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Apple iMac 27-inch 2011 review

Is the high-end iMac more powerful than you need?

Apple imac 27 inch  2011

As you'd expect, this top-of-the-range 27-inch 2011 iMac augmented by a processor upgrade excelled in our benchmarking tests. But with the entry-level 2011 iMac putting a performance that rivals the previous generation's most expensive model, does the average home user really need this much power?

Our Cinebench rendering test looks at how well the computer copes with complicated 3D graphics. Restricting it to a single processing core, this 3.4GHz Core i7 iMac proved just under 33.5% faster than its top-of-the-range predecessor.

Yet the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac in the current range beat the most expensive 2010 model too, proving almost 15% faster.

When all cores are used, the Core i7 chip's Hyper Threading feature comes into its own. With the rendering tasks spread over eight virtual cores, it proved over 62% faster than the top 2010 iMac, the 27-inch SSD, while the entry-level model in the 2011 range was almost 7% ahead.

In our QuickTime encoding test, we time how long it takes QuickTime 7 Pro to encode a five-minute, 720x480 sample video. This 27-inch Core i7 iMac completed the task in a very impressive 98 seconds, over half a minute faster than its 2010 equivalent's 131 seconds.

But the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac also proved quicker, encoding in 128 seconds. When testing the frame rate offered by the popular Mac game Doom 3, the entry-level 2011 iMac's 169.7 frames per second couldn't match the best 2010 model's 178 fps, but both were significantly behind the Core i7 iMac under review here, which achieved an excellent 244.3 fps.

In our Xbench test, which looks at the computer's CPU, memory and hard drive performance, it scored a very respectable 196.54.

Although this customised top-of-the-range 27-inch 2011 Apple iMac puts in an impressive performance, with the £800-cheaper entry-level 21.5-inch 2011 iMac holding its own against even the best 2010 model, is this this one worth the extra money?

Naturally, the 27-incher has more to offer over the sub-£1,000 21.5-inch iMac than just raw power. Its gorgeous 27-inch, LED-backlit IPS screen will certainly endear it to professional designers and video editors, as long as they're happy with its glossy finish. Apple still doesn't offer a matte option.

The 27-inch iMacs also have two Thunderbolt ports, while the 21.5-inch models only have one, and it's much better served by online customisation options, allowing you to add a bigger hard drive, a solid state drive, a better graphics card or up to 16GB of memory.

However, ordering extra RAM as a custom-order option is unwise. It's much cheaper if you buy from third-party vendors, and easy to fit it yourself.

Given the performance of the entry-level 21.5-inch 2011 iMac, you have to ask whether it's worth paying so much more for this top-end model. Perhaps the cheaper iMacs are now so powerful, the pricier releases struggle to find their niche with the home user.

Tech Specs

Product TypeAll-in-One Computer
Green CompliantYes
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerATI
Graphics Controller ModelRadeon HD 5750
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeDVD-Writer
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Total Hard Drive Capacity1 TB
WebcamYes
DisplayPortYes
Product FamilyiMac
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
Brand NameApple
Form FactorDesktop
Processor Speed2.80 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size68.6 cm (27")
Screen Resolution2560 x 1440
Standard Memory4 GB
Processor CoreQuad-core (4 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR, EPEAT Gold
Memory Card ReaderYes
64-bit ProcessingYes
Number of Total Memory Slots4
Optical Media SupportedDVD±R/±RW
Dual-Layer Media SupportedYes
Graphics Memory CapacityUp to 1 GB
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11n
Number of Processors Installed1
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Backlight TechnologyLED
Total Number of USB Ports4
Memory StandardDDR3-1333/PC3-10600
Height518.2 mm
Width650.2 mm
Depth207 mm
Screen ModeWQHD
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMC511B/A
Product NameiMac MC511B/A Desktop Computer
Product LineiMac
Controller TypeSerial ATA
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberMC511B/A
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.apple.com/uk
Marketing Information

The new iMac 27-inch display with edge-to-edge glass covers nearly the entire front of the enclosure. When all you see is the display, nothing gets between you and what's on-screen. Movies, TV shows, websites, photos - everything looks stunning on the new 16:9 widescreen iMac display.

Maximum Memory16 GB
Package Contents
  • iMac MC511B/A Desktop Computer
  • Power Cord
  • Magic Mouse
  • Cleaning Cloth
  • Install/restore DVDs
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Printed and Electronic Documentation
Limited Warranty1 Year
Weight (Approximate)13.80 kg