Apple iMac (24in 2009)

The new 24in Apple iMac is underwhelming, but it remains a fine piece of industrial design.

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Apple iMac (24in 2009)
  • Apple iMac (24in 2009)
  • Apple iMac (24in 2009)
  • Apple iMac (24in 2009)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Design remains superb, good performance, Apple attention to detail, all-in-one casing saves space


  • Exorbitant price, no included Apple remote, keyboard has no number pad, rear casing gets hot, only RAM can be upgraded, no adapters included for DVI or VGA connections

Bottom Line

The upgrades to the latest Apple iMac are largely underwhelming, but the computer retains its excellently crafted design. It's still an outstanding machine, but the smaller keyboard, lack of included remote and the fact that no display adapters are included are all negatives considering the high price.

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The range of Apple iMac desktop computers has been refreshed. There are virtually no aesthetic or design changes — faster processors, more memory and larger hard drives are the order of the day. Although the brilliantly designed Apple iMac remains an excellent choice if you're after a desktop computer, when we tested the 24in iMac we found the upgrades to be largely underwhelming.

The Apple iMac remains a fine piece of industrial design. The brushed aluminium finish and gloss black bezel surrounding the display look superb, though not everyone will appreciate the glossy finish — it can be very distracting, especially under fluorescent lighting. The screen also suffers from horizontal colour shift at around 170 degrees, while the rear casing gets quite hot during regular use.

The all-in-one design of iMac computers is a godsend for those who have little desk space to work with. Minimal cables, an integrated silver stand and a slot-loading DVD drive further enhance the iMac's functionality. Like all Apple products, the attention to detail is outstanding. Apple claims that the new iMac range has the greenest Macs ever. The new iMacs meet Energy Star 5.0 requirements, use PVC-free internal components and are constructed using highly recyclable materials.

Apple has upgraded the included wired keyboard but the changes aren't positive; as with Apple's wireless keyboard, the number pad has been done away with. While this does save desk space, we feel it’s a step in the wrong direction, as the number pad is much faster than using the regular row of number keys. The reduced size also makes the keyboard look abnormally small next to the iMac itself.

Being an all-in-one system, the iMac once again has expandability issues. Only the RAM can be upgraded; there are dual SO-DIMM slots for DDR3 memory and the iMac now supports a maximum of 8GB of RAM.

The top-of-the-range 24in iMac we tested is powered by a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 1TB 7200rpm hard disk drive. It has an NVIDIA GeForce GT 130 graphics card with 512MB of memory. It also includes a slot-loading 8x SuperDrive with 4x double-layer burning.

The iMac ships with Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.6, as well as iLife ’09, Apple’s suite of consumer applications consisting of iPhoto, iMovie, iWeb and GarageBand. The intuitive Front Row software remains an excellent media feature of the iMac, but Apple now charges $29 for the wireless remote — an accessory that was included with previous versions of the iMac.

The iMac once again includes a built-in iSight video camera, housed above the screen. A tiny green LED lets you know the camera is switched on when the Photo Booth application is launched. The microphone is also rather discrete, hidden beneath tiny holes on the top of the iMac's casing.

For connectivity, the new iMac features Bluetooth 2.1, AirPort Extreme wireless networking (802.11n) and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The rear casing houses one FireWire 800 port, four USB 2.0 ports (as well an additional two on the wired keyboard), an optical digital audio output and audio line-in. There is no longer a FireWire 400 port, though; none of Apple's new desktop computers provide this port. Those with external hard drives and camcorders that use this port will need to purchase a FireWire 400-to-800 adapter.

The iMac also includes a Mini DisplayPort connector for connection to Apple's Cinema Display, though you'll need to purchase extra adapters should you wish to use VGA, DVI or dual-link DVI connections. Apple is the only company to use Mini DisplayPort, so it's disappointing it doesn't provide any of these adapters in the sales package — especially since this top-of-the-range iMac will set you back almost $4000.

The iMac delivered a noteworthy performance. In our iTunes test, the iMac took just 43sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192kbps MP3s. We managed to run multiple programs simultaneously, with no hint of slowdown or lag, and we also benchmarked the iMac using Geekbench software. The iMac scored a result of 4111, which is better than the previous version of the iMac (released in early 2008).

There are a total of four models in the new range, starting with the base 20in, 2.66GHz iMac ($1999). There are three different 24in configurations, with varying processor, memory and hard drive specifications, starting at $2499.

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