Pros: Powerful; very affordable; high-resolution screen.
Cons: Glossy screen; limited upgrading.
Many creatives have snubbed it in the past, favouring instead the two-chip power, larger RAM capacity and multiple drives of the Mac Pro workstation. But with the latest Xeon chips having pushed the Mac Pro’s price into the stratosphere, the iMac is now worth consideration.
Most of the front of our iMac is taken up by a 27-inch screen (there’s also a 21-inch version). This boasts a mighty 2,560-x-1,440 resolution, which allows you to see every detail in high-res artworks and layouts; you can even view HD video full size within After Effects’ interface. Colour representation is also excellent. There’s one minor flaw – it’s glossy and under bright light the glare can be annoying.
Our test unit has a 2.93GHz Intel Core i7 chip, which is only available as a build-to-order option. With four cores chugging away together and 8GB of RAM, this is fast enough for most graphics tasks. It’s only in video effects and 3D rendering that you really notice the extra oomph of the Mac Pro’s extra chip or RAIDed hard drives.
The latest refresh added the option of a solid state system drive alongside the main hard drive, and our test unit has a 256GB SSD and a 2TB media drive, easily enough for most creatives. The iMac makes short work of real-time 3D demands, as it has an ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics chip with 1GB of RAM.
The compromises I mentioned earlier come from the iMac’s monitor-style layout. Adding extra RAM is relatively easy but additional storage has to added externally – and there’s no eSATA port. This severely limits the iMac’s usefulness for those working with video – but for graphics, this is an excellent system.