Review: the 5mm, Fusion-equipped 2012 iMac

You might have heard about Apple’s new, 8th generation iMac – the ultra thin one with the trippy seventies screenshots and the much-hyped Fusion drive that’s meant to give you ultra-fast startup times. Well, we’ve just had our first shipment, and we couldn’t pass up the chance to a) compare it to older iMacs and b) peel off that laminated display and take a look inside. If you’re in a hurry, take a gander at the 74 second love-in that is our video review. If you want all the details on the brand new Apple iMac, read on…


The new iMac is really amazingly thin

5mm thick around the edge and not a huge amount more in the middle, the new Apple iMac has shed around 80% of its bulk since generation seven. A lot of this can be accounted for by the screen lamination process, which knocks out the 2mm gap between the glass and the display screen. Our feelings are split about this – on the one hand, the new design looks fantastic, and the fact that the laminated, coated screen is 75% less reflective than its seventh gen counterpart has won support from our creative team, who find it far easier to look at the screen for extended periods of time, and to see their designs in the first place.

Our engineers did have to break out a whole new set of tools to get this iMac open, but happily, it’s easy to add RAM to the 27” model. You just pull out the power cable, press the button underneath it and add up to 32GB RAM into the hatch that opens up. This option isn’t available on the 21.5” model, and the new display’s construction means you won’t be able to service it yourself, but frankly we wouldn’t recommend that anyway. Our Apple support team can be reached on 03332 409 227 if you’d like to know more about your options, though!

A quick health warning: the new design means that if you crack the glass covering your screen you’ll also crack the screen (on the older, wider models you could crack the glass without damaging the screen itself). This means that if you damage your screen your repair may cost more, so try not to rest your iMac on any precarious ledges…

The new width means that the optical disk drive (SuperDrive) has been sacrificed – something that seems to be becoming the norm with Apple products. But with digital delivery and cloud services becoming the dominant forces in the software and storage markets, we don’t think you’ll miss this too much. If you do still have software that needs installing from a disk, or clients who are regularly sending you content on optical disk, you can always invest in one of Apple’s USB SuperDrives.

It’s really well connected

Like the 2011 model, the new iMac includes two Thunderbolt ports, so you can power online storage and a second display at the same time if you need to. These also function as mini DisplayPort connections, so you can hook your iMac up to another machine and use it as a monitor if need be.

It’s also got four USB 3.0 ports – all USB 2.0 compatible – and an SDXC card reader (relocated to the back of the device now that it won’t fit on the edge). There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port and a stereo minijack, but it looks like Apple are saying goodbye to FireWire – it’s not featured on this iMac or the latest Retina MacBook Pros. However, you can pick up an adaptor for that if you still need a FireWire connection.

It also comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11n WiFi, which in a pleasing piece of design trickery is housed behind the Apple logo.

It’s still got a great display

new iMac

Aside from the new, reflection-repellent coating, the iMac’s display stays mostly unchanged. The 21.5” model’s resolution is 1920×1080, with the 27” model boasting 2560×1440 resolution – both include IPS (In-Plane Switching). The viewing angle holds steady at 178 degrees, the colour representation is as realistic and consistent as ever, and the new iMac should work with your existing colour calibration equipment.

Fusion drives give the best of both worlds

Word from our engineers is that the Fusion drive is going to be great for customers who don’t want to compromise on space to gain the benefits of an SSD – though they have asked us to point out that there’s no magical single ‘Fusion drive’ but in fact an SSD, an HDD and some mystical Apple voodoo linking the two. The combination of SSD, HDD and software gives the user high capacity and high speed when and where it is needed. This is established right from startup – your operating system is stored on the high speed Flash memory, so you get blistering boot times from the moment you turn your iMac on. However, the clever part is the way that your iMac manages its space – you can assign apps to be stored on the hard drive or Flash memory manually, but frequently used apps should automatically be moved onto the higher speed storage for easy access, while little used ones are relegated to the slower HDD. Brilliant!

If you’re all about speed, you can opt for a model with 768GB Flash storage and no HDD, while users who are purely after space can choose a 1TB or 3TB hard drive with no Flash capacity. However, we think that most users will benefit from choosing the 1TB or 3TB Fusion option, which pairs a 1TB or 3TB HDD with 128GB of high-speed storage.

It’s great if you’re power conscious and need fast graphics

The new, more efficient NVIDIA Kepler architecture on the graphics chip is not only a godsend for creative users who need to get maximum performance from their GPU, it’s actually more power efficient than its predecessor. This, coupled with the new, more power efficient processor architecture, means that your 2012 iMac should consume far less energy than the 2011 model – great if you’re looking to go green and save some cash.

It’s easy to pick up

Not that we’re saying you should take your iMac for regular walks or anything, but still. Lighter is better. Plus we’re big fans of the new trapezoid box, and the fact that you don’t have to lift your iMac out anymore – it just slides free of the cardboard easily.

The verdict

Lighter, far slimmer and speedier than we’d hoped, the 2012 iMac looks like a real winner to us. While there isn’t as much scope for customisation on the 21.5” models, anyone looking into moving away from Mac Pro would be wise to take a look at the higher specced 27” version, thanks to its speed, epic-feeling screen and the ability to whack in all the extra RAM you could wish for at the touch of a button. Already had your hands on the brand new Apple iMac? Let us know what you think in the comments.

If you’ve heard all you need, you can buy your iMac on our site now.


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