Apple iMac (2013)

Anyone who bought last year's redesigned iMac doesn't need to upgrade, but for owners of older models or anyone looking to switch, the latest 27-inch Apple iMac offers a wide-ranging set of internal upgrades.

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It's telling that the latest set of updates to Apple's iMac all-in-one desktop were not announced at one of the company's regular stage shows. Instead, the new iMac slipped quietly into Apple's Web site, the news announced via an understated press release posted early the same morning. That's because the updates are internal, putting new hardware inside an iMac body that received a major makeover in 2012.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The current iMac design blew a lot of minds when first unveiled by Apple in October 2012. The artful photography and clever angles made the system look completely flat, although once you got to see it in person, you could see that the rear panel curves out in the center. The bowl-like panel and curved one-piece stand make this among the most organic-feeling of Apple's products, which is fitting for an all-in-one.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

We didn't notice any changes to the system exterior for this 2013 update. The iMac still has last year's less-reflective screen, hidden memory slots, and rear-panel-only ports. As with most all-in-one PCs, and nearly every Apple computer (except the Mac Pro), there's no easy user access to components — except for the RAM, this is essentially a sealed system, unless you're willing to do some warranty-voiding surgery.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The standard Apple wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse have been static for a few generations of hardware now. The keyboard is still top-notch; it's compact, but with large, deep keys, and a logical layout. The mouse is certainly a widely used model, and has its fans, but it's never been one of my favourites, perhaps because my reflexes are so tied into the physical click of separate left and right mouse buttons and a physical scroll wheel.


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

In a single row on the back of the display chassis, you'll find four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt/Mini DisplayPort connections, an SD card slot, Ethernet jack, and headphone plug. Above the row of connections, a small trap door allows you to access the system's RAM to change the modules.

Our 27-inch iMac is the higher-end of two 27-inch base models, with the addition of a Fusion Drive combining a 1TB HDD and 128GB of SSD storage. This configuration takes advantage of the new PCIe connection for faster flash modules, and the total comes out to AU$2,499. The base high-end model includes just the 1TB HDD for AU$2,199.

The 3.4GHz Intel Core i5 in our review sample is more than fast enough for just about any task, or series of tasks, and matches up well with other Haswell systems we've tested. In our benchmark tests, the Core i5 iMac held its own against a couple of Core i7 all-in-one desktops, and was much faster than the Haswell-powered 13-inch MacBook Air that was released a few months ago.

It's great to have a high-powered GPU in a non-gaming system, in this case the newish Nvidia GeForce 775M. Video and photo applications may benefit, and the system can drive two external displays, but it's also starting to be a lot easier to be a Mac gamer.

Two excellent 2013 games, BioShock Infinite and Metro: Last Light, are both available on Mac now, although some would call them incomplete versions. While we use those games as PC benchmarks, on the OS X versions, most of the graphics options are unavailable and the Mac version of BioShock Infinite even caps the resolution at 1,600x900, which is a real shame for a 2,560x1,440 monitor.

Our old Mac standby, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, ran at 89 frames per second at the highest detail settings and full 2,560x1,440 resolution. On a 2012 iMac, the same game ran at 78.3 frames per second.


If you already own last year's slim iMac, there's no reason to upgrade. The new Haswell CPUs, Nvidia graphics cards, and faster Wi-Fi and flash storage are good to have, but don't radically alter the iMac experience. If you have an older model it's a more compelling case. And now that it has the latest parts, you don't need to worry about paying top dollar for out-of-date tech.


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