When the late 2012 27-inch iMac went on sale November 30th I immediately ordered one with the following BTO specifications:
- 3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
- 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x4GB
- 1TB Fusion Drive
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2GB GDDR5
- Magic Trackpad
- Apple Wireless Keyboard (English) & User's Guide
I would later add an additional 8 GB of memory to get a total of 16 GB.
Apple updated the packaging to take up even less space
On January 3, 2013 I finally received my brand new 27-inch iMac. Unfortunately the screen wasn't installed properly, which meant I missed a strip of about three pixels wide on the right and it suffered from extensive backlight bleeding. I called Apple and without any issues the woman on the phone made arrangements for a new iMac. She also offered me €100 for my troubles. Exactly one week later I received my second 27-inch iMac. I was glad to see it arrived in mint condition without any defects.
The change between generations is most dramatic when seen from the side
Seen from the front it's hard to tell the difference between the late 2012 iMac and my previous medio 2010 model. In fact the only visual change I could spot was the enlarged FaceTime HD (formerly iSight) camera. When looking at the new iMac from the side the change is quite dramatic. Gone is the fat pizza box-like bezel that held the SuperDrive and SDXC card slots. Instead there's an 5 millimeter thin rim which changes into the curved back. When laying flat on its LCD panel, the eight generation iMac resembles a droplet of water more than it does a full-fledged desktop computer. It's an astonishing feat of engineering really. Like all of Apple's products you can tell a lot of attention to detail went into every aspect of the casing.
The bottom of the iMac serves as one big intake vent
When Apple first introduced the new iMac a lot of people were concerned about heat and with good reason. During modest usage my medio 2010 27-inch iMac became so hot it was almost impossible to touch the aluminum back for more than a few seconds. I kinda worried about it because I can't imagine that much heat will have a positive impact on the screen and other hardware over the years. The upper left corner was especially bad. I was surprised to see during CPU intensive tasks the new iMac stays surprisingly cool. The entire back becomes lukewarm at best and there are no noticeable hotspots to be detected, suggesting more evenly distributed heat dissipation. This is something I really didn't expect at all from a Mac that has 40% less volume compared to the previous model. All that without loosing performance.
In the middle you can see the heat dissipation vent with directly underneath it the backdoor for memory slot access
To make the thin design possible Apple had to sacrifice the SuperDrive, which means you can't use optical media without an external drive. Of course it increases the amount of clutter on your desk, kinda defeating the purpose of having an all-in-one desktop computer. The thin case also doesn't leave much room for expendability. With the 27-inch model you get to add additional memory - four slots, hidden behind a small door on the back for up to 32 GB of RAM - but that's pretty much it. So when ordering an iMac be sure not to purely look at what you currently need, but think about the future as well. For me it meant maxing out both the CPU and GPU. Since there's no space on the sides Apple moved the SDXC card slot to the back of the machine. This can be a bit of a hassle at first when trying to change cards, but you'll definitely manage to swap them without crawling behind the screen pretty quickly.
The adapter tends to run a little bit hot when transferring large amounts of files
The new iMac comes with a SDXC card slot, four USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet and a Kensington lock slot. Since Apple got rid of the FireWire 800 ports I had to buy a fairly expensive €29 Thunderbolt-to-FireWire-adapter to connect my two external LaCie d2 Quadra drives. Having only four USB ports at your disposal can be a bit problematic at times. That said we entered an age where more and more devices and peripherals go wireless. Luckily the new iMac supports 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking and has Bluetooth 4.0 build-in.
When it comes down to overall performance my new iMac is an absolute beast. The Fusion Drive definitely works as advertised and is the perfect middle ground between speed and storage. The operating system and frequently used apps and files are dynamically moved to the 128 GB SSD, while less frequently accessed apps and files are moved to the slower but larger 1 TB HDD. Both drives are merged by OS X into one logical volume, so it's seamless and done completely behind the scenes. You as the end-user won't ever notice it's there. As time goes by the system learns more about your preferences and the Fusion Drive becomes more effective.
Hard Drive and Flash Storage are merged into one logical volume
My new iMac boots within 17 seconds straight to the desktop and all bundled apps, including iPhoto, launch instantly. On a day-to-day basis it's probably the biggest boost in performance compared to my medio 2010 iMac. If you have the money to spare I strongly advice coughing up the extra €230 for the Fusion Drive. It will definitely be worth it.
With all my previous Macs I noticed the GPU is the first thing to show its age, so like the last time I decided to get the best chip available. With the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX 2048 MB OS X Mountain Lion runs incredibly smooth. So far I haven't experienced a single lag anywhere, while my previous iMac struggled at times with Mission Control and large amounts of open windows. The 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 runs like a dream. Especially when editing videos in Final Cut Pro.
The iMac's screen received some hard needed improvements, but don't expect a change as dramatic as with the MacBook Pro with Retina display
Though not "retina" the iMac's screen looks great. Apple definitely made good on their word: because of the new coating the glass front is noticeably less reflective compared to previous models. For a lot of people this was a huge issue ever since Apple introduced the first iMac with glossy screen back in 2007. The new iMac's screen almost seems matte, without sacrificing the vibrant color output. To me that's a major improvement. Due to the full-lamination process there's no longer a gap between the glass and LCD panel. Because of that your iMac won't be prone to getting dust stuck behind the glass plate and it almost seems like images are about to leap off the screen.
Fully-laminated display instead of a glass plate held in place by magnets
While the updated design isn't as big of a change as some would have liked, the new iMac's slim body is definitely a head turner. Overall the system is incredibly fast and runs all apps I threw at it without a hiccup. The downsides lie in the lack of expendability and ports, but that's a tradeoff you make with most all-in-one desktop computers. So far the lack of a SuperDrive hasn't bothered me at all. Having to purchase a €29 Thunderbolt-to-FireWire-adapter just so I could hook up my external drive did annoy me a bit. On the flip side €29 isn't likely to deprive you of much sleep if you're able to afford this machine.