At a Glance
- Fastest all-in-one PC we’ve tested
- Compact, all-in-one design
- Big, beautiful screen
- Good video frame-rate performance
- No Blu-ray drive or media card reader
- Glossy screen may frustrate some users
- FireWire 400 peripherals require an adapter
- No touchscreen
Top-performing all-in-one runs Windows and OS X, but lacks extras such as a touchscreen, Blu-ray drive, and a card reader.
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 a 20-inch iMac (1680 by 1050 resolution). We tested the high-end 24-inch iMac using Boot Camp and Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit. Though pricey, this $2199 system (as of 7/2/09) turned out to be the fastest all-in-one PC we’ve tested to date.
The 24-inch iMac’s 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo E8435 processor and 4GB of memory helped it achieve a result of 111 in WorldBench 6. To put that into perspective, 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. And 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 24-inch iMac we tested also had a large, 1TB hard disk, and 512MB nVidia GeForce GT 130 graphics. (A 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4850 is a $50 optional extra.) The system returned the flat-out best graphics results we’ve seen from an all-in-one. Even with tests set to high-quality–and dialed up to the iMac’s top resolution of 1920 by 1200–it achieved 59 frames per second in Unreal Tournament 3 (high quality), and 48 fps in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. Fantastic.
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).
This 3.06GHz, 24-inch iMac is simply the fastest all-in-one PC we’ve tested at the time of writing–certainly for everyday computing, and definitely for gaming.