Top positive review
104 people found this helpful
Expensive desktop that is worth the cost
on January 30, 2013
I spent a lot of time debating upgrading to Apple's latest desktop product. After all, my 2009 27" iMac was still humming along fine... how much did I really "need" those upgrades, anyway? One factor was that Macs hold their resale value very well, and since mine was still covered by Apple Care, it would be far easier to sell it now, then a year or two later after all warranty coverage had expired.
When my local Apple Store got the top spec version of the 27" iMac in stock, I caved in and picked it up. Many of my comments come from the point of view of someone who had what was effectively the predecessor "top of the line" model, the 2009 27" i7 equipped iMac.
The iMac that I purchased tips the scales at a hefty $2599. What do you get for this price point over the "entry" level 2012 27" iMac?
* Fusion Drive
* i7 quad core CPU with hyper threading
* Nvidia 680MX Mobile Graphics
When I pulled this new iMac out of the box, I placed it on the same L shaped desk next to its predecessor. Physically, the new machine is a dead ringer for the old one when viewed straight on. However, if it sits on a desk and can be seen at an angle, it's almost mind-boggling how skinny it looks. This is a bit of an optical illusion since it gets thicker towards the middle of the enclosure, but it is a gorgeous computer that will look right at home perched on a desk in your swanky office. The new Mac makes the old Mac look a bit chubby by comparison. One of the ways that Apple achieved this miracle of thinness was elimination of the optical drive. I have moved on to using a portable Blu-ray reader anyways, so this one doesn't bother me at all. While I still love physical discs (I only purchase my movies on Blu-Ray because I want a physical copy of them), the reality is that the technology is on life support, and for people like myself that still use them quite a bit there's no harm in plugging in a small external unit.
One of the things I wanted to compare between the two iMacs was the quality of the screen. See, the new 2012 iMac has exactly the same gorgeous IPS panel display, at the same impressive resolution as last year's iMac. What is different is that now Apple builds the LCD as a sealed unit, with the glass directly over the display (the older model employed magnets that held the glass on the bezel)... this results in the image appearing just slightly sharper since everything visually appears as if it's right on the glass surface... a similar affect to what you see with the newer iPhones.
Another display improvement is that Apple is now laminating the display with an anti-glare coating to cut down on unwanted reflections... this is very welcome for users like myself who use the computer in a room with lots of windows. Does it work? Yes, and it's impressive! With the two Macs sitting next to each other it was pretty apparent which was which, just based on the reflectivity of the display... putting the same photos fullscreen on both displays demonstrated that not only is the new display less reflective, it also appears to have deeper color saturation and better contrast. The new iMac displays are supposedly individually calibrated before they leave the factory and it shows.
So what are the other improvements? Well, this new version, like previous year-on-year model upgrades offers all of the latest PC hardware. The new Intel Ivy 3.4ghz i7 CPU is a beast, with handbrake encodes going over 40% faster than on my previous 2.8ghz i7 based iMac. The new top end Nvidia graphics card is far and away, the fastest "mobile" style graphics board that has ever been available, you can play newer games at very high resolutions without this iMac breaking a sweat (and if it does "break a sweat" the new cooling system is noticeably quieter than the one on the previous generation computer).
The Fusion drive is similarly a big step up. OS X boots in under 15 seconds. Applications launch more or less instantly. The system intelligently figures out what to keep on the 128GB SSD flash drive and what can be offloaded to the pokey 7200 RPM 1TB desktop hard drive. It works folks. I have observed that all of the apps I use the most frequently, Mail, Safari, Lightroom, Photoshop, DevonThink, all launch and run pretty much instantly. With my old 2009 iMac I had cracked it open and installed a 256GB SSD in place of the older hard drive and this new Fusion drive, for all intents and purposes, mirrors that experience, but with the bonus of having a lot of "bulk" storage for big files that don't benefit from the snappy SSD. If I rip a Blu-Ray disk to MKV, the huge resulting file, which I will possibly end up re-encoding later, is going to wind up on the physical hard drive, and that's nice, because I don't have to feel boxed in with a small SSD running out of room.
So, what's not to like? As others have reported, there's no physical optical drive.... which, unsurprisingly won't be that much of a bother to most people. (if it really bothers you to spend USD $50 on an optical reader that you can shove in a drawer when you aren't using it then maybe a Mac is not for you). Other very minor nits are the lack of more USB ports (although it is a huge plus that now the iMac is equipped with USB 3 ports for faster peripheral speeds). Another minor source of concern for some users is that arguably this new iMac is less serviceable by the end user than previous generations. The superb sealed screen unit is now bonded to the chassis with double sided foam tape. While you can remove it and open the Mac up to work on it, it is not quite as "easy" as on earlier models. Honestly though, how many users service their own Macs? Being an engineer, I can and do rip these things open, but it's not typical that's for sure.
Clearly I really like this Mac, so why the four star rating? Price of course. While I am willing to pay the premium for a gorgeous, nearly silent, super powerful PC, many people will have complete and absolute sticker shock. It is quite true that you can build or buy a Windows PC that is just as powerful (if not more so) for a LOT less money (lots less)... you can even cobble something together called a "hackintosh" for cheaper. Here's the rub though. That cheaper PC is going to run a far inferior OS (Having used Windows, and OS X for years, I'm afraid that you aren't going to convince me that Windows is "good enough" for a power user's desktop OS).... that cheaper PC is going to have a crappy monitor unless you are willing to shell out for a really really good one. That windows PC is usually going to be a "big beige box" that is noisy and looks like junk. If you get a PC all-in-one then you're not too far behind the price of the iMac but you're using Windows, have a less powerful machine that will feel noticeably slower, and lacks a lot of the Mac niceties.
I was a PC guy for many many years, but after you go Mac, you probably aren't going back.
If you want the most powerful desktop all-in-one currently available, and can stomach the price, this is the computer that you want. If you really want Windows, Apple has you covered there too, you can run Windows in boot camp, or you can use software like Parallels or VMWare Fusion to run Windows.