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Review: Apple 27-inch iMac (Late 2012)

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Apple's iMac is one of the most enduring products in the PC industry. After bringing Apple back from the brik of bankruptcy, the iMac redefined the all-in-one genre, ushered in a series of innovative features while chucking a lot of old technology. The latest iMac is similarly future-facing, a testament to Apple's innovative design, fit and finish as well as a nod to the the company's iPad and MacBook Air look and feel.

With a razor-sharp profile that gives the impression of a centimetre-thin bezel (it actually tapers towards the centre of the screen's rear), the new iMac is much thinner and is lighter than its predecessors. Apple managed to trim down on almost every physical aspect of this desktop while boosting performance at every turn and improving the parts that mean more to users.

The new iMac is all about the display and this time they managed to reduce the reflection of the glossy display by 75 per cent while sustaining the brightness, contrast and saturation.

The glass and the backlight of the LCD are incredibly integrated and are actually laminated together. This process helps eliminate the glare and reflection while substantially compressing the thickness of the the display. Apple also used a technique used in fighter pilot helmets  and camera lenses called plasma deposition, which micro-coats the glass on an atomic level, this leads to 75 reduction in reflectivity.

The result is a wonder of engineering and possibly the gold standard for all-in-one desktops in the market today. Competitors from the PC space have aped the iMac from day one but this most recent version seems extremely tough to copy, as a result many of the all-in-one PC's we're seeing look like iMacs from two or three generations back.

The main event in any iMac is the display and the 27-inch model features a large and lavish 27-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560-by-1440 resolution with support for millions of colours that cuts down on reflection and glare by 75 per cent. 

Apple also introduced their hybrid Fusion Drive technology with this iMac. With a One Terabyte hard drive that uses an additional 128GB of Flash Storage to speed things up. This results in up to 3.5 times faster  photo import, file copy as well as 1.7 times faster system boot. 

I can attest to the speed of importing large image files into the new iMac, it simply sucks in the images into Aperture or Adobe Lightroom without any lag. Manipulating these images is also a breeze and works specially well on that spacious 27-inch screen.

I've been using the latest 27-inch iMac for about a month. I've dumped all my video production workflows and some of my photo editing via Aperture onto the iMac and it has been a transformative experience. 

Editing and more importantly rendering video on iMovie and Final Cut Pro has been 4 to 5 times faster than on any of my other machines. Not only that, I can freely do other work while video gets edited and uploaded and will not suffer any hanging or other problems.

If only applications like iMovie could multitask and handle multiple streams or render various videos simultaneously, I'm sure the iMac would tear through them easily.

The new iMac's performance, courtesy of third-generation quad core Intel Core i7 processors running at 3.4 GHz is more than ample HD video editing. 

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX graphics are said to be up to 60 per cent faster than previous models and while I haven't installed any games on my review unit to test these claims, I am sure many that many content creators and 

I've been using my circa 2006 17-inch iMac for most of my web design and video editing needs. Prior to that, I owned one of the first PowerPC G3 generation Blueberry iMacs for many years to run a web design business, edit photos and write hundreds of articles and reviews. Durability and longevity have always been in the iMac's DNA.

Given that iMacs tend to last longer than the average PC, one would eventually want to upgrade components such as RAM and the Hard Drive to extend the life of the machine. 

That's no longer possible with the latest generation of iMacs.  Popping open the hermetically sealed chassis is close to impossible for users. You can replace the stock RAM with up to 32GB with a small port in the rear but that's about it. Everything else will need to be connected externally.

Seeing the iMac as well as the new Mac Pro, it has become clear that appliance-like closed systems are where the company is headed (it has been headed there for some time now, since it revealed the MacBook Air). There's nothing wrong with that, it is just something we need to get used to and accept.

The iMac itself is a stunning desktop. It no longer is the consumer PC it was known to be, it is powerful enough for production and even video editing as well as more intensive tasks.

The 27-inch model is also quiet and energy efficient and could be a complete solution for creatives, designers, architects and might also be considered the main desktop in a household of notebooks, tablets and smartphones.

It would have been cool if Apple did something more with the iMac, possibly if they built-in AppleTV functionality or provided a built-in TV tuner and remote control (or an app for an iPad or iPhone). I've always said that the Intel iMacs are one of the best desktops to consider since aside from their all-in-one convenience, they can handily run both Mac and Windows. This is still the case, however now that Windows 8 is more about touch, the iMac feels a little bit out of step with the industry in that department. 

Aside from this, there's little else we can ask from Apple on the iMac front. This is a mature product, one that's been refined for close to eight years of constant improvement and design. The latest iMa simply brings together the best of performance and design in one convenient, striking and powerful package.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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