A closer look at the 2012 Apple iMac

Apple certainly can't be accused of disappointing the punters yesterday, with a refreshed iMac line-up one of the many highlights of its most recent blockbuster announcement spree, which also featured the eagerly anticipated arrival of the 7.9in iPad mini. Now that the dust has started to settle over in San Jose, we have a better idea of what Apple's latest desktop range looks like. So how do the newest machines size up?

Design & display

Like the previous generation of Apple desktop devices, the new iMac range is based on 21.5in and 27in models, with entry-level and high-end versions available within each category. Specifically, the latest Apple computers wowed the crowd over in San Jose by virtue of their seriously slimline physique - the new iMac units measure just 5mm thick, or 45 per cent more slender than the older hardware, and are also more than 3.5kg lighter to boot.

How did Apple achieve this apparently remarkable feat of engineering? Phil Schiller, the company's VP of marketing, put the new super-svelte appearance down to fully integrated display lamination, which he also said helps to improve optical quality and reduce glare. Otherwise, the new 21.5in and 27in iMacs resemble the previous generation, sporting backlit LED IPS display resolutions of 1,920 x 1,080 and 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, respectively

Storage, memory & connectivity

One of the major selling points of the new iMac is Apple's Fusion Drive, the firm's first ever hybrid storage solution. Merging a 128GB flash drive with a hard drive of 1TB or 3TB -depending on what size model you opt for - Apple said that the new system is faster at both reading and writing data. As far as RAM is concerned, the 27in desktop adds four user-accessible SO-DIMM slots and is customisable all the way up to 32GB RAM. Connectivity-wise, the new iMac offerings feature the latest USB 3.0 standard - you'll find four ports on all of the models - in addition to two Thunderbolt ports, an all-around improvement on the previous generation.

Processor

Apple has given its iMac line-up a serious kick in the junk in the processor department, upgrading the internals of its desktop range to feature the latest Intel Ivy Bridge architecture, as opposed to the Sandy Bridge set-up found on previous generation units. It's Core i5 all-round as standard, with clock speeds of 2.7GHz (entry level 21.5in), 2.9GHz (high-end 21.5in and entry-level 27in), and 3.2GHz (high-end 27in).

Moreover, the high-end models in each size category are configurable with Core i7, resulting in 3.1GHz and 3.4GHz performance for the 21.5 in and 27in iterations, respectively, and L3 cache is 6MB across all models. The new machines also feature the latest Nvidia GeForce GPUs built on Kepler architecture, with the Cupertino-based company claiming improved graphics performance of up to 60 per cent. Make no mistake - these are Apple's most powerful iMacs to date.

Price, availability, and verdict

Pricing for a 2012 iMac ranges from £1,099 for an entry-level, 21.5in unit with a processor speed of 2.7GHz and runs up to £1,699 for a 27in model with 3.2GHz standard performance. UK availability has been set for November for the 21.5in models and December for the 27in iterations, and once the products are up for pre-order we'll have a better idea how much optimal configurations featuring Intel Core i7 will add to the equation.

A preliminary verdict? Consumers might have been holding their breath for the arrival of the iPad mini, but the new iMac ended up stealing the show for many people. It's ultra-minimalist design, in particular, produced the biggest round of applause from the audience on the night as well eliciting some colourful superlatives at ITProPortal HQ, and the transition to Intel Ivy Bridge architecture will mean that Apple's new desktop units are among the most powerful on the market. The pricing obviously isn't aimed at (most) students, but this is the kind of device worth saving up for. Or, come to think of it, taking out a loan or robbing a convenience store to obtain - it just looks that good.