updated 07:02 am EST, Mon February 18, 2013
Apple iMac 27-inch impresses with its combination of design and speed
The new Apple iMac continues to remain in short supply, particularly if you want to customize it. We've finally received our 27-inch iMac after waiting a solid four weeks from the time we ordered it, with current shipping times still showing a 3-4 week wait. It's a highly customized model and includes a third-generation Core i7 quad-core CPU clocked at 3.4GHz, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX with 2GB of VRAM and a 3-terabyte Fusion drive. We left the RAM at 8GB, and plan to upgrade that ourselves to save a few dollars.
Was the wait worth it? In a word, yes. The new design is quite spectacular when viewed first-hand. Its 5mm thin edges make the previous generation iMac look instantly outdated, even though the older design remains striking in isolation. The new iMac also makes the relatively slim Apple Thunderbolt display look on the thick side, which is saying something given that it primarily functions as a display only.
The new iMac design is most fully appreciated from the side and the rear. From the front it would be hard to tell it apart from the older model. However, whenever you need to reach behind the device to turn the power off, for example, the thin bottom bezel and curved back feel beautiful in the hand in a way an iMac has never felt before. You might find yourself reaching behind the device just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
The other notable change from the previous generation is the way that Apple has approached the display assembly. Like the iPhone 5, the glass panel of the iMac is bonded to the IPS LCD panel, meaning that there is no longer a gap between the glass and the LCD. This reduces glare and creates a sense of immediacy that was not previously apparent. We also found that the colors appeared to be deeper and more pleasing than even the outstanding panel in the Apple Thunderbolt display. Subjectively it's a step up, even though the resolution remains the same at 2560x1600.
We will run a full suite of performance benchmarks for our upcoming full review, but can report that combination of Intel and Nvidia silicon take iMac performance to new heights. File conversions, ripping, running professional class applications, games and general applications all look and feel noticeably fast. The new Fusion drive, which combines a 128GB SSD and traditional spinning platter into one volume is also impressive. It creates an experience that is effectively like using an SDD-only drive in most instances, but also offers the advantage of good onboard storage capacity.
The real question is whether it is worth paying the premium to get an iMac with the high-end build-to-order components or go with a standard shipping configuration, which we'll try to answer in our review. As for choosing an iMac over a MacBook Pro, the iMac brings an outstanding level of performance and connectivity that is hard to match in a notebook. However, if you go for the standard configuration, you can almost stretch your budget to accommodate an 11-inch MacBook Air for a similar total outlay, potentially giving you the best of both worlds.
Look out for our review of the 27-inch iMac (Late 2012) model this weekend.
By Sanjiv Sathiah