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Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) review

£999 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Apple

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

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.

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

In this year’s refresh, the quintessential all-in-one PC is once again available in two models. Last month we reviewed the larger iMac with 27in display, and in its configured-to-order guise had performance to see off most of the Windows-only competition in our Top 5 group test.

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

This month we sample the smaller Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010), taking the entry-level pret à porter edition, priced at just £999.

In respect of its design and features, the Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) is almost same highly specified PC, with a fabulous high-definition IPS screen that drips colour. But where the 27in had 2560x1440 pixel resolution, equivalent to four 720 high-defintion panels combined together, the baby Mac has ‘only’ full-HD 1920x1080 resolution.

Included with the Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) are Bluetooth keyboard and a Magic Mouse with its touch-sensitive top surface. Webcam and mic are effectively hidden in the screen bezel.

Around the back of the flawless aluminium frame are a row of connection ports. Four USB 2.0 are joined by a high-speed FireWire 800 and gigabit ethernet. There’s a Mini DisplayPort again, although this time it only provides a video output to a second monitor rather than doubling as an input to turn the screen into a nearby notebook’s second display.

As the cheapest iMac in the line, this Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) comes with the slowest graphics, an ATI Radeon HD 4670 with just 256MB video RAM. Pay more for the iMac 21.5in with 3.2GHz Core i3 (£1249), and you get an ATI Radeon HD 5670 with double the video memory.

In our graphics benchmarks it still managed a nippy 78fps in the older FEAR test, but newer games stretched it too far. Crysis at low settings was playable at 35fps; up the detail to Very High and 1680 resolution, and gameplay crawls at 10fps.

This ATI card doesn’t support DirectX 11 so we tried the Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark in 10.1 mode, where the Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) scored 45fps at 1280x720 Medium, and a lowly 23fps at 1920x1080 maxed-out quality.

Four gigabyte of 1333MHz RAM is included, expandable to a giddy 16GB over four slots. The Intel Core i3-540 is a dual-core processor with Hyper Threading but no Turbo mode to lift its clock beyond the standard 3.06GHz. Nevertheless, a WorldBench real-world score of 119 points establishes the Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010)'s credentials for up-to-date alacrity.

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NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

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Apple iMac 21.5in (Mid 2010) Expert Verdict »

Apple iMac MC508B/A Scores 9.3 out of 10 based on 112 reviews
3.06GHz Intel Core i3-540
4MB level 3 cache
21.5in (1920 x 1080) glossy LED backlit IPS display
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333MHz RAM
500GB 3.5in SATA HDD
SD/SDXC card slot
slot-load 8x DVD±RW DL optical drive
stereo speakers with 17W/ch amplifier
iSight webcam
3.5mm audio in and output jacks, each with Toslink optical digital
4 x USB 2.0
1 x FireWire 800
IR receiver
Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
gigabit ethernet
iLife software
451 x 528 x 189mm
  • Build Quality: We give this item 9 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 8 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 7 of 10 for value for money
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

For close-up daily work, we found the size and resolution of this 21.5in full-HD screen to be a comfortable fit. Designers and those looking for large-screen entertainment are better served by the 27in iMac. Formidable attention to detail in design and construction puts the iMac clear of any imitators, while overall performance is plenty fast providing you don’t plan to try much gaming.

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