Apple iMac 27-inch 2.7GHz Thunderbolt review
The iMac looks stunning from every angle with advanced graphics and Thunderbolt technology. IT PRO India finds out if the desktop workhorse could prove its intellect as an all-in-one wonder.
The 27inch iMac version poses a massive screen with a high resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, thanks to its premium display technology called in-plane switching (IPS). The LED-backlit display offers maximum brightness even in ambient light conditions. It is priced at about Rs. 1,07,900 in the Indian market.
The glossy finish does reflect light very easily causing glare, but the iMac can be easily tilted and swivelled single-handed so you should be able to find a comfortable viewing angle.
Powered by the fastest quad-core processors, the new iMac comes with 16GB of DDR3 memory and an ultrafast 256GB solid-state drive.
Unlike previous models, the latest iMac device is equipped with advanced AMD Radeon HD graphics processors across the line. An interesting fact is its ability to accommodate two external displays. The iMac supports two Thunderbolt ports, which can connect to external displays, TVs and projectors using HDMI and DVI adapters sold separately.
Each Thunderbolt port can also be used to connect up to five other extremely fast storage peripherals, but sadly none of these are available yet.
All of the iMac's ports, including the dual Thunderbolt connectors, are located round the back on the lower right hand side.
There are plenty of other ports for connecting peripherals though. There's a FireWire 800 port and four USB2 ports, all of which are available for use since the iMac comes as standard with a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse. There's also a SDXC memory card slot next to the slot-loading DVD writer for using high-capacity memory cards. All the ports are located on the rear near the lower right hand side, which means you'll have to swivel the iMac round to access them which may not be ideal depending on your workspace.
If the 1TB hard disk ever needs to be upgraded or replaced then it will need to be done by technicians with access to authorised Apple parts. This is due to Apple's use of hard disks with customized firmware and SATA connectors for sending temperature information to the motherboard which then adjusts the speed of the internal cooling fans on the fly. This allegedly improves temperature regulation and therefore reliability. Standard hard disks can be used, but not without dramatically increasing fan noise.
Although this use of custom parts won't be a problem for consumers, it might be troublesome for businesses that want the ability to do in-house upgrades for speed and data security reasons, especially on iMacs in use beyond the warranty period. Even if standard parts were in use, opening and upgrading the iMac is a pain requiring a delicate and complex disassembly procedure.
One additional storage-related option we have yet to see in other all-in-one computers is the ability to have a 256GB SSD installed alongside the hard disk. The SSD can be used as a boot disk with the hard disk reserved for storing your files. Sadly, even though the iMac uses Intel's new Z68 chipset, MacOS X doesn't yet support Intel's Hybrid SSD Mode which uses the SSD as a giant cache for the hard disk.
The iMac's slim, sleek and slender metal enclosure looks and feels great, although as expected Apple had to use an energy-conservative processor and graphics chip to maintain its svelte profile and low noise levels. The quad-core 2.7GHz Core i5 2500S processor is specifically designed for all-in-one computers. It's not as fast as its more powerful, but hotter, more energy hungry counterpart the i5 2500K, but it's still fared very well in our application benchmarks.
The Radeon HD 6770M dedicated graphics card may have been originally designed for laptops, but it managed a respectably speedy 51.3fps in our 3D graphics test so it should be suitable for at least moderately demanding 3D rendering and modelling work and GPGPU-accelerated applications. Despite the powerful components the iMac was very quiet, even when churning through our application benchmarks. The metal enclosure did become very warm though.
By default, a Bluetooth wireless keyboard and mouse is included with the iMac. We're not fond of the stunted laptop-style layout of the keyboard or the uncomfortable mouse with its small, tricky to activate multitouch surface. Thankfully, if ordered from Apple the keyboard can be swapped out for a full-size USB model, while the wireless mouse can be substituted with a more comfortable USB model or, even better, the Bluetooth Magic Trackpad, all at no extra cost.
The standard wireless keyboard (left) is unnecessarily stunted, but the optional Magic Trackpad is well worth getting.
The huge Trackpad will be familiar to MacBook users and is not only much more comfortable to use than the default mouse, but supports a wider range of multitouch gestures which quickly become second nature. As expected the Trackpad works best under MacOS X rather than Windows.
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