Apple iMac 21.5-inch 2010 review

Full review: New graphics processors and CPUs give a significant power boost

Image 1 of 2 Apple iMac 21 5 inch slant
Apple iMac 21.5-inch slant
Image 2 of 2 Apple iMac 21 5 inch front
Apple iMac 21.5-inch front

The series that popularised the all-in-one computer returns with a great new release

Launching alongside the MacPro and Cinema Display were Apple’s 2010 iMacs. They offer the same form factor as their predecessors, but make substantial changes under the hood.

The 21.5-inch and 27-inch versions have now gone over to Intel’s Core i-series processors, so graphics are greatly improved and a few minor tweaks have been made, but some expected (or at least requested) enhancements have failed to materialise.


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The two new 21.5-inch iMacs drop the ageing Core 2 Duo CPUs in favour of Intel’s Core i3 processors. This entry-level model runs at 3.06GHz and costs £999, with the higher-end £1,249 version offering a 3.2GHz chip. Although dual core, these processors offer a feature called Hyper Threading, whereby two threads can run simultaneously on each core, giving a total of four virtual cores. This greatly speeds applications capable of using multiple cores. Unfortunately, unlike the Core i5 or i7 chips, Core i3 processors don’t have Turbo Boost, where unused cores are shut down and the power diverted to active cores.

Apple iMac 21.5-inch 2010: Graphics

The iMac’s graphics capabilities have been greatly improved, giving up to three times more graphical power. This is especially true for the entry-level version. Where its predecessor offered only integrated graphics, this new Core i3 model has a discrete ATI Radeon HD 4670 with 256MB of onboard memory.

This is much quicker than the integrated GeForce 9400M used previously, and very welcome news for those that use their iMacs for gaming and multimedia applications. The 3.2GHz goes one better, boasting a Radeon HD 5670 with 512MB.

There’s a few minor improvements too. The SD card reader now supports the high-capacity SDXC standard, giving a theoretical maximum of 2TB. It’s still too close to the optical drive, though, so take care not to insert your SD card in the wrong slot.

Apple iMac 21.5-inch 2010: Screen and disc

One thing that hasn’t changed is the screen. It’s still a gorgeous 16:9-ratio, 21.5-inch IPS display with excellent viewing angles and beautiful, rich colours. Most Mac users will love its glossy finish too, though those that prefer an anti-glare screen are once again out of luck. We can’t understand why Apple doesn’t offer a matte finish as a custom option, like it does with the MacBook Pro.

Something else we can’t understand is Apple’s aversion to Blu-ray drives, especially given the quality of the screen. Those that follow Apple’s output know Blu-ray support was never on the cards, but it’s really annoying that it’s not offered at least as a custom option. Third-generation USB and FireWire ports and a touchscreen were also rumoured, but never materialised.

The new 21-inch iMac is an excellent machine that’s ideal for home and office use. It’s wonderfully versatile, runs almost silently and has the best resolution display and fastest processors of any all-in-one computer. Like all Apple gear it doesn’t come cheap, but given the quality it isn’t overpriced.

The Apple iMac 21.5-inch is out now, find out more from Apple


OS: OS X 10.6: Snow Leopard
Screen (size and res): 21.5”, 1920x1080 pixel resolution
Processor (inc speed): Intel Core i3, 3.06GHz
Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR3 memory
Memory: 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Storage: 500GB
Connections : 4xUSB 2.0, 1xFireWire 800, SDXC card slot, Bluetooth 2.1, AirPort Extreme 802.11n, Gigabit Ethernet
Dimensions/weight: 451x528x188 mm/ 9.3 kg