Apple iMac (spring 2011) review: Apple iMac (spring 2011)

Two other performance notes we should point out: First, as evidenced by its Call of Duty 4 performance, the new iMac is a far more capable gaming system than the previous entry-level iMac. Second, the Gateway FX6850-51u, a traditional desktop available for $999, illustrates that if you don't care about looks, you can still generally get better performance for your dollar from a standard midtower computer.

If the HP is competitive in performance with the iMac on certain tests, it does not offer the same design as the iMac, nor does it have an input comparable with the iMac's Thunderbolt port. Those may be small considerations for some, and in keeping with the HP's $250 cost savings. They may also argue for an apparent performance boost if Apple were to add a graphics chip option to the iMac that allowed for 1GB of video RAM. Overall, and particularly for the performance-inclined who will take advantage of the iMac's Thunderbolt port, Apple's most affordable all-in-one provides strong performance for its price category.

The iMac's other new features are relatively straightforward. The built-in Web cam now supports Apple's FaceTime video chat software, and will let iMac users chat with iOS-device owning friends. Its other ports remain the same as on previous models. You get four USB 2.0 inputs, a FireWire 800 port, two audio ports, and an Ethernet input. The Thunderbolt port can act as a Mini DisplayPort input and output, although you can't currently use the new iMac as a second monitor, at least not with a Mini DisplayPort cable. Whether you can use it as such with a Thunderbolt cable when they become available remains to be seen.

Juice box
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz Intel Core i5 2400, Spring 2011)  
Off (watts) 0.36
Sleep (watts) 1.19
Idle (watts) 33.85
Load (watts) 95.89
Raw (annual kWh) 148.03962
EnergyStar compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $16.80

Annual power consumption cost
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz Core i5 2400, Spring 2011)
Gateway FX6850-51u (3.4GHz Core i7 2600, Spring 2011)
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (3.0GHz Core i3 540, Spring 2010)
HP Omni 200 5380qd (2.8GHz Core i5 760, Spring 2011)
Dell Inspiron One 2305 (2.4GHz Phenom II X4 610e, Winter 2010)

Apple used to dominate our power efficiency charts, but Intel's own efforts to reduce its CPU's energy consumption have enabled others to stand out on our power draw tests. The AMD-powered Dell is the only outlier, and the difference is remarkable, and a little depressing for AMD considering the Dell's similarly poor performance on our benchmark tests.

Apple's phone support receives high customer satisfaction ratings, but, as always, we wish it were available to customers beyond the first 90 days of purchase without having to pay $169 for an AppleCare coverage plan. Apple's network of in-person help via its Genius Bar and its authorized service providers remains unique as well, but for desktop customers in particular, extended phone-based help would be far more convenient.

The 21.5-inch, $1,199 iMac does not offer the same clear advantage over its Windows-based competition as Apple's 27-inch model. Still, the entry-level iMac offers enough speed, and the unique potential of its Thunderbolt port, to warrant anyone in need of a relatively affordable all-in-one for digital media creation or performance-sensitivity giving it serious consideration.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (2.5GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 2400; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 27-inch (3.1GHz, Summer 2011)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5 2500; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 6970M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Apple iMac 21.5-inch (3.1GHz, Spring 2010)
Apple OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.7; 3.0GHz Intel Core i5 540; 4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB AMD Radeon HD 4670M graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive

Dell Inspiron One 2305
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.4GHz AMD Phenom II X4 610e; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5470 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

HP Omni 200 5380qd
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 760; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 5570; 1TB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive

Gateway FX6850-51u
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit; 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 2600; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1.5GB Nvidia GeForce GT440 graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive

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