The 27in version of the new Apple iMac is – as you’d expect – even more expensive than its 21.5in all-in-one PC counterpart, but it’s arguably the more attractive of the two. Besides, if you’re going to fork out over £1,000 for a new machine then you might as well go the whole hog and get the more powerful model with the higher-than-high-def screen. See also: Group test: what's the best all-in-one PC?
The 21.5in model shipped first, so we’d already had some time to admire its slimmer, more streamlined design. Read our Apple iMac 21.5in (Late 2012) review. Even so, it’s still remarkable to run your fingers around the 5mm edges of this 27in model and feel the sheer quality and precision of the engineering work.
The improved anti-glare coating on the 2,560-x-1,440 screen also makes a real difference, reproducing colours that are noticeably bolder and brighter than on our own two-year old 27in model. And while that iMac often gets worrying hot at the back, this new 2012 edition rarely felt warmer than room temperature. The use of Intel’s custom S-suffix processor, optimised for reduced power consumption and heat output, could well be assisting in this cool running. See: How to install extra RAM memory in the new iMac to save on Apple's high prices.
27in iMac review: home entertainment
That high-end screen alone will ensure that the iMac finds an eager audience among professional designers, photographers and illustrators. However, it’s also great for home users who want to use it for entertainment. The screen is wonderful for watching HD films, especially since Apple has forsaken the more productivity-based 16:10 aspect ratio of pre-2010 models for the narrower letterbox 16:9 format that’s better suited to watching film and video.
It’ll be perfect for video-editing work, and it’s one of the few Mac models that can pass muster for some serious gaming action too.
At this price you could argue that Apple ought to supply an external DVD drive although the company is clearly behind a total migration from optical discs to entirely online distribution of music, video and software. If you still use CDs or DVDs you'll need to add a portable £69 Apple SuperDrive.
We tested the cheaper of the two 27in configurations, which costs £1,499. That, sadly, is a £100 increase on the previous model, but at least this 27in model manages to avoid some of the compromises found in the 21.5in iMac.
27in iMac review: performance
As we hoped, the quad-core i5 processor is finally updated to Ivy Bridge, and there’s a small speed-bump from 2.7GHz to 2.9GHz at entry level, now backed with 8GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive.RAM is upgradeable to 32GB, and there are more powerful options on offer – see below.
Using a full-size 3.5in SATA 7,200rpm disk – rather than the 2.5in/5,400rpm notebook drive found in the 21.5in model – contributes to a significant improvement in all-round performance.
Our review unit managed to boot much more quickly than its smaller brother – just 25 secs, compared to 40 secs. Using Boot Camp we installed Windows 7 to run various Windows benchmark tools.
PCMark 7 produced a score of 3367 points, compared to just under 2500 for the 21.5in model running at 2.7GHz. That’s pretty good for a machine with a conventional hard disk, rather than a solid-state drive. Its nVidia GeForce GTX 660M graphics processor is a notebook component, but at the higher end of midrange components that manages to produce quite respectable gaming performance.
Running the Mac version of Batman: Arkham City at full 2560 x 1440 resolution with high detail settings is no easy task, but the iMac still managed a playable 25fps.
Dropping to a lower, but still fullHD, resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels let that increas to 35fps, while at 1280 x 720 the iMac could average 50fps.
Interestingly, running the Windows version of Arkham City with Microsoft’s DirectX 11 produced frame rates that were around 15% lower than those of the native Mac version, so it’s nice to see a Mac that can actually kick some gaming butt for a change.
Those with a nice fat Christmas bonus to play with can also opt for a 3.2GHz model with a GTX 675MX for an additional £200. And at the very top end you can opt for a 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (which Apple claims is Turbo-Boosted to 3.9GHz), although this costs an extra £360 on top of the entry-level 27-inch iMac. You can also upgrade the 3.2GHz or 3.4GHz 27in iMac to a GeForce GTX 680MX graphics processor for an extra £120.
Both models can be further upgraded with Apple’s new hybrid ‘Fusion’ drive – which, for a rather pricey £200, adds a 128GB solid-state component to the standard hard drive in order to accelerate application launch times and general responsiveness. If you're thinking of installing Windows via Boot Camp the Fusion Drive won't help much as Windows is installed on the hard disk not the SSD.