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Apple iMac 2012 21.5in

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


21.5in iMac 2012 - Keyboard

Taking a closer look at those included peripherals. They're also stylish yet flawed. The keyboard offers only a laptop-like compact design with squashed cursor and Enter keys and no numpad. For experienced typists both of these issues are quite aggravating. Otherwise, the overall layout and key action is good for a slim design, and in fact despite our reservations we were quite able to touchtype at a reasonable pace.

21.5in iMac 2012 - Magic Mouse

However, much more fundamentally flawed is the so called Magic Mouse. It's quite clever thanks to its entire top surface being touch sensitive, allowing you to perform multi-touch gestures such as those for 360 degree scrolling, for swiping forward and back through picture galleries or websites and flicking between different desktops, but it's just not very nice to use. The ergonomics are such that it's rather difficult to grip, and performing those gestures isn't exactly effortless. You do get used to it after a while but overall we'd much rather use a 'proper' mouse for gaming, picture editing etc, and have an Apple Trackpad on hand for general navigation.

21.5in iMac 2012 - Screen

Things aren't exactly right back on course when we turn the new 21in iMac on. Its screen is certainly dazzling but those used to Retina iPhones, iPads and Macbooks will be disappointed at the relatively low 1920 x 1080 resolution on offer here. By all means it's a typical (even good) resolution for this size of screen but once you've seen Retina, it's hard to go back, not least because here on this larger screen (as compared to the relatively small screens of laptops and ipads) is where the option for a really high resolution would come in most handy – double 1920 x 1080 to 3840 x 2160 and you've got a seriously large desktop to play around with.

But, at least Apple has got most of the other key factors spot on. Viewing angles are essentially flawless with no colour distortion when viewed from off-centre and an absolutely minimal contrast drop off. Colour saturation is also excellent, giving images real pop, and the anti-reflective treatments on the glass front mean the screen doesn't distract by simple reflecting your own face right back at you.

There are a couple of slip ups in the form of slightly below par dark detailing, which takes the richness out of dark scenes in movies in particular, and there's fairly noticeable backlight bleed too, which again becomes noticeable when something dark is onscreen. So all told, graphics professionals and movie buffs may want to look elsewhere, but for general use it's an impressive display.

Above the screen sits the webcam which is ‘iSight’ class so offer 5megapixel still photos and 720p HD video, as well as surprisingly good noise cancelling microphones for picking up your voice when making calls.

21.5in iMac 2012 - Audio

If things have been a bit up and down so far, there is one area where the new 21in iMac wants for nothing. Despite its diminutive chassis and no dedicated sub-woofer, this machine sounds, frankly, astonishing. We were quite prepared for the room-filling overall volume, the fine upper-range detail and spacious stereoscopic impression but the amount of bass on offer really took us by surprise. Testing it with raucous action movie sequences and even more raucous music it didn't miss a beat, providing satisfying, engaging audio throughout. By all means it’s not exactly windows shattering and some dedicated speakers will offer more oomph, but you'd have to be spending well over £100 to offer an upgrade worth the extra clutter and bulk.


October 24, 2012, 2:27 am

If you told me these are what computers will look like in 50 years time, I'd almost believe you. The new iMac looks like what I'd imagine a computer of the future to look like.

Very impressive design - I can't quite believe they've packed a fully functional PC into such a thin form factor.


October 24, 2012, 3:48 am

Just wondering why there has been a complete redesign and no Retina display added. Now that the tech has been adopted by Iphones, Ipads, MBPs it seems like a step back not to include it in the new Imac.
Is the reasoning
1. Just can't make an affordable 27" retina display
2. The argument that you sit so far away from a desktop that retina DPI is not needed.

All I know is that now I have my rMBP i would not consider buy the Imac as I view it as a step down.


October 24, 2012, 12:07 pm

You forgot to mention the slow 5400rpm HDDs in the new iMacs. Your article isn't very clear on the RAM-issue either. The 21.5" iMac is either stuck with 8GB or 16GB of RAM from the factory. There's no room for upgrades along the way.

I find it odd to include such slow hardware in 2012/2013 when 7200rpm is the standard today in high-end computers and SSD is ready to take over "soon". There are already heavy debates on various Mac-forums on this matter. The 5400rpm HDD choice from Apple is probably due to the new iMac's form factor. My guess is it's a 2.5" HDD.
Still, I wish they've made it a tiny bit more bulkier and add a 3.5" 7200rpm instead. While I still love the design, it's a 21.5"-27" stationary computer, it doesn't need to be THAT slim or light.

The retina exclusion this year is due to production costs. The technology is there but at the given time it's very expensive to include on the iMac. My _guess_ is we won't see iMacs with retina displays until 2014.


October 24, 2012, 6:08 pm

I currently use a late 2009 27in i7 iMac, and had a retina display been included in the current updates I probably would have upgraded. I'm sure many will be won over by the new thinner form factor, but as its a desktop machine I'm not really fussed and will hold on to my old iMac for the time being. My guess is that we may see iMacs with retina displays any time before late next year, with 2014 looking like a safer bet.


October 25, 2012, 1:10 pm

Hi there!!! I'm a videographer/photographer guy and been using mac since 2004. I need DVD in that iMac upgrade. I do weddings and brides want a DVD with their face on it… The DVD they provide at your cost will block a USB port that I need for other stuff… Firewire will need adapters also extra from your pocket... Good machine thou. Think it'll be really fast. Shame they don't think in audio/video people anymore…


October 25, 2012, 9:10 pm

"1. Just can't make an affordable 27" retina display"

This I think is a part of the issue, as a retina display would cost more to implement. However, more than any of these points, the reason we aren't seeing retina display iMacs, IMHO, is that the machines are not yet able to handle the graphics workload that it would require.

The current 27" iMac is already running at a resolution of 2560-by-1440. Retina display would quadruple the number of pixels the graphics card needs to render, bringing it up to something along the lines of 5120-by-2880. This would require a much better graphics card than the iMacs currently pack, in order to achieve the same level of performance. This would also add an additional bump to the price as well.

I am sure that retina displays are coming in the future for iMacs, I think it is just a matter of the technology becoming more feasible/affordable.


January 3, 2013, 2:18 pm

You can't really complain about the lacking retina-display in these desktops without knowing how much resource it would require from the hardware to render it properly. You'll need a powerhouse to be able to display the details at "retina scale" - especially if we're discussing the 27" model. However, I don't think hardware is the bottleneck here - it's the price. If you complain about how expensive the iMac line already is, including the recent price bump, then you'll get a heart-attack if you saw the prices AFTER Apple implemented retina-displays in their iMac line. It's would be insanely expensive. I'll even doubt you'll see retina displays on Apple desktops in 2013.

You'll also have to factor the iMac's "new shape". A retina display that big is going to cause serious heat in that tiny aluminum body.

The other thing is, is a retina-display really necessary on a 21.5-27" high resolution screen which your face isn't glued to like on laptops? I think there are other things we need to worry about.

I think this review is lacking and holding back on a lot of serious questions. The base 21.5" iMac isn't upgradable at all except for the hard drive - which is only at 5400RPM. You don't even have the permission to upgrade to the "Fusion Drive". You'll need to buy the more expensive 21.5" version to get that opportunity. Clever (and greedy) business move by Apple but the consumer is to pay.
The RAM on both of the 21.5" models are not "user upgradable". You CAN do it yourself but it'll take patience, steady hands and a heat gun + you'll need to buy some new adhesive for the screen. Yeah, that's right gentlemen - Apple decided to use super glue to hold the glass this time instead of magnets.

Yes, the new design is flashy if you're coming from an iMac G5 or the first 2007 model but nothing much has happened since then - and that's actually a good thing because it works and still looks classy. However, the new "slim design" isn't made for the consumer. It's made entirely for Apple. Can you imagine how much the production costs will be cut down due to minimizing the use of aluminum? And how much Apple will save on shipping costs? They'll be able to ship more units for the same costs or lower compared to the bulkier 2011 iMac.

Clever business moves by Apple but again, the consumer will pay. And I mean literally because oddly enough the new iMac has gone up in price. Suddenly, a subtly upgraded 21.5" iMac is getting closer to the 27" model in terms of price. My guess is that in time Apple will discontinue the 21.5" and stick with the 27".

I was ready to ditch my Mid 2011 iMac for the new 2012 version. When I saw how many disadvantages the new one had over the prior model I came to the conclusion that I was better off with my current one.

For the money, the base 21.5" used to be a good bargain if you wanted the best "All-in-one" solution that was user-upgradable. Now, with the current iMac it's one step forward, two steps back.

Glenn Gore

January 4, 2013, 10:45 am

One thing this review missed is that now there is only ONE audio port, which handles both input and output. Earlier iMacs had separate input and output ports. So if you have something like an external satellite or whatever player you would like to listen to, and a set of really good speakers with subwoofer, etc, you can no longer use both these devices at the same time. A pretty significant step backwards IMO.

August Studios

January 4, 2013, 4:45 pm

My 27" 2012 iMac arrived yesterday and I went 27" mainly due to how crippled the 21" appears. I have upgradeable Ram upto 32Gb over the 16Gb max on the 21 (have 32 kit coming from Crucial) and a 7200 HDD and a fair bit extra grunt. I dont game but I live in Final Cut Studio 3 and recently CS6 Prem Pro/After Effects et al and `Im more than pleased with the performance of the new iMac its a massive bump over my 2011 15' MBP. Over all money well spent

August Studios

January 4, 2013, 5:01 pm

Hi Pirugoro although I already knew they didnt come with a Superdrive I rang Apple enquiring about my options and they threw it in with the order as Id been waiting over a month for it. As for £25 for a Firewire adaptor its a pain but these things happen, new standards come along and old ones get pushed back but whats in place of the dropped Firewire port is very special indeed. I saw a Thunderbolt drive demo with Final Cut Pro and they are staggering, so in this instance they have us photo/video people well and truly covered. In our industry more than most things can become obsolete quick as a flash. Wont be long before the fortune we invested in CF cards is wiped out by something new. Nature of the beast Im afraid. However it is a very nice machine


January 4, 2013, 6:15 pm

The base 21'5" is severely crippled compared to the 21.5" mid 2011 iMac. If you want to upgrade the new 21.5" specifications you're going to pay more than the 27" base model which still has a 7200rpm HDD, better GFX, bigger screen and upgradeable RAM plus the option to upgrade to a Fusion drive - as standard!


January 5, 2013, 12:06 pm

I don't know where to begin with this review. Why is he comparing iPhones and iPads to a desktop all-in-one? Show me another desktop display that has Retina-quality pixel pitch and he will have a point.
If you don't like the keyboard you can switch to a full-sized wired version at no cost, which also cures the USB port problem — likewise the mouse can be substituted for a trackpad at no cost.

Do your research please!


January 5, 2013, 12:11 pm

Not true about needing a 'powerhouse' to display retina graphics. The 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display has an NVIDIA GeForce GT650M graphics chip and a resolution of 2880 x 1800 — more than even a 27" iMac. It wouldn't take that much more to drive retina graphics on that size of a display, especially since the graphics on the iMac easily supports simultaneous display on up to three monitors at 2560 x 1440.

August Studios

January 6, 2013, 11:25 am

Its baffling why they made it so difficult to upgrade and crippled the max specs Im sure there are people who just dont have the room for the 27". Then again Ive been a Mac user 15+ years now and baffling choices from Apple are nothing new


September 24, 2013, 4:02 pm

I wouldn't call a Fusion drive a subtle upgrade. It's a very noticeable speed increase.


September 24, 2013, 4:06 pm

you say it would require a much better graphics card. Say one graphics card that would work at this resolution, because I can't think of one.

Mike Christie

September 25, 2013, 12:15 pm

7200 RPM 2.5" hard drives exist - this move is just cost paring on Apple's part.

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