Best Place to buy iMac

Where to get the best iMac price is a question our readers often ask. This article is our guide to the best iMac price in the UK. We also check which iMac models are on sale, and the best place to buy a new iMac.

Getting a cheap iMac and saving money is important, but getting the best iMac deal and buying a iMac from a good store is also important. Our advice will help you choose which iMac deal to get.

The iMac is Apple's flagship desktop computer, initially introduced in 1998 it was the computer that re-invigorated Apple as a company, and has been through many design changes over the years. Traditionally the iMac places the computer behind a built in display, and has – over the years – managed to consistently remove the computer from the equation so all the user sees is the display, keyboard, and mouse. It's a remarkable machine, but the iMac price is more many Apple fans would like to pay, so any iMac savings are welcome.

See also: iMac 2012 review

What is a iMac

The iMac is Apple's desktop-class computer. Visually it's hard to distinguish an iMac from a monitor and 'where's the computer?' was an Apple tagline for a while. The computer's innards (motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drive, and so on) are all laid flat behind the display. Over the years that iMac has become thinner and thinner and now it is visually almost as thin as a MacBook Air (at the edge) with a slight bulge towards the centre.

The iMac comes in two flavours, a 21.5in and 27in model. And there are two stock models of each size to choose from (so that's four in total). The standard processor is a quad-core Intel i5 running at either 2.7GHz, 2.9GHz, or 3.2GHz (with a 3.4Ghz Intel i7 available as an optional upgrade).

All stock models come with 8GB of RAM (with 16GB or 32GB as optional extras).

You will also get a 1TB hard drive and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M, 650M or 675M graphics card (depending on the model you choose).

See also: Desktop Mac reviews

Which iMac to get

First of all: is the iMac the right Mac computer for you? If you're undecided, or unfamiliar with Apple's range of Mac computers, read our iMac review first.

Bear in mind that Apple's MacBook Pro range of laptops offer much of the same level of power of an iMac and are portable devices. Although the portable notebooks have a noticeably smaller display.

Apple also sells a Mac Pro computer, although it has been updated in a while and we expect a major refresh later in 2013. The Mac Pro is significantly more expensive than the iMac. Apple also sells a Mac mini from £499, which is a cheaper portable option (although you will need to add a keyboard, mouse, and monitor).

See also: Mac Pro 2012 review

iMac 21.5in or 27in

If you've decided to buy a iMac, the there are four basic iMacs to choose from. The main difference is screen size, which is either 21.5in or 27in.

iMac Apple Store price

The first place you'll probably look for an iMac is the Apple Store. Here there are the following models available:

21.5-inch: 2.7GHz
2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
8GB (two 4GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M with 512MB

21.5-inch: 2.9GHz
2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
8GB (two 4GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB

27-inch: 2.9GHz
2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
8GB (two 4GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M with 512MB

27-inch: 3.2GHz
3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
8GB (two 4GB) memory
1TB hard drive1
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX with 1GB

iMac Upgrades

If you purchase a iMac from the Apple Store a number of upgrades will be available. The two key upgrades are Memory (RAM) which can be upgraded to 16GB on the 21.5in models or 32GB on the 27in models.

Upgrading the RAM in an iMac

Important. If you are buying a 21.5in iMac you cannot upgrade the memory after purchase. The 27in iMac however has an easy access slot for upgrading RAM.

Upgrading RAM with Apple is not a cheap business though, it'll cost you £160 to go up to 16GB and a whopping £480 extra to go up to 32GB if you buy the memory from Apple. Memory specialists Crucial, however, will sell you a 16GB RAM kit (2 x 8GB sticks) for just £73.19 (so that's £146.38 for the 32GB RAM - a saving of £330 already). And upgrading the RAM in a 27in iMac is easy.

Crucial RAM

Upgrading the Hard Drive

One interesting upgrade in the iMac is the hard drive. This is a 1TB drive as standard, which should be enough for most people, although the following are available.

3TB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm [+ £120.00]
1TB Fusion Drive [+ £200.00]
3TB Fusion Drive [+ £320.00]
768GB Flash Storage [+ £720.00]

Paying for a 3TB drive seems somewhat overkill to us, unless you are really into large video files. And even then we'd be tempted to suggest going for a 2TB external USB 3.0 hard drive such as this Seagate from Amazon for just £65

It's also worth bearing in mind that Thunderbolt is such a fast connection that it's going to be fairly easy to add external storage over time that's as good as an internal drive (and it'll become cheaper down the line).

Considering a Fusion drive

A more interesting hard drive option is to add a new Fusion Drive. The Fusion drive combines an SSD drive with a traditional hard drive to form a drive that is both fast and spacious. It's an additional £200 but the speed gains are worth it and you cannot upgrade to a Fusion drive at a later date. We'd be tempted to take that upgrade over the RAM in a 27in model and upgrade the RAM as needed at a later date.

See also: Fusion Drive lab test

If you're going for the top-of-the-line 27in iMac you can also choose the following upgrades:

3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz [+ £160.00]
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB GDDR5 [+ £120.00]

Each offers a good performance boost, although we think you'll find the stock i5 processor and graphics card good for most tasks.

Here are some iMac Speed Tests in various configurations

iMac Accessories

It's well worth considering some iMac accessories at the same time as buying a iMac

Cheapest iMac price

The entry level price of a iMac from Apple is £1,099 but unlike most Apple computers you can't get any decent price drops at the moment. This is most likely because Apple has struggled to create enough iMac computers and there aren't many spare models outside of Apple Stores.

However, you can get a good deal from John Lewis who will match Apple's £1,099 price but also offer a 2-year guarantee.

It's also worth considering buying an iMac May 2011 model. These offer much the same specifications as the newer 2012 model, but aren't as thin (but thinness doesn't really count for as much on a desktop computer). Amazon is selling this iMac 2011 model for £1,030 and it has similar specifications and includes a DVD-ROM drive

Buy a refurbished iMac from the Apple Refurb Store.

Apple sells iMacs for less on the Apple Refurb Store. There are typically two types of product here, depending on whether it's the latest generation of iMac or an older-generation of iMac.

A previous generation iMac is likely to be either an ex-demonstration model, or a iMac used during Apple's customer training programs, or it may be old stock that Apple has unsold. Apple never sells off old products in its stores, as soon as a new model comes out the models are sent to the Refurb Store.

A current generation iMac is likely to be one that was sold to a customer who decided to return it, or a faulty model that has been repaired.

A refurbished iMac bought from the Apple Refurb Store is likely to be indistinguishable from a brand-new model (it may even be an unsold model). A reconditioned iMac bought from the Apple Refurb Store is in no way inferior to a iMac bought direct from the Apple Store. iMacs bought from the Apple Refurb Store will be cleaned, checked, tested and visibly indistinguishable from brand new iMacs.

A reconditioned iMac comes with the same 1 year warranty (extendable to three years with AppleCare protection.)

The only likely difference beween a reconditioned iMac from the Apple Refurb Store and a brand new iMac from the Apple Store, is that it will ship in a brown box rather than the white retal boxes that Apple sells.

The price for a reconditioned iMac changes frequently, so keep an eye on the Refurb Store every day for a while to get a feel for what the cheapest price for the iMac you want is.

If you wait a while you'll typically get a good deal on the iMac that you want. At the moment we can see a 27in iMac 3.1Ghz i5 (2011 model) going for £1,359, a good saving off of the £1,699 that the equivalent 2012 model is going for.