Apple’s long awaited refresh on its line of desktops has finally arrived
Apple has set the standard on ultraportable notebooks, mainstream laptops, tablets, and smartphones for the past few years. Let’s not forget that they also produce desktop computers as well and they are also pretty damn good at it thanks to their iMac. Apple’s philosophy of simplicity and performance has been with the iMac so how do you improve on something that is already great besides giving it a spec upgrade? They answered that question in the Q4 live press conference by unveiling a thinner and prettier iMac, which has turned a lot of heads with the 5mm edges. Is this new incarnation of the iMac just about looks? Was performance sacrificed to keep the computer light and thin? Let’s take a test drive on the Apple’s latest all in one desktop!
When this was first unveiled, Apple had the world convinced for a while that it was only 5mm thin. If you look at this in person, it bulges out in the back like an old TV and you will find that the only part that’s 5mm thin are the edges of the screen. Regardless, it is much lighter in weight than the 2011 model by almost 10lbs with the 2011 weighing 30.5 lbs. and the 2012 weighing 21 lbs. Here’s a comparison chart layout out the weight and dimensions of the current and previous iMacs:
Comparison chart courtesy The Verge
The 2012 iMac is actually not too dissimilar from it’s predecessor. It has the same aluminum build, black bezel surrounding the screen with an aluminum chin with the apple logo in the middle. The tilting aluminum stand is also pretty much the same.
The ports on the back for the most part are similar to its predecessor in which we have 4 USB ports (finally 3.0!), two Thunderbolt ports, and an Ethernet. Since the edges of the new iMac are only 5mm, the SD card has been inconveniently moved to the back and the optical drive is no longer present. For those of you take a lot of pictures, it’s a pain taking the SD card in and out on the back of the screen, unlike the last model, which was located on the side. Without an optical drive, burning DVD movies to share is no longer possible without purchasing and external one.
For those of you have don’t have a set of external speakers, I recommend you to go buy some because the ones built in on the new iMac perform like a cheap pair of $10 ones you get at a convention. There is no bass at all and the sound is very weak even at the higher volume settings. If you max it out it becomes very muddled. The previous iMac however had really decent built in speakers and I have never need to go out and buy a pair until now if I wanted to have a decent multimedia experience on games and movies.
And finally, when it comes to upgradeability, you have to keep in mind that only the 27-inch model has user upgradeable memory which the access port is located on the back of the desktop. People who purchase the 21.5-inch model MUST have the memory configuration set at the time of purchase otherwise you will be SOL when you need more memory in the future. If you look on the iFixit website, taking the 21.5-inch iMac apart is a painstaking process. I personally prefer to go big anyway but not everyone is going to have the real estate or need for such as large screen.
With that said, you have to look at the new iMac in person. It is the best designed all-in-one desktop to date and other manufacturers can only imitate how amazing this looks.
The new 2012 iMac will be the first to use Apple’s Fusion Drive which is a hybrid drive that incorporates the speed of a solid stage drive with the spinning hard drive capacity. How this works is that the first 128GB of data will be stored onto the SSD portion of the drive (usually the OS) and everything afterwards will go onto the 1TB spinning drive. The hard drive will learn which data you utilize the most and will move that towards the SSD portion. Although this technology isn’t new (lookup Seagate Momentus XT), Apple has taken this to the next level in storing long-term data in the SSD portion instead of just caching it. Boot time on the iMac using the Fusion drive takes about 15 seconds which is on par with pure SSD drives and data definitely loads up a lot faster. The only issue with the Fusion Drive is that IT DOES NOT COME STANDARD with the new iMacs and you have to shell out an additional $250 to have this feature.
Software and Performance
The iMac 2012 runs the latest Mac OSX 10.8.2 Mountain Lion and comes pre-installed with Apple’s usual suite of software formerly know as iLife which is comprised or Garage Band, iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, etc… and you can purchase more apps in the OSX AppStore. Those who are afraid of switching to Mac from Windows don’t need to worry too much because there is a Mac version of Microsoft Office which you can buy and if you still want to run Windows, you can install a Virtual Machine such as Parallels to run it within OSX, or you can natively run Windows (the preferred method of playing Windows games on the Mac) using Boot Camp.
The iMac that I tested is the 27-inch version that has a 3.4Ghz Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM and 2GB GeForce 680MX video card which will cost $2549 retail. This translates to having some serious hardware at a premium price but if you were to truly utilize the power, you will definitely get what you paid for. Applications run extremely fast, smooth and stable. Browsing the web, watching HD movies, encoding / decoding videos, working on PhotoShop, video chatting with the built-in Facetime camera, and doing day to day work is effortless even when doing everything listed above at the same time.
Running games like Left 4 Dead, Diablo III, Portal 2, and Modern Warfare 3 ran perfectly smooth at max settings on the 27-inch’s 2560×1440 resolution. Not many consumer PCs are able to do that right out of the box and this has a lot to do with the Nvidia Kepler graphics card that comes built into the iMac. If you are going to do some serious gaming, I totally recommend you upgrading to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX which is an additional $150 (you can save money by installing RAM yourself if you get the 27-inch version)
The iMac comes in multiple sizes and multiple configurations so pricing is going to vary depending on what you want and need. The 21-inch iMac starts at $1299, which comes with 2.7GHz quad-core Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics, and a 1TB hard drive. The 27-inch model starts at $1799, which comes with a 2.9GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive with 7200rpm. Again I prefer the 27-inch iMac for long-term reasons. If you are going to spend that much, you might as well get the best.
Although the new iMac wasn’t thin as we all thought when it was first unveiled, it is still an engineering wonder if you see it in person. Not only does it look like a premium device, it performs like one thanks to the high-resolution display, powerful Intel processor and powerful graphics card. Some people might be turned off by the placement of the SD card on the back, lack of an optical drive and needed to pay extra for more bells and whistles but you will definitely get your money’s worth on one of the best consumer desktops in the market.