Review: iMac 27-inch 2012, Everything But A Freeview HD Tuner

Our score: 4/5
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March 1, 2013 1:11 PM
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Published: March 1, 2013 12:16 PM
By Alexandre Botella
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
With Rémi Jacquet
Several weeks ago we reviewed the 2012 21.5-inch iMac. Now we're on to the 27-inch. It has a slimmed-down chassis, new components and an IPS display with upped resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels.

 

Design & Hardware:


Thinner is better, okay? Like the 2012 version of the 21.5-inch iMac, the 27-inch's brushed aluminium body has been brought down to a super slim 5 mm along the edges.

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - profile

The centre-back of the chassis bulges out to nearly 5.5 cm, but you really have to be looking straight on from the side to notice it.

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - back

Standing from the back, or, say, three-quarters of the way towards the back, the new iMac looks unbelievably thin.

Like the previous generations, this iMac comes with a wireless (and numeric keypad-less) keyboard and a, Apple Magic Mouse. The keyboard is the same one that came with the previous models. The size of a MacBook Pro keyboard, it's relatively nice to type on, but we would have preferred a larger size. As is, most gamers—because you can play games on Mac now—will probably opt for the bigger model (or one from a different brand). Luckily, when you buy the iMac you can choose the numeric keyboard version at no extra charge... except it isn't wireless!

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - keyboard mouse


Simply put, the Magic Mouse that comes with the iMac sucks. It's already a pain to use for basic productivity tasks (Word, Excel...), so for gaming it's enough to make you cry. The other mouse you can choose from is the Mighty Mouse, which isn't any better. We suggest buying a mouse (and keyboard) from a competing brand to go with the iMac.

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012)

Unlike the previous generations, the 2012 27-inch iMac has all the same connectivity as the 21.5-inch, namely: four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports (for transferring data and exporting the display's image to another screen), an RJ45 Ethernet port, an SD card reader and a headphone/microphone combo jack. While this is enough connectivity to satisfy most users' needs, the fact that all the ports are located in the back means you have to either reach around and feel around blindly to plug things in, or turn the screen.

Apple has gotten rid of the DVD drive, which is partly justified because people are using them less and less. Apple sells an optional external USB SuperDrive, but it costs £65, whereas you can find burners from competing brands for half that price.

The only thing that's really missing is a Freeview HD tuner, which most of the competing all-in-ones have (a TV tuner allows you to watch TV on your computer screen).

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - heat
Heat readings with the components under stress. Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

Something both the 27-inch and 21.5-inch share in common is that they're both quiet and the temperature stays extremely low even when running processor-heavy tasks.

Screen:


As usual, Apple pulled out all the stops with its 2560 x 1440-resolution display. Not only is it an IPS screen, which provides wide vertical and horizontal viewing angles, but the colours are amazingly accurate!

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - colours

Our sensor leaves no room for doubt: the Delta E (which measures the difference between the way colours are intended to look and the actual shades that are displayed onscreen) equals 2. That's quite simply astounding! It will please both the layperson and most hardcore aficionados.

Equally good is the contrast, which varies from 1100:1 to 1200:1, depending how high you set the screen brightness (maximum 370 cd/m²). If only all monitors were this good...

Audio:


For the most part, the speakers offer similar performance to the 21.5-inch, but the 27-inch iMac's volume goes 30% higher—and the distortion and noise are reduced by the same amount. In other words, it's much louder, without sacrificing sound quality. The closed-in aluminium chassis certainly plays a part in this by limiting vibrations and other unwanted sounds.

Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) - audio
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = too heavily altered


Nothing has changed with respect to the audio input/output. That goes for the connectivity (there's a combo jack only, so for a traditional two-jack headset you'll need an adapter) as well as the performance, which is top-notch, with no distortion and excellent dynamics. The sound is clean, loud, high-fidelity.

The Model We're Reviewing:

Apple sent us the least powerful, least expensive version of the 27-inch iMac, the 2.9 GHz model. It comes with 8 GB of RAM, a 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5-3470S processor, an Nvidia GTX 660M video card and a 1 TB hard drive (7200 rpm).

Processing Power:


This is the least powerful processor Apple is offering for the 27-inch iMac, but it's far from lacking. It can execute pretty much any task at more than reasonable speeds. Unfortunately, while the i5-3470S is a quad-core processor, the lack of Hyper-Threading makes it problematic when running applications, such as 3D modelling, that are optimised to distribute computations to the different cores. For tasks like these, an i7 would be better.

The 27-inch's processing speeds are actually pretty close on average to the 2012 Mac mini, which has an Intel Core i7-3720QM. And, as you'd expect, the Mac mini is better at 3D modelling—gotta love those eight virtual cores! The Mac mini doesn't, however, do as well with tasks that require raw processing power, such as data archiving.

Generally speaking, the iMac we tested isn't quite as responsive as the Fusion Drive models (Apple's Fusion Drive system combines a solid-state drive with the traditional hard drive for improved performance). Here startup takes 25 seconds, whereas the 21.5-inch, which has a Fusion Drive, takes just 15 seconds. Shutdown on the 27-inch takes 15 seconds. That said, the 1 TB HDD offers more than a comfortable amount of storage space.

Gaming Performance:


Unlike the Mac mini, the 27-inch iMac has a real graphics card, and not just any graphics card: it's an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M, which is powerful enough to let you play a vast catalogue of games in 1920 x 1080 resolution with medium-to-high quality. There are, however, a few exceptions. One is Max Payne 3, which we had to play in 1366 x 768 to keep a fluid image.

Power Use:

The 2012 27-inch iMac consumes less power than the 2011 version. We read 0.1 W when the computer was turned off. When on and running our wattmeter picked up just 70 W, and 75 W while playing a 1080p movie (the 2011 version consumed 90 W and 115 W, respectively).

4/5 Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) DigitalVersus 2013-03-01 13:16:00

Pros

  • Design, materials, finish
  • Excellent display (high contrast and accurate colours)
  • Wide viewing angles
  • Great audio
  • Quiet fan
  • Low heat
  • Screen resolution (2560 x 1440)

Cons

  • No more DVD drive
  • No TV tuner
  • Optional features = expensive
  • All the ports are in the back (not most practical location)

Conclusion

The 2012 generation of the 27" iMac is slimmer than ever (bye-bye DVD drive), and has lots of computing and gaming power. Oh yeah, and both the screen and audio are top-notch. This is one excellent all-in-one computer! All it really needs is a TV tuner and a less snooty price.

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