Monday, January 4, 2016

Apple iMac 21.5in (2015) - Review

The cheapest iMac gets even better

It was once the plucky underdog, but after 31 years the Apple Macintosh is more popular than ever. This update to its 21.5in all-in-one incarnation brings the option of an ultra-sharp, 4K-resolution display, but that’s a bit of a red herring. Most people will be fine with the standard Full HD model, which has a excellent screen and now comes with a faster processor, improved graphics and a bigger hard drive for the same price as before.

That price still looks quite high, however. We’ve tested plenty of Windows desktop PCs that come with a monitor for $300 less and outperform the iMac. What you’re getting with the Apple is not so much a PC as a piece of designer furniture. The solid aluminium case – smoothly curving at the back to an outer edge thinner than an iPhone – is one of the most beautiful objects you can buy for under $1400.00.

Its major flaw is that there’s no easy way to get inside it and, unlike the 27in version, it doesn’t have a hatch for memory upgrades. 8GB will be enough for most tasks, but if you want 16GB you have to order it up front at a ridiculous $230 – four times the normal cost of the chips. You might be better off spending that on swapping the 1TB hard drive for 256GB of flash storage. The mechanical drive gives you plenty of space, but makes the iMac feel slower than a MacBook.

While you’re considering upgrades, there’s also a $1200.00 model with a superior 2.8GHz quad-core Intel i5 processor and slightly faster graphics. Stick with the basic $1029.00 configuration and it’s, well, basic. If you’re into 3D games, the Intel Iris Pro 6000 graphics card will cope with quite a few, but many struggle with new ones, and many of those available for Windows don't exist for the Mac.

For other purposes, OS X, Apple’s equivalent of Windows, runs very smoothly, and the free apps – including the iMovie video editor and GarageBand music studio, as well as rivals to Word, Excel and PowerPoint – are elegant and easy to use. Thousands of other apps are available to download from the Mac App Store and elsewhere, including Mac versions of Microsoft Office, Adobe’s creative software and so on. The supplied mouse and compact keyboard are excellent as long as you don’t need a number pad; a full keyboard and gesture-sensing Magic Trackpad are optional extras.

Should you discover a few hundred quid down the back of the sofa and feel tempted by the new 4K edition, it starts at $1,399.00 and comes with an even faster 3.1GHz quad-core i5 processor as well as the enhanced Iris Pro 6200 graphics card, which is just as well, since pushing 9.5 million pixels around (4096x2304) is a lot of work. You certainly won't be running games at full resolution, but apps look great, and you can adjust the scaling so that you see all the detail in your work without text and icons becoming tiny. Considering how much a decent 4K monitor costs by itself, this machine isn’t bad value, but if the display is so important to you, 21.5in may feel too small. The 27in 5K iMac starts at $1,749.00 and supports up to 32GB of memory, which you can upgrade yourself.

If you want a good-looking computer that minimises hassle, there’s a lot to be said for the iMac. Price aside, the question is whether to stay with the majority of users on Windows or switch to Apple’s software platform. Macs can also run Windows 10, but only with extra cost and fuss. If that’s what you want, you’ll get better value elsewhere.


1.6GHz Intel i5-5250U quad-core processor
• 8GB memory
• 1TB hard drive
• Intel HD Graphics 6000
• 21.5in 1920x1080-pixel screen
• 802.11ac Wi-Fi
• FaceTime HD camera
• 2x Thunderbolt 2 ports • 4x USB 3 ports
• Gigabit Ethernet
• OS X 10.11 El Capitan
• 450x528x175mm (HxWxD)


There’s little incentive for most people to stray from Windows 10, but if Apple appeals, this is a lovely all-in-one system

By Computer Active

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