Along with the upgraded internals, connectivity is another
area where things have taken a significant step forward. Along the right edge,
Apple has incorporated the usual memory card reader and slot-loading DVD-rewriter.
The card reader takes SDXC, so it’s well up to the latest standard. However, for
those hoping that – this time around – they would finally get in on the
high-definition movie action with a Blu-ray drive, dream on.
Frankly, this is one of the iMac’s major remaining failings.
After all, it’s all very well for Steve Jobs to decide Apple users don’t need
or want Blu-ray in their machines, but we’re sure there are quite a few who
disagree – especially since its IPS-panel screen makes for nicer viewing than
most rivals (excepting the aforementioned HP TouchSmart 610, which also uses IPS).
At the back, there are 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks
(doing double duty as optical digital audio in and out), four USB 2.0 ports, a
FireWire connector, Gigabit Ethernet jack and that magical
Thunderbolt port, here in the shape of a mini DisplayPort connector. Thunderbolt (formerly known as Light
Peak) can use a connector
that’s physically identical to that of this graphics standard, but in addition
to DisplayPort’s impressive video capabilities it also gives you an independent
data link, making it a USB 3.0 alternative.
For more on USB 3.0, read our article: What is USB 3.0 and do you want it?. The advantage to Thunderbolt is that it
offers a whopping 10Gb/s bi-directional transfer rate, but USB 3.0 is – for now
and the near future – far more prevalent, and backwards compatible with USB
2.0. However, for the first time since FireWire’s glory days, we can now
finally say that Apple offers a fast connectivity standard for external
storage, even if there are very few compatible devices as yet.
On the wireless front, we’re given both Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth
The screen is a 21.5in affair with the Full
HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution you would expect from this size, giving you
plenty of desktop real estate and letting you watch 1080p videos in all their
detail. It features the almost-flawless viewing angles, accurate colours and
decent contrast an IPS panel provides, making for an excellent overall viewing
experience if you can get past the reflective glass layer. However, the
competition is catching up here, with the TouchSmart 610 once again providing
an apt comparison with its larger, 23in IPS panel.
If you want more resolution and an even larger screen,
Apple’s 27in iMac remains unmatched. Essentially the Apple Cinema Display 27in with a computer built-in, its 2,560 x 1,440 pixel
resolution will give you more pixels than your computer might be able to
handle. If the screen is your primary concern, it’s also worth noting that the
first-generation 27in iMac (with a Core 2 Duo processor) can now be had for
under £900, £100 less than the cheapest current 21.5in iMac.
Another area where iMacs have always been strong is on the
audio front, something the latest update certainly doesn’t change. Quite how
Apple manages to squeeze so much volume and bass from the iMac’s thin frame and
17watt, down-facing stereo speakers is beyond us, and though clarity is a
little lacking, for general entertainment you don’t really need external alternatives.