It's easy to forget that it's the iMac that really started off Apple's recent rise to the top of the computing charts. Everyone cites the iPod, iPhone and iPad as its big hitters but it was the quirky original iMac that actually started it all. While nearly every other PC on the market offered up dull, lifeless styling, Apple came to market with something that made technology fashionable, even cool.
But, it is true that the iMac's influence has dwindled in recent years with laptops now offering much of the compact, stylish appeal of an all-in-one PC, and full-size desktop towers still being the choice for those that need out and out raw power. So is there still a need for the new super-slim iMac in this near post-PC world?
Where the iMac continues to lead the charge is in design. The new super-slim iMac 2012 once again rewrites the rule book on PC design. We were actually rather skeptical of Apple's rhetoric about a slim-edge all-in-one PC, as after all, despite an impressively slim 5mm edge running all the way roung this machine, it still has a big old bulge in the middle to accommodate all the computer's electronics. But, in the flesh, the impact of those slim sides along with the premium aluminium and glass build materials and exquisite fit and finish, leaves a marked impression. Cynics may rightly point out that the fancy styling and build doesn't add anything practical and that its impact dims after a while but there's no denying the look and feel of this machine brings a smile to the face that lasts a good long while.
This is an impression that starts the moment you open the box too. The whole system comes complete, without the need for a single screw to put it together and just a single power cable being all that's needed to plug in and switch on. Even the included wireless keyboard and mouse are synced and ready to go – just press their respective power buttons and you're off.
After the initial touchy, feely wow factor has worn off, it doesn't take long to notice a few obvious issues, however.
The first is the iMac’s continued lack of height adjustment. It's a well established rule of thumb that to minimise back, neck and shoulder complaints due to sitting in front of a computer all day, you should have the top of your PC's display at eye level. This lack of adjustability means taller users will have to rely on a monitor platform or a couple of hardback books to raise their iMac to the right height.
You also can't pivot the display to be in portrait orientation, rotate it nor lay it flat. None is anything like as much of an issue as height adjustment – particularly as the slippery aluminium base easily allows the PC to be rotated – but it's worth noting nonetheless.
The other immediately obvious issue is the positioning of the connections. These are all ranged in a row on the back where they're out the way and lead cables away from the front of your desk, keeping everything looking nice and tidy. Great, except it's a right chore to plug anything in. So if you regularly use SD cards or USB sticks or have various cables for different accessories, it's a real faff having to poke around the back.
Overall, though, the first impression is still very good - this is another stunner.
As well as being rather awkwardly positioned, connectivity on the new 21in iMac is only okay. Four USBs is on par, as is an SD card slot and Ethernet port (plus there’s built in Wi-Fi), while two super high-speed Thunderbolt ports allow for fast connection to external hard drives or even Apple’s Thunderbolt monitor, among many other things. However, you do miss out on any extra video inputs for plugging in, for instance, a games console, TV input or Blu-ray player. Again, okay but nothing special.