At a Glance
- Excellent general performance
- Good speed boost over previous analogous model
- Compact, all-in-one design
- Glossy screen may frustrate some users
- Basic gaming performance
- No touchscreen
- Still uses 6-bit dithered display
- FireWire 400 peripherals require an adapter
Terrific general performance, but basic gaming. iMac fans might consider paying $300 extra for an entry-level 24-inch model.
The iMac models released in early 2009 are the third generation of the aluminum iMac, and the all-in-one design hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 2007. The grey bezel, the black Apple logos front and back, the aluminum stand, the matte-black plastic rear…it’s all there, including the big glossy screen–much to the chagrin of antiglare proponents. And you get no antiglare option, either.
Apple offers four standard configurations of the iMac: three 24-inch models (1920 by 1200 resolution), and this 20-inch version (1680 by 1050 resolution), which costs $1199 (as of 7/2/09). In our tests using Boot Camp and Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit, the 20-inch iMac ranked as the second-fastest all-in-one PC we’ve seen, beaten only by the high-end 24-inch iMac we also recently tested.
The 24-inch iMac’s 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo E8435 processor and 4GB of memory helped it lead the way with a result of 111 in WorldBench 6. The 20-inch iMac, equipped with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E8135 chip and 2GB of DDR3-1066 memory, trailed closely behind with a score of 101. To put that into perspective, the next closest performing all-in-one PC was the Sony VAIO VGC-LV180J, which earned a score of 96 in the same benchmark.
The iMac’s system bus, used in communications between the processor and system memory, is still 1066MHz, but now Apple uses 1066MHz DDR3 RAM instead of the 800MHz DDR2 RAM in the previous iMac; this increase in RAM speed also contributes to faster performance.
The 20-inch iMac includes a 320GB hard disk, plus integrated graphics that struggled to reach playable frame rates in our tests. By contrast, the nVidia GeForce GT130-equipped 24-inch iMac we tested returned the best results we’ve seen from an all-in-one PC.
Apple has made two major changes on the rear ports. First, an additional USB 2.0 port replaces the FireWire 400 port, bringing the total number of USB ports on the back of the iMac to four. The FireWire 800 port is still present, so you can use an adapter cable to connect your FireWire 400-based peripherals. Second, a Mini DisplayPort replaces the mini-DVI port for connecting an external display. You can attach a DVI display by using–you guessed it–an adapter.
The final major change is in the keyboard. The standard system configurations now come with a compact wired keyboard that lacks a numeric keypad, as well as the Home/End/Page Up/Page Down/Delete group of keys; it’s as if Apple had chopped off the right side of the keyboard. A full-size keyboard is available as a customization option at no additional cost if you order an iMac through Apple.com.
The iMac continues to be a desktop Mac that’s powerful enough to please both general consumers and demanding users. While these models don’t have the touchscreens of competing all-in-one PCs, they deliver top-notch performance in Windows, and give you the option to use OS X as well (or instead). iMacs also have a removable door for memory upgrades (though anything else will require going on a 21-screw adventure that’s best left to the pros).
While the 20-inch iMac is an attractive model for the price, you might want to consider spending an extra $300 for an entry-level (2.66GHz) 24-inch version; you’ll get more RAM, twice the storage capacity, and better performance. If you want the best graphics performance, the 3.06GHz iMac is the one to get.