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Practically perfect: Apple’s 27 inch iMac reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 10:39 am 24/01/2014

A new year, a new iMac, and in the latest model, Apple has taken Intel’s latest processors and thrown them in their impressive aluminium-clad all-in-one machine. Could this be desktop perfection?

Features

In the latest generation of Apple iMac desktop all-in-one machines, Apple has taken the previous generation and given it a minor update, replacing the third-generation Intel Core processors with the newest chips from the line codenamed “Haswell,” while sprucing up some other sections.

As such, the processors used in the 27 inch iMac now start with the Intel Core i5 3.2GHz, but can be upgraded to the Core i5 3.4GHz, as well as similar Core i7 processors from the Intel fourth-generation Core family.

Memory starts at 8GB in the new iMacs, though can be upgraded to 16 or 32GB, while storage starts at 1TB wand can be configured to run either a 3TB drive, 1TB or 3TB combined SSD and HDD Fusion drive, or only solid-state storage running either 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB in this specific style of medium.

A dedicated graphics card is included too, with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 755M graphics, running either 1GB or 2GB of RAM. Depending on what you need, this is upgradeable to a GeForce GTX 780M chipset with as much as 4GB of RAM.

Most of the specs outside of these haven’t changed, though, and include the 27 inch 2560×1440 display running on In-Plane Switching technology, with connectivity working from Bluetooth 4.0 and an update to 802.11ac WiFi, which of course supports the older standards too, including 802.11a/b/g/n.

Just like it has been for years, the Apple iMac is built from an aluminium chassis with a big piece of glass protecting the screen, with the back featuring all of the main ports, including the four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, single Gigabit Ethernet port, headphone port, and SDXC card slot.

A power button also sits on the back.

Our review computer was an Intel Core i5 set to 3.4GHz, with 8GB RAM, the 2GB GeForce GTX 755M graphics chipset, and a 1TB Fusion drive.

Performance

With every new generation of Intel chips, Apple sees fit to update its computers that have them, the hardware refresh seeing some new tech that makes the machines even better than before.

The most recent update is, for the most part, a minor one, with Intel’s Haswell, a new graphics chip, and faster wireless being the crux of the refresh, with the technology still existing in the same style of ultra-thin chassis we saw in last year’s iMac (though we only reviewed the 21.5 inch last year, so it was noticeably smaller).

As per the last change, gone is the optical drive, which is a shame since the world still relies quite heavily on Blu-ray and DVD media, not to mention CD playback, but that’s an argument for another day. As Apple moves to a more downloadable approach to everything it does, we’re not surprised to see the drive gone, though it will dismay some, we’re sure.

Then again, you get a massive computer screen with all of the innards hidden behind that humongous display, both of which are held in a solid piece of aluminium which looks elegant on any desk, even ones which are messy.

Design-wise, nothing has changed, and if you liked the look of the late-2012 model with Intel’s third-gen Core technology “Ivy Bridge” inside, this is much the same, with a very thin edge coming to 5mm, which looks unbelievable, but expands out towards the centre, as the inside of the computer where the stand connects is where all the innards are.

Start using the computer and, provided you’ve used a Mac before, it’s all pretty standard fare, quick as it is.

With Intel’s latest chipset inside, you’ll struggle to find lag, even as you multitask like the best of them.

We ran multiple apps on ours, even trying out the odd game, and found the machine handled without any problems, which is hardly a surprise given how good a perform the fourth-generation Intel chips have been.

Most of our Haswell testing in the past has been laptops, truth be told, and battery life and heat are two areas where the fourth-generation chips have made notable improvements. With the iMac, there’s no reason to judge this because it lacks a battery and will always be on a desk somewhere, plugged in and powered when used, so Apple has used a faster chip than what we normally see in laptops, which will also be of help to people who keep this computer around for longer.

Also helping them is support for the new 802.11ac wireless technology, which is faster than the 802.11n standard we’ve been using for ages.

The screen is just as lovely as in the 2012 model too, with the glass now pushed up against the LCD behind it, rather than leaving a gap, reducing reflection and making everything appear sharper.

Apple has nailed nearly everything about this computer, and while the last iteration was impressive, the latest Intel Core processor has just brought it up a notch, making it a truly excellent computer for anyone to put in their home or office.

But then there is one thing that just confuses us, and worse, it’s a left over issue from the last model we checked out from 2012. Even though Apple is the master of computer design, it’s a design issue that has us stumped: the placement of the SD card slot.

For this part, Apple has placed the SD card slot on the back of the computer, to the left of the four USB 3.0 ports and flanked on the other side by the headphone jack.

From our point of view — and we tested this a fair bit — getting to the back of the computer to put an SD card in isn’t particularly easy, especially when the 27 inch screen gets in the way, with its massive size.

One could argue that the USB ports have a similar problem with their backside location, too, but we didn’t change USB devices all that often, keeping what we needed plugged into the ports available. However, with a digital camera and an audio device, both of which rely on the SD card standard, every time we needed to move data across, it was an effort that required us getting out of our chair, looking down the back of the computer, and trying to get the SD card in.

We criticised the late-2012 model for this exact problem, and it’s here in the latest one, too, which is unfortunate, especially when you consider that before 2012, Apple had the SD card slot on the right edge, at the time just under the optical drive slot.

This, to us, is a much more convenient location, and even though the optical drive is gone from this model, the side still makes more sense to us for loading in your SD cards.

Conclusion

Anyone in the market for a fast, solid, and nicely designed computer will no doubt find something to love about the new iMac, as it delivers the same Apple quality you’ve come to expect in an excellent all-in-one.

We still take aim with the placement of the SD card slot, but if that’s nothing to you and you’re shopping for a desktop, this is one computer you simply can’t go past.

If this isn’t practically perfect, it’s not far off. Highly recommended.

Price (RRP)

$2199 (starting price); Review model was $2449;

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Built insanely well; Very, very fast; Still one of the prettiest computers you’ll ever see; Excellent screen; Includes 802.11ac WiFi;

Product Cons

SD card slot is still in an awkward position; No optical drive may still be a hurdle for some;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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