Review: Apple iMac 21.5 inch (Late 2012)

Likewise, the overall construction of the iMac is breathtaking.

When we first saw the announcement, like many we were gobsmacked as to how Apple could make a desktop wafer thin, similar what we’ve been seeing from flagship LCD TVs in the past year.

Now that we’ve spent some time with the new iMac, we can safely say that Apple’s uber-thin desktop is more optical illusion than a patient in a weight loss program, with the back of the screen curving out slightly to meet in the centre, and pushing back roughly 3.5cm. That’s not a big deal, mind you, as the stand itself is 17.5cm deep, so it will always come out much further than the back of the screen.

Still, it’s an absolutely lovely design, with the casing still made from aluminium, and now built using a process called “friction stir-welding” which forces the surfaces together with such pressure that the molecules from the metal bind and create an edge as thin as 5mm.

Performance, this Mac mostly won’t disappoint, managing a higher index in our benchmarks than the MacBook Pro with Retina display, a machine that was near perfect when we took a look at it earlier in the year.

Depending on how you configure the iMac 21.5, you should see it fly, and heat seems better optimised than one of the older models sitting on our desk, which seems to get too warm for its own use lately.

Keep in mind that Apple gave us its most highly spec’d iMac to review, and despite this, we did see some problems when attempting Valve’s “Portal 2,” a gaming title often used as one of our benchmarking games, but weren’t able to determine specifically what was causing the game to glitch up and crash.

For the most part, the regular range of apps, web surfing, as well as some photo and video editing should be handled completely fine on this machine, but you may have some issues gaming with the 21.5 inch iMac, at least until patches and drivers are able to fix some of these problems.

Not all is perfect, though, in the land of Apple’s magical iMac, and we don’t agree with exactly every sacrifice that has been made here.

We’re not sure if we believe in the death of optical drives yet – at least not in the desktop world; we’re sold on Ultrabooks – as some people may need to burn discs, as well as watch DVDs, both things the 2012 iMac can’t do.

Apple does still sell an external optical drive if you need one, and it’s not the only manufacturer to make DVD drives compatible with the iMac.

What we definitely don’t agree with, though, is the SD card slot’s position on the back, which seems a little strange.

Maybe it’s just us, but we liked the SD card slot on the right side before, and even though people could get it confused with the slot loading optical drive, the side made sense, more sense than where it currently sits now: the back.

One thing we’re not happy with is the upgrade path.

Upgrade path? What upgrade path? Everything is soldered in and kept within that aluminium chassis.

While iMacs were never particularly easy to upgrade, Apple has actually made it impossible to upgrade the memory in the 21.5 inch model once you’ve received it.

Basically, you’ll need to order it the way you want for the next two or three years, because everything will be soldered in place. It doesn’t really matter if a year from now you decide you need 8GB more memory, because from what we understand, you can’t do anything about it. From Apple’s point of view, it is what it is, which seems a tad silly to us, especially given the ever evolving nature of computers, as well as how long people keep their desktops for.


Apple’s eventual update to the iMac continues to make it an excellent product, though it’s worth knowing what you’re buying before you do.

While we have no doubt that the new iMac models will run most of what you throw at them, once you buy the 21.5 inch, you’re stuck with what you ordered, and if it’s not fast enough in a year for that game or other app, you may have to buy something else.

Value for money
Reader Rating0 Votes
Monitor is clearer than ever before; Beautiful construction; Great range of ports; Pretty design;
Impossible to upgrade after ordering; SD card slot on the back isn't as convenient as the side; No optical drive;