Hardware, design and build: a classy, pared down style
With its physical resemblance to the iMac 21.5-inch, this section is identical for the iMac 27-inch. We noted the same qualities and faults on both models. The photos here are, though, photos of the 27-inch model, webcam image included.
The allure of this new iMac 27-inch 2010 hasn't changed. This all-in-one still looks good on a desk thanks to a studied aesthetic and irreprochable aluminium finish. The minimalist style so dear to Apple is once again in evidence: you just need one power cable for your iMac and it's well hidden behind the base. It's clean and clear with nothing making the desk look untidy. The choice of a glossy coating for the screen is however debatable. Best not to touch the black zone that picks up fingerprints all too easily.
With the iMac, Apple still supplies the tiny laptop type (or should we say MacBook) keyboard. Very light and nice to use in spite of the narrow buttons. When ordering, you can go for a corded model and/or a keyboard with a number pad. The keyboard is accompanied by the Apple Magic Mouse with its debatable design.
There is one innovation however as it is now possible to use the Apple Magic Trackpad with an iMac (available at the Apple Store). This big touchpad is particularly nice to use, particularly when there's nowhere stable to put your mouse.
All these peripherals are wireless and run on batteries (Apple hasn't neglected this and offers us their "Latest Innovation: Rechargeable Batteries").
The webcam gives a nice image, although the light areas of the image are subject to overexposure. Contrast is fine and white balance and fluidity ok.
The fan is quiet and cooling is aided by the aluminium casing which dissipates heat very well. This is fortunate as the new iMac tends to heat up rapidly. The fan gives off a deadened, very discreet sound, even when demanding tasks are requested of the computer.
No innovations when it comes to connectivity and this is a real shame. All the connectors are at the back and on the side of the machine. There are 2 optical mini-jacks (in and out), four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800, one mini DisplayPort and one RJ45. On the right hand side of the computer you'll find the DVD rewriter and SD memory card reader.
Sure, it's all discreetly built-in and looks aesthetic, but you can only regret that there are no USB ports on even one of the iMac's sides. It would also have made the headphones out more accessible if it had been placed here and this would certainly not have spoiled the overall effect of the machine. This is particularly difficult to understand seeing as it would have been even more in keeping with the Apple aesthetic if they had placed some of the ports in the middle of the back of the computer, where they could be hidden by the base (any cables would then have taken the same route as the power cable).
Note also the lack of video ins. A nice screen like this one makes you want to connect up your broadband TV box or a games console. Here, there's no easy way to connect an external source.
Under the lower edge, there's a panel with 3 screws that gives access to the four slots for RAM (total max of 16 GB to be configured on the Apple Store for the throwaway sum of £800). To get to the rest of the components, you'll need to take off the panel. This is an operation that we can only recommend you NOT TO DO, even if this glossy panel were hiding a matte panel that deserved to see the sun (set)!
||Apple iMac 27-inch
|Comparison with the iMac 21-inch (in front)
||Keyboard, Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse
Processing: moving up to the Core i gives the iMac some extra oomph
The performance levels of the iMac 27-inch with Core i3 3.2 GHz processor are very close to the 21.5-inch model with the Core i3 3.06 GHz. Like the smaller model, in spite of an entry level processor (in terms of positioning in the Core i range), it does pretty well. Its scores make it a computer that's perfectly at ease with office doc work, but also very capable in terms of some photo retouching or video editing. When it comes to editing however, best to learn some patience as such a processor can't compete with the Core i5s or i7s, which are better adapted to this type of usage (better overall when it comes to multimedia). Demanding users will therefore naturally gravitate towards a faster processor (we'll soon be testing the Core i7 version!).
In terms of previous Apple machines tested here at editorial, moving up to a Core i3 in place of the Core 2 Duo is definitely noticeable. The iMac 27-inch Core 2 Duo is no match for it on our Photoshop test, with an index that tops out at 103, against 126 on this new iMac 27-inch Core i3.
In comparison to other Apple machines, here are a few figures given using the Xbench testing tool.
3D gaming: a few less demanding titles
A few extra games have recently joined the Mac compatible games library. Games developer Valve has made its Steam platform Mac compatible, while Starcraft 2 has also recently arrived in Mac world. Although the number of titles are still limited, it is perfectly legitimate to want to do some gaming on Mac, especially as you can install Windows on your Mac (see end of article).
Although the ATI Radeon HD 5670 graphics card which equips this iMac 27-inch is faster than the HD 4670 used in the lowest price 21.5-inch model, you can't always play recent games at a decent level in native resolution. This is because of the resolution of the screen. 2650 x 1440 pixels is 84% additional pixels in comparison to a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. As a result, it's better to fall back on older games or reduce the resolution of the screen and display your image slightly less sharply.
Audio: clean headphones out and optical interfaces
The iMac's speakers are camouflaged inside its lower side. The sound is fine given the lack of available space, although the placement of the speakers isn't without causing a few problems depending on the slant of the machine (this is something we picked up on with the previous version). Of course, it's better to use the mini-jack optical out which allows you to plug in true speakers or headphones. We should also say in passing that each mini-jack includes an optical out and in.
How much energy does an iMac consume?
To get down to their slimline shape, iMacs sometimes use laptop components. The good news is that these components don't consume very much. The iMac 27-inch pulls between 111 (screen brightness at 200 cd/m²) and 137 Watts (400 cd/m²) for HD 1080p video playback (Wi-Fi deactivated). A standard desktop computer with such a screen usually consumes two to three times as much, while a high performance laptop with a big screen requires around half this amount of energy.
OS X and Windows 7: it's possible
- Nice screen, well calibrated
- Nice look and finish
- Satisfying across the board performance
- Compact, absence of cords
- Limited and inaccessible connectivity
- No Blu-Ray player
- Glossy screen subject to reflections
Without revolutionising the all-in-one concept, this iMac 27-inch is convincing all the same and has all the elements needed to make it a recipe for success. It does however lack some seasoning. We would have liked to see richer and more accessible connectivity, Blu-Ray and the option of choosing a matte panel on purchase.