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Apple iMac 21.5in (2012) review



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Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • Apple iMac 21.5in (2012)
  • iMac 2012 21.5in
  • Imac 2012


Our Score:



  • Stunning design
  • Good quality display
  • Incredible speakers for the size
  • Good overall performance


  • Limited adjustability and upgradeability
  • Not for gamers
  • No touchscreen
  • Expensive

Key Features

  • Super slim 5mm edges
  • 8GB RAM
  • Intel Core i5 processors
  • 1TB hard drive or 'Fusion' drive options
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £1,099.99


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?

21.5n iMac 2012 - Video Review

21.5n iMac 2012 - Design

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.

21.5n iMac 2012 - Ergonomics

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.

21.5n iMac 2012 - Connectivity

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.


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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