Apple iMac review

18 Sep 2007

A stunning design backed up by great performance and good value for money.

Price when reviewed: 

For all of Apple's various foibles (web ID: 110495), the arrival of a new product is often greeted with genuine excitement. It's impossible to deny the sheer quality of design and engineering that goes into the hardware. Even better, the 20in, entry-level iMac (ours is the 24in version) weighs in at just £799 including VAT; a poke in the eye for those who claim Apple only builds kit for a premium price.

The glossy white veneer of the iMac's predecessor (web ID: 100152) is gone, replaced with a brushed-aluminium finish. The screen has gained a black surround and a glossy finish. Apple's translucent keyboard has been given the elbow, too, replaced by an aluminium keyboard with laptop-style keys.

The chassis is made from a single sheet of thick aluminium, and there isn't a rough edge or a seam to be found. That's not to say there aren't design flaws, with the gloss on the 24in screen particularly questionable: place the iMac opposite any strong light source and it becomes a mirror. And, although the boost to contrast is welcome, colour saturation becomes harder to judge when editing photos. The resolution is welcome, though; 1,920 x 1,200 is plenty for high-end photo and video work. The screen is also incredibly bright and has superb viewing angles.

Inevitably, the iMac comes with Apple OS X 10.4 (Tiger) installed, so our first act was to download Apple's Boot Camp software and install Vista. The process is a snap and, once Apple's drivers have been loaded, Vista worked perfectly. It flew through our benchmarks, returning an overall score of 1.15. The processing grunt is provided by an Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, running at 2.4GHz. Oddly, Apple delivers this version of the iMac with only 1GB of RAM - just enough for either OS X or Vista. Upgrading the RAM is possible, if expensive, as there's a spare SODIMM slot easily accessible under the monitor. You can upgrade at time of purchase for £76 exc VAT.

Unfortunately, Apple couldn't make it harder to upgrade anything else. That single sheet of aluminium is screw-free, effectively making the new iMac a closed system.

This could be a problem, as the hard disk weighs in at only 320GB (consider upgrading to 500GB before you buy for £51 exc VAT). It's enough, but start storing TV programmes and films and you'll find it dwindling. You're not spoiled for external expansion, though: FireWire 800 and 400 ports are on hand, as well as Gigabit Ethernet and a pair of audio jacks (one analogue in/out and one digital in/out). There's disappointment for those wishing to connect a second screen, as Apple has used its proprietary mini-DVI connector, requiring another £15 for an Apple mini-DVI-to-DVI adapter. There are just three USB ports on the back of the iMac, and although the low-profile keyboard has two more, one of these is used by the mouse.

The keyboard split opinion in the PC Pro office. The keys have short travel, making typing roughly the same experience as using an ultraportable. The mouse has a single button but uses an electrostatic sensor to detect which finger you've used to click and responds accordingly, allowing you to right-click. It's the same technology as found in Apple's Mighty Mouse and, impressively, works by default in Windows.