It's well over a year since we looked at the Apple iMac last. Back then it was the first outing of the current aluminium design and it received a glowing endorsement, bagging itself an Editor's Choice Award. It's a testament to the quality of that machine that it's taken so long for Apple to update the range, but it has done just that and we've got the 24in version here for your perusal.
Our version is only the entry-level 24in model, but even so its specification is very generous. Directing proceedings is an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.66GHz. This is backed by a capacious 7,200rpm, 640GB hard drive as well as 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM. Both these parts can be upgraded, though Apple is up to its usual shenanigans here by making the 1TB hard drive an £80 upgrade (i.e. the cost of a single drive), while upgrading to 8GB of RAM costs an astonishing £800! It's just as well few people will need that much memory.
Other standard configurations include the 20in model, which sports the same processor as our version but has just 2GB RAM and a 320GB hard drive, while the other two 24in versions sport 2.93GHz and 3.06GHz CPUs, nVidia discrete graphics and, in the case of the top-of-the-range model, a 1TB hard drive.
At £949 it's worth noting that the 20in iMac is considerably more expensive than the old one, which started at just £799.99 at launch, but our entry-level 24in, which Apple sells for £1,199, actually looks like very good value given the lack of a cheaper 24in all-in-one - something you can't say about Apple too often. One can't help but feel, though, that Apple is trying to compel people to upgrade to the more expensive 24in version in pricing the 20in as it has.
Beyond these newly refreshed configurations the other big change for this year's iMac is the chipset which, like the new MacBook and Mac mini, is nVidia's 9400M integrated graphics effort. This is an obvious and positive move on Apple's part, since it's more than capable of dealing with most things that'll be thrown its way (including GPU accelerated applications) and for those that do need more grunt options are available.
Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 also come as standard, but it's disappointing to see that wireless keyboards and mice aren't. We can see why some might prefer the wired variety, but it's hard to escape the allure of a system that would effectively have only one wire (that for power) protruding from it. As it is you have to pay extra for both, though at least neither is extortionately expensive, with the wireless mouse costing £14 and the keyboard £20.
One thing that is included in the price, however, is iLife '09. This has always been one of the highlights of the Mac experience and, as our iLife review pointed out, that remains the case. iPhoto is particularly useful thanks to the addition of a nifty new face recognition system and Facebook integration, but every element of the suite exudes the usual Apple ease-of-use and comfort. So, given most would probably want to get it with their iMac anyway, we're pleased to see it aboard.