PROS / This system features OS X Lion, great features and a lot of power under the hood.
CONS / It isn’t a Windows system, though you can use Boot Camp to install it on this iMac.
VERDICT / Overall, the iMac 27-inch media center computer has the features and power to satisfy all users.
The newest Apple iMac 27-inch media center computer packs in plenty of features and is powered by an Intel Core i5 or i7 quad-core processor. It ships with plenty of RAM and a large hard drive to store all your photos, music, videos and more. The LED-backlit 27-inch display provides ample space for work projects, and the immaculate picture quality reveals every detail in movies and video games. This flat-panel, all-in-one iMac from Apple has a celebrated pedigree whose history stretches back to the first Bondi Blue iMac from 1998. With its outstanding features, power and simplicity, the iMac 27-inch earns our TopTenREVIEWS Gold Award
The iMac 27-inch is our favorite media center computer because it sports many high-end features at a manageable price. The most obvious feature, the one staring you in the face, is the beautiful 27-inch LED-backlit display, featuring a 16 x 9 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1440 resolution. Movies, photos, video games, TV shows and web content look their finest on this screen. If you do any sort of photo or video editing, the display is perfect for it, and colors are quite accurate.
The contrast ratio of the iMac 27-inch is 1000 to 1, while the viewing angle is pretty wide at 178 degrees, so no matter where you’re standing or sitting, the image on the iMac looks good. Apple uses in-plane switching technology, which ensures the viewing angle is great no matter what.
Apple introduced their Thunderbolt input/output technology in early 2011, and it’s much faster than FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 and 3.0, clocking in at 10 Gbps. This single, versatile I/O port can support multiple devices, from monitors to external hard drives. Other ports include audio out and in, USB 2.0, FireWire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet.
The Apple iMac 27-inch also ships with a FaceTime HD camera, so you can video chat with other Macs and iOS devices, along with any other computer or mobile device that supports video chatting.
No all-in-one media center computer would be worth its salt if there weren’t some terrific entertainment options. Apple ships quality software with the iMac 27-inch, including iTunes and the iTunes Store, which is your hub for purchasing music, movies, TV shows and books. And it comes with the new iCloud and iTunes Match services so you can access your media on all your Mac and iOS devices, such as your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
This machine isn't just ideal for viewing media content; it's also the perfect computer for creating media projects. All new Macs ship with the iLife line of software, which includes iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand. This advanced multimedia suite allows you to manage and edit your pictures and videos, and with GarageBand you can create your own music. iWork, with Pages, Numbers and Keynote, is Apple’s own alternative to Microsoft Office, and it's less complicated than Microsoft’s powerhouse software. While you can’t read the eBooks you’ve purchased with your iOS device using iBooks, you can create your own eBooks with iBooks Author.
Among the other significant features of the iMac 27-inch is an 8x slot-loading DVD player/burner that supports 4x double-layer burning along with R/RW CD capabilities. It’s a bit surprising at this point that a media center computer with such remarkable audio/video capabilities lacks a Blu-ray player, but Apple has famously avoided adoption of that technology. An SD memory card slot has been added below the DVD drive. Though probably a relatively minor point for most users, it also lacks a TV tuner which is sometimes found in media center PCs.
The included wireless keyboard and the wireless Apple Magic Mouse further enhance the clean lines of the unit. The mouse is billed as the world’s first multi-touch mouse and offers much of the same familiar feel that you know from the iPhone and iPod Touch. There are no buttons on the mouse. Rather, the entire surface is a sensor that allows for gestures and two-finger actions, including left-right as well as up-down scrolling. Another option is the Magic Trackpad, which acts like the glass trackpad found in their popular MacBook Pro/Air line of laptops.
With Boot Camp, you can install Windows on this iMac, in the event you need to access software or services that were developed specifically for Microsoft’s premiere operating system.
When the original iMac media center computer first shipped in 1998, it wasn’t a powerhouse desktop computer. For many years and different iterations, the iMac had just enough power in the form of a processor, RAM, graphics card and hard drive space to satisfy users looking for a quality internet, email and word processing machine. But as Mac OS X became more powerful and Apple began debuting both consumer and professional photo, audio and video editing apps, the need for more power became evident.
Even before the switch to Intel processors, Apple was starting to outfit their newest iMacs with better processors, graphics, more RAM and bigger hard drives. Today the iMac 27-inch media center computer ships with an Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, clocking in at 2.7 GHz. There's also the option of going with a 3.1 GHz Core i5, or even a lightning-fast 3.4 GHz Core i7 quad-core processor.
Things get even better when you combine the processing power with an impressive 512MB AMD Radeon 6770M graphics card, a 1TB hard drive (upgradeable to 2TB), and 4GB of standard RAM (upgradeable to 16GB). With those specs you’ve got a media center computer that can performs equally well as a family media center PC and a workhorse computer that can handle high-end video, photo, music and sound editing.
This powerful HD media center computer is also great for playing video games, and though some users will argue that Macs don’t have that many options for gaming, between Steam for Mac and the great gaming options in the Mac App Store, you’ll be ready for hours of gaming action.
Ease of Use
Mac OS X is a powerful operating system that is very easy to learn and use. Apple’s philosophy for their computers, iOS devices, apps and services is "It just works," meaning you can begin using the hardware or software immediately without reading a large product manual.
Help & Support
The iMac comes with a one-year limited parts and labor warranty but only 90 days of complimentary telephone technical support. That can all be expanded to three years with the addition of the optional AppleCare Protection Plan. Apple’s tech support has consistently been rated the top of its class, and if there’s an Apple Store nearby, you can schedule an appointment with a Genius for help, or one of the employees for one-on-one sessions. These are all free services.
The Apple iMac 27-inch is an excellent all-in-one media center computer, boasting great features, power and ease-of-use, along with the best help and support options available. It runs on the state-of-the-art OS X Lion operating system, and you can use Boot Camp to run Windows on the system, too. It’s perfect for casual users, gamers and even those looking for a true workhorse system.