Apple iMac 27in review: This premium machine matches innovative technologies and strong performance in a gorgeous case

David Phelan reviews the latest big-screen iMac

If, a few years back, you had an Apple iMac desktop computer in its gleaming white plastic case, you knew that you had a design classic. It looked gorgeous. Then the black and aluminium model succeeded it and your white version looked like rubbish.

Take heart. Owners of that chic black and silver edition had the same feeling when Apple announced its latest model back in October. The new, gleaming iMac is so slick, so stylish, the old one looks heavy and old-fashioned.

First of all, there’s the thinness. Instead of a back that was roughly the same depth all the way across, the new model has a big bulge hidden in the middle, and a super-thin (5mm) edge. It means that from most angles, the iMac looks catwalk-thin.

It’s stunning, but one casualty is the DVD drive. There’s no place to fit it, so Apple has left it out. The company has form here. Apple removed the floppy drive from its iMacs when every other computer still had one, and continued to have one for years to come. Apple got a lot of flak at the time but, really, can you even remember the last time you needed a floppy disk?

Plus, this time, there’s an answer. The SuperDrive is a detachable optical drive which reads and writes CDs and DVDs, so if you need to, you can just plug that in. Of course, some software still comes on disc. And there’s that wide collection of DVD movies you might want to play back on this big screen. So probably people will buy a lot of those SuperDrives when they order a new iMac.

Apple is hoping, of course, that we’re now moving into a world of downloaded content, where the USB drive and Ethernet connection are king. Of course, the company does have its vast iTunes store of music, movies and software to encourage you. And software for the Mac is now largely delivered from the Mac App Store. No discs required, perhaps.

The only other casualty of the svelte form is the SD card slot. It’s there, but it’s tucked away in the back – much less convenient than on the side on that previous model that now looks so elderly.

The new iMac comes with a neat wireless mouse and keyboard. But I’d have preferred the bigger keyboard, with number pad and so on, which still only comes in a wired option.

Right, now we’ve got those carps out of the way. I have to say the new iMac is splendid. It’s not cheap but it does what Apple does best: matches innovative technologies and strong performance in a gorgeous case.

The display, though not high-resolution enough to be classed as Retina, is great. Bright, contrasty and detailed. It’s also noticeably less reflective than last time around.

Then there’s the Fusion Drive. I think the Tardis has one of those, doesn’t it? But this one is a combination of flash and traditional hard drive storage. The idea is that flash is speedier than hard drive, so the Mac puts the programs you use most on the 128GB flash drive for the promptest, fastest performance. If you change your habits, it moves stuff around so your new favourite programs are on the faster drive. The key thing is that you don’t do this, the iMac does.

Now if you want to control it yourself, you might find that frustrating. But for the rest of us, it’s one more way the iMac is worrying about a problem so I don’t have to.

Performance was strong, speedy and reliable. Quite right, too – this is a premium machine – prices start at £1,499, though the smaller-screened 21.5in model is £400 cheaper. But it’s powerful, effective and hugely enjoyable to use.

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