||1,000GB|
|Hard disk 2 formatted capacity||931|
|Hard disk 2 spindle speed||5,400RPM|
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,920|
|Resolution screen vertical||1,080|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Dimensions||528 x 175 x 450mm (WDH)|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|Front panel memory card reader||yes|
Mouse & Keyboard
|Mouse and keyboard||Apple wireless keyboard and mouse|
Operating system and software
|OS family||Mac OS X|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||33fps|
|3D performance setting||High|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.96|