Apple iMac (summer 2010) review: Apple iMac (summer 2010)

The Lenovo all-in-one PC we reviewed is the closest to the iMac performancewise, but that's not saying too much. The HP and Sony systems mentioned above might fare better, the HP especially since it at least has the mobile version of Intel's Core i7 CPUs. However, from all indications on paper and in our lab, the 27-inch iMac is the fastest all-in-one currently available. We included the $1,199 Gateway FX6840-03e tower desktop to illustrate that you can still build a standard PC that can compete with the iMac for a much lower cost. For all-in-one purists, the iMac is the clear choice if productivity is your top priority.

Steam games (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Maximum settings (2,560x1,440)  
Recommend settings (2,560x1,440)  
Team Fortress 2
40 
68 
Portal
43 
72 

We can also report positively about the iMac as a gaming platform. Yes, the Mac gaming library is still limited compared with that of Windows, but Valve Software's recent release of a Mac version of its Steam digital game distribution service has already paid off with Valve bringing its popular first-person games Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 to Macs. The three games we tested all use Valve's Source 3D graphics engine, so we can't say that you'll see similar scores across all titles available for the Mac. Still, we were glad to see that even at full resolution and maximum image quality settings, the iMac was able to handle all three games relatively well. Using the more forgiving "recommended" settings for each game (as denoted by an asterisk in each game's video options tab), we saw even better performance with relatively little drop-off in image quality.

Even before Valve came along, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Diablo-maker Blizzard Software has historically been committed to the Mac platform. Doom and Quake-developer id Software has also shown similar loyalty. Among those three vendors, that's an impressive array of quality games available for the Mac, and the list is growing. Popular role playing game Dragon Age: Origins also has a Mac version, and the cloud gaming service OnLive supports a variety of titles that work with OS X. Windows PCs will remain the gaming enthusiasts' primary choice because of their upgradeability, at least for the foreseeable future; however, with the expanded Mac gaming library and this system's fast new ATI graphics card, we can confidently recommend this iMac for gaming.

Aside from our gripes about the iMac's video inputs, we're relatively happy with the other ports on the back of this system. You get four USB 2.0 port, a pair of audio jacks, a FireWire 800 port, and an Ethernet adapter. Both eSATA and USB 3.0 are faster data throughput options than FireWire 800, so those who face bottlenecks from large data transfers might feel some frustration at Apple's loyalty to the IEEE 1394 standard. For most consumers, the iMac's existing ports will be sufficient.

Juice box
Apple iMac 27-inch (2.8GHz Intel Core i5) Average watts per hour
Off 0.85
Sleep 1.19
Idle 41.83
Load 238.64
Raw (annual kWh) 237.39162
Energy Star compliant Yes
Annual power consumption cost $26.94

Annual power consumption cosst
Apple iMac 27-inch
$20.09 

As usual, Apple's power management skill is evident in this iMac. We always appreciate a desktop that is both more efficient and faster than competing systems. As with the 21.5-inch iMac, we noted that this 27-inch model was extremely hot on the back panel, especially after gaming. A handheld laser thermometer showed temperatures as high as 118 degrees over the area on the back panel we assume concealed the graphics card. Most other all-in-ones we've tested come in around 85 degrees. You'll want to be sure to keep the iMac in a place where it has plenty of ventilation to avoid it overheating.

Finally, we continue to find Apple's service and support policies cynically structured to encourage you to spend money. You get 90 days of toll-free support and a yearlong warranty by default. After that, you can either refer to Apple's Web site, a Genius Bar, an Apple-authorized service provider, or pay $169 for three years of phone service via AppleCare, which also extends your warranty to three years. That all-or-basically nothing approach for phone support puts Apple at odds with the rest of the PC industry that typically includes at least a year of phone support, if not a lifetime of coverage, at no additional charge.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Acer Aspire Z5700-U2112
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Apple iMac (21.5-inch, Summer 2010)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.4; 3.06GHz Intel Core i3; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.4; 3.06GHz Intel Core i3; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Gateway FX6840-03e
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 860; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5770; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 08873AU
Windows 7 Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S; 6GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 250M; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

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About The Author

Rich Brown is an executive editor for CNET Reviews. He has worked as a technology journalist since 1994.