The top-of-the range 21.5-inch iMac sporting the Intel 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo processor is a great value in the current iMac lineup. Offered at £1039 + vat, the 21.5-inch iMac has an LED backlit display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. The display is driven by an ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card that's a pretty good boost over the stock NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card used in the base model iMac. The 21.5-inch iMac boasts the same performance as its larger sibling, the 27-inch iMac, but costs £130 less.
21.5-inch iMac Review: Overview
The iMac has long been Apple's consumer desktop. The iMac's all-in-one design is an appealing package that has driven consumer computing design for a decade.
The latest incarnation of the iMac brings stunning changes, not just in the LED backlit 21.5-inch display, but also in the well thought out base configuration. The deciding factors between the 21.5-inch iMac and the 27-inch iMac may be price and preferred display size.
Base Configuration of the 21.5-inch iMac
- 21.5-inch LED backlit glossy widescreen display
- 1920x1080 resolution (true 16:9 aspect ratio)
- 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
- 4 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 RAM
- 1 TB 7200 RPM hard drive
- ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor with 256 MB memory
- AirPort Extreme (802.11 a/b/g/n)
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
- Built-in iSight + microphone
- FireWire 800 port
- 4 USB 2.0 ports
- SD card slot
- Built-in stereo speakers
- 2 internal 17-watt amplifiers
- Headphone/optical digital audio out
- Audio line-in/optical in
- Mini DisplayPort
- Wireless keyboard
- Magic Mouse
21.5-inch iMac Review: Unpacking and Installation
Apple ships the iMac double boxed, with a nondescript brown shipping box on the outside and a white box complete with an Apple logo, a picture of the iMac, and a handy carrying handle inside.
Unpacking the 21.5-inch iMac is a straightforward task. Open the box and you'll see a small container right at the top that holds the keyboard, mouse, install DVDs, and instructions on setting up and using your iMac.
If you're like us, you'll quickly put those aside and move on to taking the iMac out of the box. The iMac is covered in a white spun foam sheet that is easily removed, revealing a clear plastic film that further protects the display, as well as the iMac's aluminum foot. After you remove these last pieces of shipping regalia, your iMac is ready for installation.
Before turning on the iMac for the first time you need to either plug in the keyboard and mouse or, as in our configuration, turn on the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse. You should also have your planned network connection ready to go. For us, that's a wired Ethernet cable. If you're using wireless, make sure you have your wireless router set to hand out IP addresses (DHCP; Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), so the iMac's built-in AirPort Extreme can connect to your network when powered on.
With all that in place, it's time to hit the power on button.
21.5-inch iMac Review: First Startup
If you're using a wired keyboard and mouse, your iMac will start right up, with a setup process that will configure the iMac and create an administrator user account. If you're using a wireless keyboard and mouse, you must first pair the iMac with the keyboard and mouse. This is a fairly straightforward process, except that the instructions for how to turn the keyboard on or off aren't clear.
We were repeatedly told that no keyboard was detected. It turns out you have to press and hold the power on button on the keyboard until the indicator light blinks to indicate that it's powered on. With that out of the way, the keyboard was recognised and we were ready to start the installation.
The first startup is straightforward. You'll be walked through the process, which includes selecting a default language, setting time and time zone, and creating the administrator account. You can also register your iMac with Apple, though registration is optional. There's no activation process like the one found in Windows systems.
Once you complete the first startup configuration, you'll be presented with the desktop and be ready to start enjoying your 21.5-inch iMac.
21.5-inch iMac Review: The 21.5-inch Display
Apple uses an IPS (In-Plane Switching) LCD panel. IPS panels are known for a very wide viewing angle, colour accuracy, and above average image quality. The panel is backlit by LEDs that produce a uniform backlight that helps boost the 21.5-inch iMac's overall brightness, as well as its high contrast range.
When you're sitting at the iMac, you'll notice that the display is bright and uniform, with little or no colour shift when viewed off angle. That's a big plus, especially once you start using your iMac to view HD movies with a friend or two. Speaking of HD content, the 21.5-inch iMac display has a 1920x1080 pixel resolution. This works out to a true 16:9 aspect ratio, the same ratio most TV HD content and many movies use.
This same widescreen aspect ratio works very well for working with applications. The 21.5 iMac can easily display a document, plus any tools, menus, and palettes associated with its application. Even with all of these in view, there is room left over for a few gadgets or easy access to the desktop.
Unlike the 27-inch model, the 21.5-inch iMac's display lacks the ability to use the Mini DisplayPort as a video input port.