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Late 2013 iMac review: Faster than before, but the gains over previous models are modest

James Galbraith | Jan. 17, 2014
Back in October, we reviewed the new $1299 entry-level iMac, the first of the new iMac models that we could get our hands on. Regrettably, it took us a while to get the other three standard-configuration iMacs in the Macworld Lab to test. We finally took a good look at the rest of Apple's iMac line.

Back in October, we reviewed the new $1299 entry-level iMac, the first of the new iMac models that we could get our hands on. Regrettably, it took us a while to get the other three standard-configuration iMacs in the Macworld Lab to test. We finally took a good look at the rest of Apple's iMac line.

Externally identical to the slim-edged 21.5- and 27-inch iMacs released in October 2012, the updates in this batch of iMacs are all internal, featuring more powerful processors and support for faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

The new iMacs come in four standard configurations, two 21.5-inch models and two 27-inchers. All use quad-core Intel i5 (Haswell) processors, 8GB of memory and 1TB hard drives. The 21.5 inch models use 5400-rpm hard drives while the 27-inch iMacs use faster 7200-rpm drives. Also, the memory in the 21.5-inch iMacs is not user upgradeable, whereas the 27-inch iMacs ship with memory in just two of its four user-accessible DRAM slots.

I've already reviewed the entry-level $1299 iMac that comes with a 2.7GHz quad-core Core i5 processor and Intel's Iris Pro integrated graphics. The $1499 model has a faster 2.9GHz quad-core Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M discrete graphics with 1GB of video memory. The $1799 27-inch iMac features a 3.2GHz quad-core Core i5 processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 755M discrete graphics with 1GB of video memory. The high-end $1999 stock iMac has a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i5 processor with Nvidia GeForce GT 775M discrete graphics with 2GB of video memory.

These new iMacs have the same four USB 3.0 ports, dual Thunderbolt ports, SDXC card slot and gigabit Ethernet port as the late 2012 models. The new iMacs do not include Thunderbolt 2 ports found in the latest Mac Pros and MacBook Pros or FireWire ports found in iMacs predating the late 2012 models.

As with its predecessors, the new iMacs feature glossy screens with LED backlights and IPS panels. The resolution of the widescreen displays remain at 1920 by 1080 on the 21.5-inch and 2560 by 1440 on the 27-inch iMac. The IPS screen gives the iMacs excellent viewing angles with no loss of contrast or color shifts as you move away from the center of the screen. The glass cover is adhered to the display, not held on by magnets like the aluminum iMacs released before 2012. While this and other changes help to significantly reduce glare on these recent displays, it makes it much harder to service the 2012 and later iMacs.

If you think you might want a larger or faster internal drive, it's best to customize your iMac at the time of purchase. Available options for the $1499 21.5-inch model include 256GB or 512GB of flash storage ($200 and $500, respectively) or a 1TB Fusion Drive ($200) which marries 126GB of fast flash storage and 1TB hard drive into a single volume that performs much like an SSD, but with the capacity of a hard drive. Upping the RAM from 8GB to 16GB will cost $200. The higher-end 21.5-inch iMac's processor can be upgraded from the standard 2.9GHz Core i5 to a 3.1GHz quad-core Core i7 processor for another $200.

 

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