Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2012) - Slimmer, Faster, Better

Launch SRP: S$2368

Introduction

The Next Episode

The latest Apple iMac was announced on 23 October 2012. However, it was quickly overshadowed by the announcement of another Apple product - the iPad Mini. Because of the iPad Mini, much of the new iMac’s features and improvements were glossed over and largely ignored. This is understandable given the current emphasis and focus on mobile computing, but in actual fact, if one were to examine the new iMac closely, there’s a number of major improvements.

Most notably, the latest iMacs are much slimmer. This is not immediately noticeable when viewed head-on, but turn the iMac to the sides and you will notice that at the edges, the machine is just 5mm thick. This was achieved by removing the 2mm gap of air that used to separate the front glass surface and the screen itself and using a new method of welding called friction-stir welding to bond the glass and display together. According to Apple, a strong friction-generated heat is used to intermix the molecules of the two surfaces under pressure, creating a seamless and strong bond. Additionally, following in the footsteps of the MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro, the optical drive is now defunct. All of these contribute to the machine's ultra slim chassis; in fact, many would easily mistake it as a monitor rather than a full fledged system!

And as you shift and move the iMac around to appreciate its svelte profile, another thing that strikes you is how light the machine is. Our test machine, the 21.5-inch model that weighs just 5.68kg. The larger 27-inch model, in case you are wondering, tips the scales at just under 10kg. To get a sense of how light the new iMac is, consider this, the recently reviewed ASUS ET2400INTI with its slighter larger 24-inch display weighs 10.8kg.

While the edges might be just 5mm thick, there’s a considerable bulge in the middle of the display that houses all the hardware. Inside our iMac test machine is the latest third generation Intel "Ivy Bridge" Core i7-3770S processor that runs at 3.1GHz. Complementing it is 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M discrete graphics with 512MB of GDDR5 memory and a 1TB Fusion Drive.

Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2012 edition) - test system specs:-

  • Intel Core i7-3770S
  • 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • 1TB Fusion Drive
  • NVIDIA GT650M 512MB GDDR5

 

Fusion Drive

This leads us nicely to Fusion Drive, which is one of the highlights of the new iMac. Fusion Drive is a combination of a flash drive and traditional mechanical hard disk, and it borrows heavily from Intel’s Smart Response Technology and also the recently reviewed SanDisk ReadyCache, in that it stores frequently used applications and files on the flash drive, leaving the rest of your files on the mechanical hard disk. The idea behind this is so that users can have the best of both worlds - the performance of a flash drive and the capacity of a mechanical hard disk.

However, unlike Intel’s and SanDisk’s solutions, the flash drive and mechanical hard disk in Apple’s Fusion Drive is fused into a single volume. This means our iMac with its 128GB flash drive and 1TB mechanical hard disk has 1.1TB of storage in total. The same is true if you have specced your iMac with a 3TB mechanical hard disk - you’d have 3.1TB of storage in total.

Additionally, Fusion Drive doesn’t cache files in the traditional sense of the word. What actually happens is that Mountain Lion will automatically move frequently used files onto the flash drive and keeps files that you seldom use on the mechanical hard disk. And in true Apple fashion, this takes place behind the scenes and requires zero user intervention. We'll be running time tests later to see if Fusion Drive technology translates to any real world performance gains.

8.5
Design
9
Features
8.5
Performance
8.5
Value
7
The Good
Attractive, slim design
Good all-round performance
Better than expected discrete graphics
Fusion Drive technology
USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports
Brilliant display
The Bad
Expensive
No optical drive bay
No user upgradeable components
Audio subsystem is weak
Screen tilt limited