Graphics are a mixed bag on the new iMacs. The entry-level 20-incher
uses an entry-level ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT, while the second-tier
20-incher and entry-level 24-inch models get an ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro,
which is pretty average.
For £90, you can upgrade the entry-level 24-incher to the latest Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS card with 512MB of dedicated GDDR3 memory. This card comes standard on the most expensive 24-inch version. It's a good addition for anyone doing lots of graphics-intensive work or 3D modeling, but it doesn't really make the iMac a better choice for gamers, due to the comparatively small library of Mac-compatible games.
The iMac's display is generally very good, as you might expect.
The 24-inch model is especially nice to look at, thanks to its ample
1,920x1,200-pixel resolution. Our only gripe is the fact the display
has a glossy finish, which can be too reflective. It's best used in
rooms with perfectly diffuse lighting.
All iMacs ship with an 8x dual-layer DVD rewriter, an Airport Extreme wireless adaptor that supports 802.11b/g and Draft-N standards, Bluetooth, iLife '08 and a pre-installed copy of the OS X Leopard operating system.
We were impressed with the 24-inch iMac's showing last year, and this latest update showed marked improvement on CNET.com's multitasking test as well as with CineBench. We weren't surprised to see iTunes performance stay the same, since it's largely dependent on CPU clockspeed. What we didn't expect was a 22 per cent increase on our multimedia multitasking benchmark compared with that of last year's model.
On CineBench 10 -- a 3D rendering test that taxes the CPU and graphics subsystems -- the new iMac outpaced the older 24-inch model by 8 per cent, which is about the margin we'd expect between two systems released seven months apart. This iMac's faster frontside bus, faster memory and larger L2 cache each play a role in its improved performance over last year's model, as does the new version of Leopard (10.5.2), we suspect.
The iMac is still the best all-in-one PC on the market. We love the physical design of the system, and the new components on the inside make it very quick. Our only real gripe is the fact it's difficult to upgrade after purchasing, and upgrading at the point of purchase will cost you an arm and a leg. Overall, though, we think it's a better bet than an XPS One.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday