Apple iMac 27" Review
Review Date : Mon, 20 Jun 2011
Author : Matt Tuffin
A stylish, sleek iMac with all the tools a photographer should need. The Apple iMac 27" review follows....
|Pros:||Fantastically powerful, looks great, Thunderbolt has potential|
|Cons:||Very expensive, few Thunderbolt devices|
Apple's update of the iMac range brought about some interesting additions, including the Thunderbolt connection and Facetime camera.
The most important facets to concentrate on, however, are the improvements to the performance of the iMac. On the model tested a 3.4 GHz Quad-Core i7 processor was used, which offers better Hyper-Threading performance, which aids multi-tasking by simulating more cores, and a slightly faster Turbo-Boost feature which increases the speed of the processor when required. The i7 processor is simply a choice with the various customization options, and opting for the i5 will knock £160 off the final price. There's also an AMD Radeon graphics card, which can be purchased in either 1GB or 2GB incarnations (saving £80 for the former) and a maximum of 16GB of RAM.
All of the hardware improvements have made a significant difference, as the iMac now easily outperforms the previous version offering over 30% performance improvement. This is not unexpected, but some of the other additions are less so. The Thunderbolt connection, which is actually a mini-display port found on a number of existing Macs. The difference in this instance is that the port is able to produce, with compatible devices, up to 10 Gigabit per second. This is double USB 3.0, and thanks to the dual protocol feature, doesn't become inaccessible when a monitor is connected. This is due to both data transfer and a display connection being possible through a single port, so plugging in a monitor and an external hard drive will provide no issues nor, in theory at least, a dip in performance. Because both channels used offer a 10Gbps transfer rate there shouldn't be any issues with transferring large files across and watching a HD movie, but just in case even more connectivity is required the more expensive incarnation of the iMac offer two Thunderbolt ports. As up to seven devices can be daisy-chained on a single connection there is scope to link up a whole host of options, although only two can be displays. At the moment there are only a handful of monitors, hard drives and professional video capture devices available, but the likes of Blu-Ray drives and high-speed card readers are heavily rumored, if not expected shortly.
A Facetime HD camera is also present, although it simply circumvents the need to purchase a similar device separately. The iMac is also compatible with the latest incarnation of the OSX operating system, Lion, which enhances a number of features including TrackPad compatibility allowing for iPhone-like gesture control.
The design is, of course, typically Apple, with a simplistic metal frame and glass framing around the screen. All of the ports are towards the right side of the monitor, meaning it's best to connect your devices prior to placing it in an inaccessible position. The screen does show finger marks, and the weight makes it a touch tricky to maneuver and reposition, but the iMac looks at home in both the office or living room. The keyboard is similarly stylish, finished in brushed metal, and either a mouse, magic mouse or touchpad can be purchased to compliment it.
At a little over £3,000 for the most expensive and powerful version the iMac is three times the price of an equivalent-specced desktop PC (A HP Pavilion Elite HPE-599uk), even with the allowance for a monitor. Although Mac-PC comparisons are often unfair due to the differences in operating system and hardware, the fact that both sport the same processor and graphics options, as well as the similarities between Windows 7 and OSX, make it less of an issue. The iMac does have a number of individual advantages, such as the Thunderbolt connection, that differentiate it from PC equivalents, although the price difference is an element Mac users often have to stomach.
Such is the performance of the iMac that even those spending the extra would be impressed. The future appearance of Thunderbolt devices means, at the current time, more potential is yet to be realized but if prior models are any evidence the likelihood Thunderbolt will become popular amongst manufacturers is high. Although the value is relative, those after a high-end photo editing solution for a studio or office would be overjoyed with the performance of the iMac. It not only makes significant improvements from a hardware perspective, but offers the opportunity to expand far beyond it's well designed shell.