Apple 27-Inch iMac (Late 2013) Review, “Haswell” Inside

It’s hard to believe there’s a full fledged system packed inside Apple’s slim and sexy iMac chassis. It was roughly a year ago when Apple revamped its all-in-one line, tasking the company’s engineers to flatten the design as much as possible without sacrificing performance. What emerged was a sleek display measuring just 5mm at its edge with up to 40 percent less volume than the previous generation. It was such a radical design change that Apple had to abandon traditional welding methods in favor of a process called friction-stir welding, which combines friction-generated heat and pressure to force molecules from two separate aluminum surfaces to mingle with one another. It’s a process commonly found on mission critical applications, such as the construction of rocket booster tanks.

Apple’s late 2013 edition iMacs are largely unchanged in external form, though they’re upgraded in function with a revamped foundation that now pairs Intel’s Haswell 4th Generation Core processors with NVIDIA’s GeForce 700 Series graphics (still based on Kepler). The Cupertino company also outfitted these latest models with faster flash storage options, including support for PCI-E based storage, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology, all wrapped in a gorgeous 21.5-inch (1920×1080) or, as reviewed here, 27-inch IPS display with a 2560×1440 resolution.


Apple 27-inch iMac Late 2013 with Intel’s 4th Generation Haswell Core Processor
Specifications & Features
  • Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks
  • 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache
  • 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 1TB (7200 RPM) hard drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M 1024MB
  • 27-inch LED-backlit IPS display (2560×1440 resolution)
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • Four USB 3.0 ports
  • Two Thunderbolt ports
  • Mini DisplayPort output with support for DVI, VGA, and dual-link DVI (adapters sold separately)
  • 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45 connector)
  • Kensington lock slot
  • Stereo speakers
  • Dual microphones
  • Headphone port
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Magic Mouse (multi-touch surface)
  • 20.3 inches (H) by 25.6 inches (W) by 8 inches (D); 21 pounds

While upgrade options aren’t quite as robust as what you’ll find from boutique system builders and even some competing OEMs, Apple does allow you a little bit of leeway to customize your iMac when ordering, such as adding more RAM, increasing and/or changing the type of storage, and adding accessories. Unfortunately, some upgrades are tied to specific baseline models. For example, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M and 780M graphics options are only offered on the most expensive iMac starting at $1,999, and not the one we received. The limitation feels arbitrary, though at the same time, paying $200 extra to step up from the model we received to the highest end starting points yields a faster processor (3.4GHz quad-core Intel core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz) and burlier graphics (GeForce GTX 775M).

Just days after we received our review model, Apple introduced Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks as a free upgrade. The benchmarks on the following pages were run with the new operating system, save for the Windows testing (via Boot Camp), in which we loaded up a partition with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1. We’ll get to performance in a bit, but first, let’s have a look at the system itself.

It’s interesting to look back at the evolution of the iMac. It started back in 1998 with the introduction of a bulky CRT monitor form factor, which was slightly refined in 2000. Two years later, Apple revamped the design with a flat screen panel, and in 2004, the company altered the stand and overall design once more. It’s that model that each of the next four major alternations evolved from.

The current generation iMacs sport either a 21.5-inch IPS display with a Full HD 1080p (1920×1080) resolution, or a 27-inch IPS display with a 2560×1440 resolution. It’s the larger model we received, and while it’s not quite as big as a 30-inch panel, the resolution is comparable (most 30-inch monitors rock a 2560×1600 resolution), offering up nearly as much on-screen real estate.

Apple makes some of the best looking monitors around, and the iMac is no exception. A black bezel frames the viewable area, and underneath that is an aluminum strip with Apple’s logo sitting dead center. This strip hides the built-in stereo speakers and also houses the integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality. The stereo speakers put out a decent amount of volume and are much higher quality that what you’ll find in most all-in-one systems, which often sound tinny. It’s clear these speakers are here to enhance the experience and aren’t included simply as an afterthought.

Up top is the FaceTime HD camera flanked by dual microphones and an ambient light sensor. The dual mics use beam-forming technology for clearer dictation and also to reduce background noise.

We don’t want to belabor the point about how thin the iMac is, but it truly is a marvel in engineering, especially when you stop and think about the hardware inside. This isn’t an underpowered system with janky components shoved inside, but a reasonably powerful all-in-one with some of the latest hardware available. It also feels incredibly solid and not the least bit flimsy even though it hardly takes up an space on your desktop.

Not everything is peaches and cream, however (or Apple cobbler, if you will). If we’re to find fault with the iMac, it would be the stand, which only offers tilt adjustments. You can’t raise or lower the display, nor does it pivot or rotate. These aren’t deal killers by any means, but they are tradeoffs that are worth mentioning.

Around back is a second Apple logo plastered onto the aluminum chassis. If you were able to detach the stand (and you can’t), the iMac would look like a ginormous iPad, only heavier, more powerful, and without the touchscreen support, a feature that’s sorely lacking here.

On the bottom left are a series of connectivity options, including a headphone jack, SD card slot, four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, and a gigabit Ethernet port. The power cord plugs right into the center of the iMac’s backside, and you can route the cable through a circular cutout in the stand.

Aesthetically, Apple made the right decision to banish every single port to the iMac’s backside where they’re out of sight, but functionally, it’s a bit of an inconvenience. How much of an inconvenience depends on how often you plug in external devices like USB thumb drives, especially since the included keyboard doesn’t come with any built-in USB ports.


About Chamila's Tech Blog

Microsoft certified Freelance IT professional specialized for computer hardware and networking , with more than 10 years hand-on experience. since 2005 as an technical support person providing technical solutions for the individual users, local and foreign companies.
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