We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PCs Reviews
15,670 Reviews PC Advisor Recommended

Apple iMac review (21.5-inch, 27-inch)

£949 inc VAT (21.5in)

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The new Apple iMac design lends itself more towards use as central part of a home entertainment centre, as well as boasting top-end performance. [Updated with Quad-Core i5 and i7 speed tests, November 20, 2009. See LATEST 2012 iMAC REVIEWS link below]

The new Apple iMac design lends itself more towards use as central part of a home entertainment centre, as well as boasting top-end performance. [Review updated November 12, 2009]

The two ultra-high-end 27-inch iMacs are the first to use Intel's Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors. The remainder (two 21.5-inch and one 27-inch) use a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

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

iMac screen

The most obvious change in Apple's new all-in-one computer range is to the iMac screen. Both the 21.5- and 27-inch screens are made with high definition video in mind.

And the 27-inch model is, in a word, stunning.

Don't take my word for it. That's based on the cluster of techie-types and graphic designers who popped into my office last week to get a gander at the newest all-in-one Mac from Apple.

Part of it might have been the novelty: Apple unveiled these larger, widescreen iMacs on October 20 and sent one over for review purposes two days later.

It's the biggest change for the iMac since it went aluminium-and-black in late 2007.

Like on many HDTVs, the black border around the new iMac's screen reaches out to the very edge; the aluminium border that surrounded the screen in the previous iMac is gone.

21.5-inch and 27-inch Apple iMac

This gives the effect of the screen being bigger than it really is. To the chagrin of many, there is no matte screen option. Glossy is your only choice.

The glossy effect makes colours pop and blacks deep and rich, but you can see your reflection in the glass.

When using the iMac as a desktop computer, I've learned how to see past the glare and reflections, but many others cannot develop such tolerance - and I'm not saying you should.

Glare is a problem if you're in a group gathered around the 27-inch iMac that's being used as an HDTV. In fact, because of the glare, you might reconsider using the 27-inch iMac as a HDTV.

However, it's now been two years since the first aluminium iMac with glass was introduced, and there are no signs that Apple is interested in offering a matte screen option.

While the 21.5-inch iMac isn't much bigger than the previous 20-inch iMac on paper, sitting side-by-side, the 21.5-inch iMac seems huge. It has a 1,920-x-1,080-pixel resolution.

The 27-inch iMac is gloriously big, but one Macworld editor said it might even be too big as a desktop Mac.

That screen, the largest LED-backlit computer display out there for now, offers a resolution of 2,560-x-1,440 pixels for a true 16:9 aspect ratio. According to Apple, the basic £949 model - and its slightly pricier £1,199 brother - offers 17 percent more pixels than the old 20-inch iterations (16:10 aspect ratio).

That's 90 percent of the screen real estate you'd get from Apple's gargantuan 30-inch Cinema Display and it's perfect for viewing high-definition content.

Judging from the coos of approval I heard when I fired up some hi-def movie trailers for the huddled masses, this iMac should sell well.

In fact, hi-def content is so sharp and bright that it almost looks 3D. The big question you'll be asking yourself is: "Do I put this in an office or show it off in the living room?"

At first glance, you might mistake the new iMacs for HDTVs - in fact, the new 27-inch iMac has support for a VESA Mount Adapter Kit (£20) for mounting on a wall.

Apple says that the iMac screens are LED-backlit widescreen TFT active-matrix LCDs with in-plane switching technology, and can display millions of colours at all resolutions.

Switch on the iMacs, and you'll notice that the LED backlit screens on both the 21.5- and 27-inch models are a bit brighter than their predecessors. Look even closer at the 21.5-inch iMac, and you'll notice that its colors are much better than the 20-inch iMac.

That's because Apple thankfully now uses 8-bit displays across the iMac line - the 6-bit dithered display used in the 20-inch iMac is gone (we hope).

Both of the new displays use in-plane switching (IPS) technology, which is supposed to help maintain image quality when viewing the screen at extreme angles.

Looking at the new iMacs at different angles, I had a difficult time noticing any colour shifting.

When compared side-by-side against the previous iMacs, the 20-inch iMac screen looks like a mess, while the new iMac screens maintained their colour integrity.

NEXT: iMac case design and iMac memory

Apple iMac (2009) Expert Verdict »


Apple iMac MB950B/A (Late 2009) reviews verified by Reevoo

Apple iMac MB950B/A (Late 2009)Scores 9.3 out of 10 based on 55 reviews
21.5-inch iMacs: 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
1920 x 1080 resolution
4GB memory (16GB max)
500GB-1TB hard drive
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics or ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics (256MB). 27-inch iMacs: 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, or 2.66GHz Intel Core i5, or 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Core i7
2560 x 1440 resolution
4GB memory (16GB max)
1TB hard drive
ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics (256MB) or ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics (512MB).
  • Build Quality: We give this item 8 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 8 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Apple's flagship iMac comes in a variety of flavours and two sizes, with the £1,349 model we've been using being the sweet spot. It offers the most value for the price and could spur desktop sales. In recent years, more and more Mac buyers have opted for Apple's popular line of laptops. Desktops, in some ways, have fallen out of favour, given the prevalence of wireless connections and the public's desire for mobility.
However, if performance is your top priority save up for the new £1,599 quad-core, 27-inch Intel i5-based iMac or £1,759 i7-based iMac.

With the new 2.66GHz Core i5 iMac and the 2.8GHz Core i7 iMac, Apple has not only blurred the line between consumer and professional systems, it's darn near erased it. The 2.66GHz Core i5 iMac offers faster performance at most tasks than the 2.66GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro. The Core i5 iMac also has more memory and more storage space than the 2.66GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro, while being £300 less (plus you get a 27-inch screen with the iMac). Unless you absolutely require additional PCI cards, multiple internal hard drives, or a lot of RAM, the Core i5 iMac makes a strong case for the being the go-to system for most Mac professionals.

But with an absolutely stunning screen, a lot of under-the-hood performance improvements, the wireless keyboard and the new mouse, and flexibility that makes it fit in at work or at home, this new iMac could lead to a resurgence in desktop sales for Apple.

  • Apple 21.5-inch iMac (Mid-2014) reviews - which is best for you

    Apple 21.5-inch iMac (Mid-2014)s - which is best for you

    Apple's all-in-one iMac starts at £899 but you might want to spend a little more to find the best iMac for you.

  • Apple 27-inch iMac (Late-2013) reviews - including the Ultimate iMac

    Apple 27-inch iMac (Late-2013)s - including the Ultimate iMac

    The giant 27-inch iMac makes a great computer or movie screen player. We test all the available models.

  • Apple iMac 3.06GHz review

    Apple iMac 3.06GHz

    When Apple updated its consumer Mac line in March, notably by revving up the evergreen Mac mini, it also took the upgrade spanner to the iMac range. Top of that range of consumer all-in-ones stands the flagship model Apple iMac 3.06GHz, featuring an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 3.06GHz.

  • Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) review

    Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010)

    The Apple iMac is the all-in-one computer and screen that's spawned many imitators in the Windows world. We put the cheapest entry-level Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) through its paces.

  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2.5GHz, 2011) review

    Apple iMac 21.5in (2.5GHz, 2011)

    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.


IDG UK Sites

Best Christmas 2014 UK tech deals, Boxing Day 2014 UK tech deals & January sales 2015 UK tech...

IDG UK Sites

Chromebooks: ready for the prime time (but not for everybody)

IDG UK Sites

Hands-on with Sony's latest smartglasses

IDG UK Sites

Apple TV expert tips: get US Apple TV content, watch Google Play, use multiple Apple IDs and more