Stunning to look at and stunning to use, the 27-inch iMac wins accolades as the best all-in-one desktop computer on the planet. You might be equally stunned when you look at the price tag, but most say you at least get what you pay for.
A premium all-in-one. Most reviewers are blown away by the performance offered by the 27-inch iMac, at least in a loaded-up configuration that includes a 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX graphics with 2 GB dedicated memory, 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB Fusion Drive. When set up this way, the "iMac positively screams," says PCMag.com. It's also a competent gaming machine -- able to handle just about any game out there, at least at reasonable settings. That all sounds great, until you look at that tested configuration's price tag -- a gulp-inducing *Est. $2,600 -- and you can also load up the iMac with other gewgaws, including more memory (up to 32 GB) and bigger drives (up to 3 TB).
But you don't need to max out your 27-inch iMac to get an enjoyable and eminently usable machine. ComputerShopper.com, for one, tests a base configuration -- including a 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M graphics with 512 MB of memory, 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB conventional disc drive -- and is more than pleased with performance. "As you can see, it's possible to load up the 27-inch iMac and spend over $2,500, but we really don't think it's necessary," says Eric Grevstad, adding that the Fusion Drive is possibly the only upgrade he'd consider getting.
One word regarding configurations before we move on: Be very sure of how much or how little iMac you want before putting your cash down. Apple provides a fair amount of options at purchase, but future upgrades are for the most part impossible -- partially a trade-off for the system's stunning design (more below). The only thing you can change your mind about is the amount of RAM, as you can access the system's memory slots via a hatch on the rear of the unit.
Regardless of how you configure your iMac, you will wind up with the same display, and that's a good thing. The screen is not the Retina display found on some MacBook Pro laptops such as the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (*Est. $2,200 and up), but it still sports a resolution of 2,560 by 1,440 pixels and draws plenty of compliments for being crisp, bright and accurate. It also uses a design that makes it less prone to glare than many monitors. Some do complain, however, that the display is not touch sensitive -- something that could be more of an issue depending on whether or not Windows 8 gives rise to more touch-based computing.
Generally excellent, but a few misses. It's an Apple, so that means fit and finish are all first-rate. The port selection is good, with the notable omission being the lack of HDMI support. Everything is on the rear of the system, and the lineup includes 4 USB ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports, an Ethernet jack, a headphone jack and an SDXC card reader. On the front, there's also a built-in camera (720p) and microphone. You have your choice between a MagicMouse or a Magic Trackpad, or can opt for both for an additional $70. There's also a wireless keyboard. Most are pleased with the sound quality of the built-in stereo speakers. Powered by 20-watt amplifiers, "These speakers are easily capable of being cranked up to uncomfortably loud levels, without encountering any distortion until you're at the very top end of the scale," says Vincent Nguyen of SlashGear.com.
The biggest negatives come from what the iMac is missing. First, there's no optical drive of any kind -- representative, some critics say, of Apple's commitment to content from the cloud rather than from physical discs. There's also no height adjustment -- something some reviewers find to be disappointing.
Possibly the nicest-looking desktop computer available. That's what most reviews say. USA Today's Edward C. Baig calls it "a sight for the eyes." A few grouse that the computer is not as thin as Apple claims because of a bulge at the back. Most concede, however, that Apple's designers have rendered an impressive-looking machine nonetheless. "For one, the back is tapered such that you can stand 60 to 75 degrees off-center and the iMac still only looks as thin as its 5mm edge," says CNET's Rich Brown. "Even when you take notice of the round back portion, the curve comes across as graceful."
Top-notch despite short telephone support. Apple rises to the top of the heap in most satisfaction surveys. The free telephone tech support is limited to 90 days. You do have access to the Genius Bars available in Apple Stores if one is nearby, though that's not as attractive an option with a desktop as it would be with a laptop or tablet. The full warranty is for one year. Extended care warranties are available, but are considered to be pricey.
Expensive, but not necessarily overpriced. Loaded up to the max, the 27-inch iMac looks like a very expensive all-in-one. However, it is also a well-built and stunning-looking powerhouse that can handle everything short of high-end gaming at maximum settings. At the lower end, reviewers note that the so-called Apple tax is modest to nonexistent compared to similar Windows machines.
Review Credibility: Excellent A stunning design and an impressive component lineup earn the 27-inch iMac an Editors' Choice award here. Brian Westover does complain about price, the lack of height adjustment and the fact that significant user upgrades beyond expanding the RAM are near-impossible, but still is mightily impressed. "With its beautiful design and quality fabrication, the iMac 27-inch (Late 2012) is the best all-in-one desktop we've ever seen, with a look and feel that manufacturers will be trying to replicate for years," he concludes.
Review: Apple iMac 27-Inch (Late 2012), Brian Westover, Dec. 3, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent The 2012 27-inch iMac earns a very high (for TheVerge.com, at least) 9.0 rating. David Pierce writes that he's yet to see an all-in-one computer with "the combination of design, features, and horsepower the iMac offers."
Review: Apple iMac and Mac Mini Review (Late 2012), David Pierce, Nov. 30, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent The 27-inch iMac scores another Editors' Choice award here. Rich Brown finds some frustrations -- the lack of an HDMI input or a touch screen, for example. But these are dwarfed by the iMac's positives, including solid performance and a stunning design.
Review: A Trimmed-Down, Amped-up New iMac, Rich Brown, Nov. 30, 2012
4. Computer Shopper
Review Credibility: Excellent ComputerShopper.com calls the 27-inch Apple iMac the "all-in-one desktop to beat" on the way to awarding it the site's Editors' Choice award and a 4.5-star rating. Eric Grevstad notes that even the base model "felt speedy and pleasant to use," adding that eschewing the desktop's premium upgrades keeps the price more or less competitive with its Windows counterparts.
Review: Apple iMac (27-Inch, 2012 Version) Review and Ratings, Eric Grevstad, Dec. 7, 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent Engadget.com looks at both the 21-inch and 27-inch versions of the Apple iMac. The only negative noted is the lack of an optical drive. The display, system performance and design are all highly praised as Dana Wollman calls the iMac the "best all-in-one on the market."
Review: Apple iMac Review (2012), Dana Wollman, Dec. 3, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good The 2012 27-inch iMac also gets a solid review from SlashGear.com. The lack of upgradability, save for memory, is cited as a negative, but Vincent Nguyen says that "DIY enthusiasts" aside, "everyone else will be enjoying an incredibly capable computer."
Review: Apple iMac 27-inch (2012) Review, Vincent Nguyen, Dec. 5, 2012
7. USA Today
Review Credibility: Good Edward Baig says that, for most people, opting for a desktop computer over a laptop makes little sense. However, he adds that one look at the new iMac could change that thinking. Among the positives cited, Baig says that the low-glare 27-inch screen on the iMac he tests is "a knockout."
Review: Baig Review: Updated iMac from Apple Is a Knockout, Edward C. Baig, Dec. 5, 2012