You may find Apple's new iMac line appealing, if only because it includes one of the most affordable 24-inch all-in-one PCs on the market. Prices start at around £1,200 for the model with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor that we review here. Otherwise, Apple's latest update to the iMac line mostly serves to keep it competitive with its Windows-based competition.
As usual, you can get more flexibility for your money by way of a traditional desktop and monitor combination at the same price. You can also find a few all-in-ones from the Windows world with functionality that the iMac can't match. Overall though, we found that Apple's formula for this product line still works, and we'd recommend the iMac to anyone in need of a fast, feature-rich all-in-one.
The most significant change to the iMac concerns its 24-inch display. In addition to providing more desktop real estate, the screen can also scale up to its native 1080p resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. Apple hasn't added a Blu-ray drive to the iMac, so you can't take advantage of its high-definition resolution that way. Still, it opens the door for watching and editing other HD video content at its proper resolution.
Cosmetically, little else has changed with the iMac. Its industrial design remains the best in the PC industry, with no excessive branding, case detail or other visual distractions. Indeed, the only changes to the outside of the case affect the row of ports on the back of the iMac. Apple has added an additional USB 2.0 port, and also replaced the Mini-DVI output with a Mini DisplayPort jack.
Apple is currently the only vendor selling Mini DisplayPort hardware, both on its new iMacs and Mac minis and Mac Pro desktops, as well as on its new LED Cinema Display. As you might imagine, you can connect the desktops to the LED Cinema Display via a Mini DisplayPort cable. You can also purchase an adaptor for either VGA, single-link DVI, or dual-link DVI outputs if you want to connect an older monitor. Thankfully VESA, the computer display standards body, has plans to incorporate Mini DisplayPort into its future specifications, so we don't anticipate that it will be unique to Apple for long.
Although the outside of the iMac has received relatively few changes, Apple has given the internal hardware a fairly extensive overhaul. The 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (you can upgrade to 2.93GHz and 3.06GHz versions) has been used in a previous iMac, but the default hard drive, graphics chip and memory have all been upgraded. With 4GB of RAM and a 640GB hard drive, the iMac's specs are now more or less in line with Windows-based all-in-ones in the same price range.
You would be right be concerned, though, that, while the iMac's core features have improved, Apple hasn't evolved the iMac to match other all-in-ones, particularly Sony's 24-inch Vaio LV line. Those living room-orientated systems are wall-mountable and have a dedicated button that lets you switch between the desktop and an HDMI video input signal -- perfect for connecting a game console or an HD camcorder. The iMac also has no touchscreen, as with HP's TouchSmart series. We've already mentioned the lack of Blu-ray drive, and even the highest end of the new iMacs lacks a quad-core CPU option.
As useful as we find some of those features on other all-in-ones, the new iMac is most definitely a computer first, as opposed to a walk-up household kiosk, like HP's TouchSmarts, or a dedicated digital entertainment system, like Sony's Vaio LV series. With the iTunes ecosystem of connected and networked devices, the iMac can certainly serve up digital media as well, but it's indicative of Apple's vision for the iMac's role in your home or office that no features have been implemented that significantly alter the way you use it.