Apple's 27in iMac reviewed: should it be your next desktop computer?

Apple's 27in iMac reviewed: should it be your next desktop computer?
Rating
Overall:

Stunning one-piece design and a magnificent 27in screen, but the usual Apple foibles are there to drag it down

Performance:
4
Features & Design:
5
Value for money:
4
Price
Price: $2199
> Pricing info
Specs
Product name Apple iMac 27in
Vendor Apple
CPU model/brand Intel Core 2 Duo

We've seen some spectacular all-in-one PCs, but this outdoes them all. Somehow, Apple has stretched the silver machined curves of the iMac to a massive 27in size, without losing its allure. It shouldn't work, but it does.

The giant enclosure is gorgeous to behold, with edge-to-edge glass across the front, and silver aluminium elsewhere.

A single power socket is perfectly positioned for its cable to thread tidily through the rear stand, and there's little else to interrupt the seamless finish - just a smattering of ports, and a crisp black Apple logo on the front and back.

The centrepiece is that 27in screen, and what a screen it is. It uses an LED backlight and an IPS panel for near-perfect viewing angles and vibrant, punchy colours, and even its resolution is a step forward.

Every 27in monitor we've yet seen has used a standard 16:10, 1920 x 1200 panel, but the iMac moves that to a more consumer-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio and opts for 2560 x 1440.

The difference is tremendous, with a sharpness and clarity you just don't get from blowing up a 24in resolution to that size.

Given its bulk you'd expect a fair amount of power as well. The base 27in option at $2199 comprises a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7600, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 7200rpm 1TB hard disk. After crowbarring Windows 7 onto it we ran our benchmarks, and the score of 1.50 is quick for an all-in-one.

The ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics were capable of 43fps in Crysis at 1280 x 1024 and medium settings; in all-in-one terms, not that bad - but you won't get anywhere near the native resolution with modern games. Any high-definition video we threw at the iMac ran smoothly, and the screen really brought scenes to life.

Apple has innovated further with its hardware, but its designs don't all earn plaudits. The wireless keyboard is one of the most pathetic we've used, with its laptop size and lack of useful function keys. It looks embarrassed to be sitting beneath its hulking parent.

Then there's the Magic Mouse, the first to turn its surface into a multitouch interface. For obvious reasons, Apple hasn't provided drivers to make it work fully in Windows 7, but after using it extensively in OS X that isn't a devastating loss.

It doesn't support the iPhone's pinch-to-zoom gesture, leaving you with basic swipe scrolling and Ctrl-swipe zooming - it's little more than a glorified mouse wheel.

The mouse itself is small and sits low to the desk, leaving your palm rubbing awkwardly along behind it. And Apple's obsession with one-piece design means right-clicking involves lifting your left finger off the mouse.

This obsessive design extends to the iMac itself. Clearly, nothing so ugly as a power button could tarnish that perfect front panel, so it's chucked on the rear in the bottom-left corner.

That wouldn't be the end of the world, but putting the FireWire and USB ports on the back as well is hugely frustrating - we had to wrestle the iMac away from the wall every time we went to plug in a flash drive.

We're used to Apple hardware having its quirks, but with a slot-loading DVD writer and SD card slot already on the right-hand edge, would an accessible USB port really have spoiled the look any further?

But in many ways, this new iMac isn't intended for a desk at all. The brilliant screen, pounding 17W speakers and jaw-dropping design wouldn't look out of place as the centrepiece of your living room, and the 802.11n wireless makes putting it there as easy as pie.

The mini-DisplayPort output is as frustrating as ever with no supplied adapter, although with that screen you'll rarely need to output to anything else.

Whether it's worth $2199 to a Windows user is the big question. There's no denying it's gorgeous, but we can't look past the typical, easily avoidable Apple foibles.

Sure, you could replace the mouse and keyboard, and there are more powerful specifications available, but you're still paying an awful lot for something that shamelessly chooses style over practicality.

If you can live with that you won't be disappointed; if you can't, take a look at Sony's brilliant 24in multitouch VAIO VPC-L118FG/B.

This Review appeared in the February, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

See more about:  apple  |  imac  |  27in
 
 

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