Apple 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs (Mid 2010) full review

There’s little doubt that 2010 is the year of the iPad and iPhone for Apple, with the company largely focusing on the new kids on the block. But the Mac isn’t entirely out of the picture. While the Mac business is a more mature product line than Apple’s mobile device lineup, it remains an important segment - both to Apple and the customers who use the Mac. And though the four new iMacs (two 21.5-inch models and two 27-inch models) released in July provide only small speed boosts, these latest desktops will make most customers very happy.

Standard equipment

The Intel Core 2 Duo processors found in the lower-end iMacs of the previous generation are gone. Apple now uses dual-core Intel Core i3 processors with 4MB of Level 3 cache in three of the new iMacs. The £999 21.5-inch iMac has a 3.06GHz Core i3, while the £1,249 21.5-inch iMac and the £1,399 27-inch iMac both feature 3.2GHz Core i3 processors. The fourth iMac, a £1,649 27-inch model, sports a 2.8GHz Core i5 quad-core processor with 8MB of level 3 cache.

Apple iMac

The differences between the iMac processors go beyond the number of cores and clock speed, however - and it can be confusing. The 3.06GHz Core i3 processor in the £999 iMac and the 3.2GHz Core i3 CPU in the £1,249 and £1,399 iMacs support Hyper Threading, which allows the processor to use virtual cores to better handle heavy workloads, but they don’t support Turbo Boost, where the processor shuts down unused cores and boosts the speed of the active core. The quad-core 2.8GHz Core i5 in the £1,649 iMac doesn’t support Hyper Threading, but it does support Turbo Boost.

All of the iMacs come with 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM installed as a pair of 2GB SO-DIMMs. With a total of four memory slots, you can add more SDRAM without having to replace the memory that comes with the iMac. The iMacs support a maximum of 16GB of memory.

The iMacs use 7200-rpm hard drives; the $1199 iMac has a 500GB drive, while the other three models have 1TB hard drives. All four iMacs have 8X SuperDrives, and right next to the SuperDrive slot is a SD card slot, which has been upgraded to support SDXC, a new format that allows for SD card capacity over 32GB.

Apple includes its Wireless Keyboard and the Magic Mouse with the iMac, but if you order online from the Apple Store, you can switch the keyboard to a wired version with a numeric keypad and switch the mouse to an Apple Mouse, both for no extra fee. You can also add Apple’s new Magic Trackpad for £59.

The external ports haven’t changed from the previous generation of iMacs. There’s a headphone/optical digital audio output minijack, an audio line in/optical digital audio input minijack, four USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, a Mini DisplayPort (with video-in support), and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The iMacs also come standard with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, built-in speakers, and a built-in iSight camera.

New graphics, same displays

Besides the processors, the graphics cards are the other major change with the new iMacs. Integrated graphics processors that use a portion of main memory for video memory are no longer featured in any of the iMacs. All of the new models use ATI discrete graphics, which have dedicated video RAM.

The 3.06GHz Core i3 iMac has a 256MB Radeon HD 4670, which was used in the now-discontinued $1499 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo iMac. The two new 3.2GHz iMacs have 512MB Radeon HD 5670 graphics, while the 2.8GHz Core i5 iMac uses a 1GB Radeon HD 5750.

As for the displays, they’re the same 8-bit, 16:9 displays as those used in the previous iMac generation: LED-backlit TFT active-matrix LCDs with in-plane switching. The 21.5-inch display has a 1920-by-1080 native resolution, while the 27-inch display has a native resolution of 2560-by-1440. The viewing angle seems to be the same as the previous iMacs, which is good; there’s no noticeable color shift when looking at an angle.

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