Posts tagged Apple 27" iMac Tech Review
The 27-inch iMac is both sleek and stylish with its aluminum design, quad-core processors, FaceTime HD camera and more. Kevin Pereira and Candace Bailey review the features in this all-in-one desktop from Apple, like the LED-backlit display, wireless connectivity and up to three times faster graphics. Apple iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt is the newest top of the line iMac, and it adds second-generation Intel Core i processors (aka, Sandy Bridge) to Apple’s class-leading all in one Mac desktops, along with Thunderbolt ports first seen on the new MacBook Pro laptops. It has that huge, beautiful high-resolution screen, killer (if aging) design, and it is fast, fast, fast.
What You Need To Know
- The aluminum design of the iMac is striking.
- The 27″ glossy screen is the biggest you can get with an all-in-one.
- The display has a good amount of tilt to it, which will help if you are worried about glare.
- The screen itself is bright and vibrant, with very good color reproduction.
- There is an SD card sot next to the optical drive.
- The back has 4 USB ports, 1 Firewire 800 port and 2 Thunderbolt ports.
- Thunderbolt can handle 10 GBs each way, making it twice as fast as USB 3.0.
- While there are currently many more USB 3.0 peripherals, we are starting to see more Thunderbolt peripherals hitting the market.
- The 27-inch iMac ships with Lion so if you don’t have it already, you are going to have to get used to the backwards scrolling.
- If the Magic Mouse isn’t magical enough for you, you have the option of ordering it with the magic track pad.
- Backwards scrolling started with the Lion OS and it can be extremely frustrating at first.
- The scrolling is just like an iPhone: swipe down to scroll up and vice versa.
- Lion seems like it was built in anticipation of a touch screen interface.
- The iMac is slim and powerful and this model has a quad core i7 processor so it can handle almost anything you throw at it.
- These machines can handle heavy work loads with the best of them.
- This is a 3.4 GHz i7 processor along with a 1 GB graphics AMD Radeon processor.
- The iMac comes with 4 GB of RAM and though Apple is normally stingy with RAM, it’s fine because their RAM is usually overpriced.
- This iMac will handle up to 16 GB of RAM thanks to its 4 RAM slots.
- Extra RAM is cheap online and easy to install.
Apple iMac 27” Design
On the outside, the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) looks just like its aluminum and glass predecessors. It has the same huge 27-inch 2,560-by-1,440 resolution display, which is formatted with a 16:9 aspect ratio and is higher resolution than the 1,920 by 1,080 required for true 1080p HD. The display is so bright that Apple added a new ambient light sensor to auto-dim the screen, so users in brightly lit studios can keep their eyes from straining when a cloud obscures the sun or if someone draws the drapes over the window. The glass panel protecting the LED-backlit LCD display is glossy, one of the few nits against the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt). I’d like to see a matte finish option for graphics professionals who want it. Speaking of graphics professionals, Apple color calibrates each display before shipping it to the final user. Color calibration won’t necessarily be a big consideration for the average consumer, but it’s a boon to the graphics artist who makes her living with the iMac.
The desktop comes with a 1TB, 7,200rpm internal hard drive, though well-off speed demons can also add an optional 256GB SSD for an additional $600. Combinations, including a single 256GB SSD (by itself) and/or 2TB hard drive upgrade, are available on Apple’s website. The system comes with Apple’s wireless keyboard and your choice of either Apple’s Magic Mouse (which our review unit came with) or Magic TrackPad (which used to be a $60 option). I personally like the TrackPad, since it has more multi-touch functions than the mouse. The 27-inch iMacs come with 4GB of memory standard, and support up to 16GB maximum. Like previous iMacs, the system memory is the only easy-to-access internal upgrade you can do on the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt): further internal expansion requires specialized tools, familiarity with electronic repair techniques, and much intestinal fortitude. Most users will upgrade their system via external ports.
Apple iMac 27” Features
The iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) comes with four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, audio in/out, Gigabit Ethernet, a SDXC card slot, and—new for 2011—two Thunderbolt ports. Thunderbolt is the currently shipping implementation of Intel’s “Light Peak” interconnect, which uses the same shaped plug as mini DisplayPort, though the Thunderbolt connector is capable of so much more than simple display support. You could, in the future, connect many different peripherals to the Thunderbolt port, like hard drives, Fiber Channel SAN arrays, video interfaces, and adapter cables for HDMI, DVI, etc. But for the time being, you can only use the Thunderbolt port for video: You can connect one of the newer MacBook Pro laptops with Thunderbolt and use the iMac as an external monitor. Or you can use the two Thunderbolt ports to connect up to two external mini DisplayPort monitors so you can extend your workspace on three monitors (including the internal display).
Thunderbolt is theoretically capable of 10 Gbps bi-directional throughput, so you can support multiple peripherals per port, which is twice the speed of USB 3.0. Thunderbolt can be daisy chained, so the same two ports on the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) can, for example, support dual displays and multiple external hard drives simultaneously. Hard drive and peripheral manufacturers like LaCie, Promise Technology, and BlackMagic have announced other peripherals for Thunderbolt, but you’ll have to wait at least until Summer 2011 for those. Apple has reportedly come out saying (via Macworld) that you need a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac desktop or laptop to use the iMac as an external monitor: older mini DisplayPort equipped Macs (like the Mac mini and older MacBooks) won’t be able to use the new iMac as an external display. Another nit is Apple’s shunning of Blu-ray technology. Internal Blu-ray drives are not an option on any iMac. Apple doesn’t view Blu-ray optical discs as a replacement for data DVDs, and would rather you bought your HD videos from the iTunes Store rather than on Blu-ray. Blu-ray won the High-Definition wars long ago, especially for movie buffs, so that omission is still puzzling.
Apple iMac 27” Mac OSX Software
Like other recent Macs, the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) comes with the familiar Apple iLife ’11 software suite and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard operating system. The iLife suite is one of the most integrated consumer grade multimedia (photo, video, music) packages on the market, and is one of the best ways to enhance your use of iOS devices like an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. Speaking of iPad and iPhone, the new iMac comes with FaceTime HD video chat software, which lets iMac users video chat with others via MacBooks, other iMacs, and iOS devices like iPhone 4, iPad 2, and the latest generation of iPod Touch devices.
Aside from those packages, there really isn’t any other software on the iMac. That essentially means no bloatware. The desktop comes with the Mac App store (think like the iTunes store, but for Mac software), which lets you search for, purchase, and download software. The Mac App store uses your Apple ID, so its purchases are linked with the info you have in iTunes and the iOS app store. For most users, “one-stop shopping” is a better alternative to having separate purchasing agreements, as with Windows PC app, music, and movie stores. If you must use both Mac OS and Windows, the iMac is Windows-compatible thanks to its Intel Core i5 processor. Just install your own copy of Windows 7 using the Boot Camp utility, and you have a dual-booting Windows-Mac OS PC. Apple includes a driver disc with the desktop, or you can download the latest drivers from Apple during the Boot Camp setup procedure. We tested the iMac under both Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit and Mac OS X 10.6.
Apple iMac 27” Performance
The iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) is a power user’s dream machine. It has a quad-core, true desktop-class Intel Core i5-2400 processor. The iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) completed the Handbrake video encoder test in a quick 1:38 in Windows and 1:28 in Mac OS. This is even faster than the massive and expensive. Apple Mac Pro with Xeon E5620 which took 2:22 in Windows and 1:55 in Mac OS on the same test. Add a speedy external Thunderbolt hard drive, and you’ll be able to replace some of your video producing Mac Pros with more economical iMacs. Likewise, the new iMac is an excellent Photoshop CS5 machine: It took 3 minutes 17 seconds to complete our CS5 test in Windows, and 4:26 in Mac OS X. Again this is faster than the Mac Pro (4:42 in Windows; 4:59 in Mac OS). The Mac Pro does excel in one test, however: the more workstation-like CineBench test score in Mac OS (8.69) was higher that that of the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) (4.86) due to the Mac Pro’s ability to throw multiple processing streams at the CPU-intensive test. The Mac Pro has more pure CPU-based number crunching power than the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt), but the iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) was faster at day-to-day tasks that use other components like the hard drive and graphics. The new iMac is one of the fastest ever tested with Futuremark’s PCMark Vantage test, which measures day-to-day performance in Windows: The iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) scored 10,006 points.
If all you care about is “speeds and feeds,” the Apple iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) is your all-in-one desktop. It has the muscle to power through all but the most esoteric and specialized graphics and scientific tasks, and it has the biggest, most beautiful screen on the market. Your art director or senior graphics artist will thank you for the rest of the year if you get him a new iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt). But for the rest of us, including most power users. The iMac 27-inch (Thunderbolt) is an improvement over its predecessor, to be sure, but it’s still just a speed and feature bump with more innovative than Apple’s flagship all-in-one desktop.