The components inside the iMac are hardly lightweight in this generation. Even the entry-level 21.5in model gets the same 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of RAM featured in the standard 27in system, although the graphics chip improves from the integrated nVidia GeForce 9400m in the entry-level system to a dedicated ATI Radeon HD 4670 in the step-up 21.5in and entry 27in iMac.
The real show stopper, however, is the top-end 27in iMac, which comes with a 2.66GHz Core i5 CPU and ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics. If a mere quad-core CPU isn’t good enough, you could even step up to a 2.8GHz Core i7 processor, which adds hyper threading to the mix although it will cost you £160 to do so. The other upgrade you might consider – moving to 8GB of RAM – is at least cheaper now as the new iMac has four slots (up from two) so you don’t have to pay Apple’s crazy 4GB DIMM prices.
Thanks to these new processor options, the hardware inside the iMac should no longer be a deterrent to those looking for a desktop system for image or video editing. Even if you are doing computationally intensive enough work to stress a Core i7 CPU, the use of a half-decent graphics chip means there’s always the option of having OpenCL-based GPU-acceleration offload some of that pressure – just so long as the software you’re using supports it.
Such spec boosts shouldn’t be necessary for the overwhelming majority, however. The system I’ve been using, which ‘only’ has a Core 2 Duo CPU, doesn’t exactly feel sluggish. Snow Leopard’s speed enhancements make this system even more of a joy to use than the 24in iMac we looked at earlier this year, especially considering this system offers more than 60 per cent more desktop real estate for less than 13 per cent more money than its predecessor. It’s certainly better value than a similarly-priced 2002 Chateau Haut Brion at any rate.
The package is better this time, too. A wireless keyboard and mouse are now included in the price, whereas before you’d have to pay to upgrade from the wired versions. Even more crucially, the mouse is petty special, being the Mighty Mouse’s successor, the aptly named Magic Mouse.
In true Apple style, the Magic Mouse is a statement in minimalistic design. Gone are buttons and scroll wheels, replaced with a single, multi-touch sensing surface, in effect acting as one giant button. Not only does it look fantastic, it’s also very comfortable to use after a few minutes adjustment to the idea of having no specific points to press on. And the shape makes it no less easy to use for left- or right-handers.
As you’d expect, left and right clicks are differentiated by which side of the mouse is clicked, and scrolling is simply a matter of moving a finger over the surface of the mouse but with the added bonus of there being no axis so, if a program supports it, you can scroll in absolutely any direction you like.
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Those are all single finger actions, so what about multi-touch? Easy, swipe two fingers on the Magic Mouse to skip forwards or backwards in any program with those functions, be that Safari, Keynote, iPhoto or any other. At first I wasn’t sure how much I liked the action – I kept on moving the mouse in the process – but after 20 minutes or so it became natural and I’m now loathe to go back to a ‘normal’ mouse. Best of all, there’s absolutely nothing stopping Apple from adding more gestures (I outright begged two of Apple’s product managers for pinch-to-zoom) in the future.