Apple's latest iMac is not the first all-in-one desktop with a glossy screen, an ultra-thin keyboard and a trim profile. But unlike Sony's, HP's and others' all-in-one efforts, no other vendor comes close to Apple's near-seamless aesthetic. And as the new iMac design impresses visually, so do its features and overall performance compete against other, similarly priced desktops.
This fourth-generation iMac comes in four versions -- two 20-inch models and two 24-inch models. We looked at the 2.4GHz, 20-inch version, which costs for £949 for the default configuration.
The cosmetic updates to the iMac make a significant impact on the overall appeal of this desktop. The brushed-aluminium, glass and black plastic chassis sets the iMac apart visually from any other desktop on the market. Apple even went so far as to include a black chamois cloth in the box to wipe off fingerprints from the glossy exterior. We found that the system gets very hot to the touch after using it for only a few minutes, so you'd be smart to store it in a well-ventilated area.
Alongside the new chassis, Apple also updated the design of its bundled keyboard. We received the wired model, which comes with a USB input on either side -- according to Apple the wireless version is still a few weeks off.
Tethered or no, the new keyboard shines for its combination of hyperminimalised design and solid build quality. When we saw the first pictures of the keyboard, we thought that it wouldn't be substantial enough to stay in place while you typed on it. But due to either the aluminium case or the extra weight added internally, we had no trouble with the keyboard sliding around.
The MacBook Pro-style key mechanics also have a smooth response that make it a pleasure to type on. Our only complaint is that the hot keys sit on the top edge, rather than along the sides. We've found the latter design provides easier access, although the included Apple Remote gives you the long-distance control capability to make up for it.
The rest of the new design tweaks to the iMac are minor. Apple went to extra effort to hide the built-in iSight video camera and microphone, to the point where the tiny pin pricks on the top edge that reveal the microphone are barely noticeable. We can't say we found the original design that obtrusive. We're sad to see that the new model has no power indicator light, though. We found the softly pulsing white LED underneath the skin of the old iMac comforting as it kept its steady beat.
Apple sent us its 20-inch wide-screen iMac with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 mobile processor. It also doubled the default memory to 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM, bringing our review model's price to £1,039, up from the standard £949 for the 2.4GHz model. Our review unit also includes a 320GB hard drive, Apple's SuperDrive dual-layer DVD burner, a new wide-bandwidth 802.11n wireless adaptor, a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro graphics chip, and wired versions of the Apple Mighty Mouse and the brand-new thin Apple keyboard.
Apple still doesn't offer an HD optical drive, although we can't say we're all that surprised. Overall, its specs are fairly up-to-date. Be wary of customising further, as Apple charges more for hard drive and memory upgrades than the industry averages.