Apple 21.5-inch iMac review

It's beautiful to look at, has a great screen and is very powerful, but it's expensive

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

Page 1 of 3Apple 21.5-inch iMac review


3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S, 8GB RAM, 21.5in 1,920x1,080 display, MacOS X 10.8

The new Apple iMac is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. At its thinnest point, the screen is just 5mm thick, but it curves out towards the middle in order to house the rest of its hardware. Still, its brushed aluminium finish is as classy as ever - even the kettle plug has been designed to seamlessly blend in with its impeccably smooth contours.

Apple 21.5-inch iMac

It’s had to make a few sacrifices to stay so slim, with the DVD drive being the main casualty from the previous model. It’s also lost its mini-FireWire port around the back, but neither are likely to be big losses in this day and age.

We were pleased to see that all four of its USB ports now support USB3, plus there are now two Thunderbolt ports for super-fast external storage or connecting additional displays. The headphone output and Gigabit Ethernet port remain from last year, although the built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi may be more convenient.

The 21.5in version doesn’t have the huge 2,560x1,440 resolution of its 27in cousin, but its full HD (1,920x1,080) IPS panel is gorgeous to look at. We’re sometimes slightly hesitant about glossy displays, but Apple has pulled it off thanks to its full lamination display. This removes the 2mm gap that’s traditionally between the glass panel and LCD, and helps keep the screen brighter while allowing the iMac to be thinner. In addition, the anti-reflective coating is designed to cut reflections by 75 per cent.

Apple 21.5-inch iMac

Probing a little deeper into its display quality, our colour calibrator revealed it was showing 97.7 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut straight out of the box. This is exactly what we’d expect to see from an IPS screen, and its high level of colour accuracy translated very well in our subjective image tests as well. Reds, greens and blues were extremely rich and vibrant, blacks were deep, and whites were bright and clean. Our high dynamic range test photos also showed high levels of detail across each image, and the LED backlight was pretty much uniform across the entire screen. Its wide viewing angles were equally superb, and we had to be almost side-on before the screen darkened.

While the new iMac’s design may be enough for some to warrant an immediate purchase, most will want its interior processing power to match its flawless outer shell. The 21.5in version is available in multiple specifications, starting at £1,099 for an 8GB, quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 PC with an Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics chip. The only upgrade option here is to 16GB of RAM, so the quad-core 2.9GHz Core i5 base model (starting at £1,249) is probably the better bet.

Apple 21.5-inch iMac

With this model you can choose to upgrade for £160 to a 3.1GHz Intel Core i7-3770S processor (the CPU our review processor shipped with), upgrade the 8GB of RAM to 16GB for £160 and add the £200 Fusion Drive (this adds 128GB of flash memory cache to the 1TB hard disk to improve boot speeds). This can get expensive, and choosing everything will bump the price up to £1,769.

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