For as long as we can remember, Windows and Mac fans have locked horns over which platform is better. They use the same components under the bonnet, with the real difference found in the OS. If you’ve never tried the iMac’s native OS X 10.7 Lion, we think you’ll find it straightforward to use. However, if you’re determined to instead run Windows on the iMac, as we were to install our WorldBench test suite, you’ll need to factor the extra cost of a licence into your budget.

Unlike many Windows-based all-in-ones, you won’t find a Blu-ray player or USB 3.0 support here. The iMac instead offers Thunderbolt, which offers transfer speeds up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) with compatible peripherals.

Latest (late 2012 models): Apple iMac 21.5-inch review and Apple iMac 27-inch review

Neither do you get a touchscreen, although the supplied Magic Mouse features a touch-sensitive body for scrolling. Somewhat irritatingly, though, this sleek device lacks a right-click button.

This £999 version of Apple’s 21.5in-screen iMac features a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2500 processor; it’s also available with a faster 2.7GHz CPU. Apple supplies a 500GB hard drive, which is sorely lacking in capacity compared to some of the competition, and 4GB of RAM.

The iMac excelled in our benchmarks: its 139-point WorldBench score beat all others, while its AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics chip delivered strong framerates in Fear (100fps at ‘Maximum’ detail).

Its 21.5in glossy display is smaller than most in this group (although it has the same full-HD resolution), but the iMac’s in-plane switching (IPS) panel really stands out, with unparalleled image quality. The display complements the iMac’s sleek looks and excellent build.

For once, we’ve been able to review an Apple computer that isn’t the most expensive model in our group test; as the budget entry in Apple’s line-up, this £999 all-in-one remains relatively affordable.

Apple iMac 21.5in (2.5GHz, 2011): Specs

  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • OS X 10.7 Lion
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB, 7,200rpm HDD
  • 21.5in (1920x1080) IPS glossy LED-backlit
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB VRAM (scored 100fps in Fear at Maximum detail)
  • 4x USB 2.0
  • 1x Thunderbolt
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • IR receiver
  • slot-loading DVD drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • gigabit ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC card reader
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • wireless keyboard
  • Magic Mouse
  • stereo speakers
  • headphone jack
  • mic input
  • 528x189x451mm
  • 9.3kg
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139
  • 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-2500
  • OS X 10.7 Lion
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB, 7,200rpm HDD
  • 21.5in (1920x1080) IPS glossy LED-backlit
  • AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB VRAM (scored 100fps in Fear at Maximum detail)
  • 4x USB 2.0
  • 1x Thunderbolt
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • IR receiver
  • slot-loading DVD drive
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • gigabit ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC card reader
  • FaceTime HD webcam
  • wireless keyboard
  • Magic Mouse
  • stereo speakers
  • headphone jack
  • mic input
  • 528x189x451mm
  • 9.3kg
  • WorldBench 6 score: 139

OUR VERDICT

Apple’s iMac eschews USB 3.0 for the faster Thunderbolt connection, a large, so-so-quality screen for a smaller but far more beautiful IPS panel, a touchscreen for a touchpad, and Windows for OS X. It’s Apple’s low-end model, but it still packs a mighty punch.

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