The new Apple iMac is here, and while the 2011 line doesn’t exactly contain any surprises – second-gen Core chips and Intel ThunderBolt, obviously – that doesn’t mean it’s anything less than sensational. Read on and get our thoughts in our full new Apple iMac review.
At a glance, nothing has changed with the new iMac’s exterior. It still sticks slavishly to the the unibody aluminium design ethos of Jonny Ive, with an edge to edge screen and cool metal curves. It’s hard to believe that even three years after this was first introduced in the company’s MacBook Pro lines, no other manufacturer has managed to craft anything as sexy.
All Apple has done has done is chucked a well behaved ambient light sensor in and a better webcam – you can now carry out 720p HD FaceTime web chats, in wide 16:9 aspect ratio, just as you can on the new MacBook Pro, with identical performance – check out what you can expect in our hands with FaceTime HD from earlier this year below.
On the right hand side of the new Apple iMac you’ll find the SD card and DVD drive slots (Yup, no Blu-ray still, but Apple followers have long since resigned themselves to the fact that this is never going to happen), while on the back you’ll find four USB 2.0 ports along with an Ethernet connections. On any other new machine, we’d have a bit of a moan about the lack of USB 3.0 for faster file transfer, but lo! The DisplayPort (or pair of them on the larger model) is now a ThunderBolt port, letting you sling data at stupid speeds with supported peripherals. There aren’t many of those yet, mind, but that’ll change in due course, and there’s still a FireWire 800 hook-up if you need it.
It’s also worth noting that the new Apple iMac now comes with your choice of Magic Mouse or Magic TrackPad for input (Or both) along with the wireless keyboard. It’s a thoughtful gesture, since many MacBook users like us will be much more used to multitouch gestures on a completely flat panel. Regardless of which you’re going for, know that you’re getting the best looking desktop out there.
Of course, likely the biggest concern will be the yellow screen issue that late 2009 models were plagued by. We’re happy to report that we’ve seen nothing of the sort on our test model. The LED backlit screen is beautiful, stuffing 2560×1440 pixels on the larger new Apple iMac (the smaller pumps out 1080p), and it’s perfectly possible to hook up two more DisplayPort monitors to work alongside it.
There is one flaw with that display though – as with the MacBook Pro, the glass can throw a lot of light back at you. That’s rarely a problem with a portable machine – go sit somewhere else -but glare on a desktop machine can be seriously annoying when the sun come straights through the window. If your desk gets full on natural light, well, you might want to consider moving your desk.
The £999 21-inch new iMac comes with a 2.5GHz Core i5 CPU and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics, and things ramp up from there. Our new Apple iMac review unit is the 27-inch entry level model, with a 2.7GHz quad-core second generation Intel Core i5 chip with AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, but if you want even more performance, you can configure one to ship with up to 16GB of memory, a 2TB hard drive, 3.4GHZ Core i7 processor and 6970M graphics, plus a second 256GB solid state drive on which to install OS X Snow Leopard.
Check out our best Mac top 5 here
That, of course, will cost you shedloads (£2,969) but even the stock options are incredible. That’s down to Intel’s latest chips, which, when they’re not being recalled, are turbo charging everything they touch. Your casual photographer with a compact camera or low end DSLR will never be able to slow this thing down – it opens huge batches of files in a moment, never makes a peep, and lets you edit away in peace. Hell, even 4K+ resolution movies can be opened and scrubbed through without delay.
As for gaming – you know it’s up to the task. AMD’s graphics make mincemeat of Portal 2 on the highest settings, but as ever, if you want more than that, you’ll be limited by the selection of games on OS X, not the power of your machine.
If you’re planning to watch movies on your big screen iMac however, you still might want to invest in a pair of decent speakers – one tin can isn’t going to produce the best acoustics ever, and if there’s one complaint we can level at it, it’s that it’s a shade quiet.
With Intel’s latest workhorses inside, Apple’s desktop has moved from being the best all-in-one for consumers and pros alike to being the best desktop machine full stop. While ThunderBolt made the new MacBook Pros a worthwhile upgrade for serious on the go editors only, at £999, the entry level iMac actually represents remarkable value – and just so happens to be futureproofed with ThunderBolt for when it goes mainstream. Likewise, the pricier models now offer more bang for their buck than ever before – the top end models rival the entry Mac Pros, and they come with big, beautiful screens built in.
The real question is, do you really need a desktop nowadays? Hell, do you even need a laptop? If you’re not after a machine for the family, we’re not so sure anymore.