New processors, better graphics and the Magic Touchpad thrown in for free. Is the new iMac still the all-in-one to own?
No one wants to design desktop towers any more, but they've still failed to match Apple's aesthetic for all-in-ones. Rivals like the EeeTouch, Acer Aspire Z5610, Sony Vaio L or Lenovo's IdeaCentre are technically worthy, but design-wise they just don't compare.
The iMac is an astoundingly beautiful computer, all shiny unibody aluminium and unblemished sight lines. And with the latest revision to the 27in model, what's behind that attractive facade is quite likeable too.
The iMac isn't the cheapest or most powerful all-in-one available, but it's not bad value for money.
The model we reviewed came with Intel's entry-level Core i3 CPU. Even though it runs at 3.2GHz, it's hard to accept that this dual-core chip, coupled with a paltry Radeon HD 5670 graphics processor, is worthy of such a superior machine.
The two cope well surprisingly well, though, easily running Blizzard's World of Warcraft and Starcraft II at maximum detail settings in the native resolution of the 27in screen. If you're editing a lot of HD video you'll want to go for the pricier quad-core option, but for most desktop work you wouldn't notice the difference.
Which brings us onto the value-for-money part: Sony's Vaio L may come with a quad-core CPU for less, but the size and quality of the iMac's IPS display is worth a good percentage of the asking price. Dell's equivalent monitor, for example, currently sells at nearly £900 by itself.
Problematic panels dogged previous 27in models, with several software fixes released to cure green tinges in the LED-backlit screen. Apple says that those problems have been fully cured – and the colours in the panel we tried out are amazingly accurate, leaving other all-in-ones looking wan and washed out.
Magic of multitouch
The one thing that is commonplace in Windows all-in-ones but hasn't reached the iMac yet is a multitouch screen.
Instead, there's the Magic Trackpad: a simple glassy slate, which acts exactly like a four-point MacBook touchpad, but is slightly raked thanks to the battery compartment at the back.
It's not as clever as a touchscreen, but is arguably more practical. It's a fun alternative to a mouse, and works well with pinch, zoom and contextual menu gestures – but it's not exactly a replacement.
In games, for example, interfaces are designed for a mouse and really need one to work, while on the desktop if you try to move a window the full length of the screen, you'll run out of trackpad about halfway through.
The only real complaint, though, is that the stunning body of the iMac means the headphone sockets are round the back of the screen. That's a hassle if you need to get to them regularly.
Fortunately, everything else is superlative. The speakers are the best builtin ones we've heard and it runs silently, even with a disc in the drive. Even if the iMac isn’t the most powerful, it's still the all-in-one to beat.
Apple iMac 27in 2010 review
A beautiful body and a stunning screen, the 27in iMac remains the best all-in-one around