An Extra-Strength All-in-One: iMac Spring 2011 Review

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Pricing and Package:

The new iMacs come in two sizes: 21.5″ and 27″. As these things go, the more screen real estate you get the more coin you shell out. The 21.5-inch starts at $1,199, which gets you 2.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6750M for graphics and 500GB hard drive. As for the 27-incher, a starting price of $1,699 gets you a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6770M and 1TB hard drive. You can special-order faster i7 processors, SSD storage and more RAM at extra cost, too. But the baseline configurations in both sizes are a very good buy for your money.

It’s been standard that you get a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and Apple’s Magic Mouse with the latter-day iMacs and that’s still the case here. (If you’re buying online and want the Magic Trackpad as your input device, you can choose that at no extra cost.) There’s a handy SD card slot right next to the disc opening, too. OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard comes pre-installed. You also get their iLife lifestyle software suite with iMovie, iPhoto and iTunes, along with the addition of the Mac App Store that was announced last year.


Simply put, this thing is fast, quiet and pretty. Applications launch instantly, with hardly one bounce in the Dock before they’re ready to go. The kinds of everyday tasks that I used to dread doing on my old iMac and that would cause my MacBook Pro to get dangerously hot–editing video or importing tons of pictures at once–get handled without breaking a sweat.

One of the more significant changes is the Thunderbolt I/O port. Thunderbolt’s a new supercharged connection protocol, that allows for simultaneous upload and download channels at speeds up to 10 GB Gbits/second for each stream. This means that, for example, if you’re editing video off of Thunderbolt-connected storage, you’re hardly seeing any appreciable lag. The form factor of the Thunderbolt port is just like the DisplayPort but the beefier capability lets you pump out video to three displays. But, new connection protocols mean new hardware and there’s just not a lot out there yet that will let you take advantage of Thunderbolt. There will be, though, and it’s an enticing proposition for the power user looking for a new desktop machine. It should be noted that the 27-inch iMac like the one I tested comes with not one, but two Thunderbolt ports, so you can go crazy with all you Thunderbolting needs.

The new Facetime HD camera comes with a wide-angle lens, which easily captures a broad field of view for those video chats with the entire family. Since it’s Facetime, you can do video calls to iPhone 4 and the latest iPod Touch models, too.

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