Having rebuffed the urge to talk design at the beginning of this review, we can resist no longer. Despite the design not changing one iota, it’s hard to get away from the sheer economy and simplicity of the iMac. Its aluminium shell looks and feels sublime and is beautifully counterpointed by the glossy black bezel and the Apple logo below the screen.
This design flair is matched with unrivalled build quality. One must only tilt the screen to understand this, since the hinge is so effortlessly smooth that the whole machine can be adjusted with just one finger – you can see this even better in the video review. During operation it also remains whisper quiet, while the smooth hinge is robust enough to keep the iMac perfectly stable.
Around the back the seamless simplicity is maintained thanks to the gently arching, smooth black plastic casing and the beautifully integrated power socket – positioned centrally so the cable can be easily routed through the cable management hole in the stand.
As is Apple’s habit, connectivity isn’t prodigious but it only really lacks the more niche connections like eSATA. As such you do get four USB ports (two more can be found on the keyboard), a Gigabit Ethernet port, a mini-DisplayPort output, FireWire 800 and line-out/in ports for audio. We will re-iterate the usual complaint about the mini-DisplayPort output since it requires an adapter to work with any monitor, but it does support Dual-Link DVI and therefore 30in monitors. Moreover, given this is an all-in-one, it’s less likely to be utilised anyway unless you’re a professional in need of more desktop real-estate or a colour matched monitor.
As for the display itself it is, for the most part, a fine effort. It’s very sharp, bringing out detail in high-definition video very well and producing sharp readable text, while its large desktop area is obviously near perfect for Full HD video – black bars be damned! Colour accuracy is also very pleasing with each step in our colour scales being reproduced correctly. Dark level detail isn’t quite as proficient, but nonetheless pretty good, while the black level itself is good for an LCD and enhanced by the predictably reflective glossy panel.
Our only concern regards some significant banding present in gradients. We struggled to identify this problem in normal usage scenarios and a regular consumer probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but in our eyes this rules out the iMac for colour-sensitive work. How important this issue is rather depends on your standpoint. We’d argue that, despite the rhetoric stating otherwise, the iMac is inherently ill-suited to true colour-critical work in normal office lighting due to the glossy finish where reflections can distort the perception of colour. That said, iMac’s are used widely in such circles especially in rooms with controlled lighting where the glossy finish can do its job of enhancing colour saturation and contrast, so the banding is a concern. We’d add, too, that it’s quite possible this is an issue isolated to our sample and unless we looked for it we probably wouldn’t have noticed it, but it is there.