Apple 21.5-inch iMac review

Apple's iMac is the original and definitive all-in-one computer. It's by far the best-looking and - if you're of a certain mind-set - the most prestigious to own. The model we've looked at is also one of the most expensive for a 21.5 in display size.

Apple 21.5-inch iMac front
Apple 21.5-inch iMac Front

Apple 21.5-inch iMac back
Apple 21.5-inch iMac Back

Although its price is rather high, the 21-5-inch iMac is also remarkably powerful for an all-in-one (AiO) computer. Its 2.5GHz Core i5-2400S processor achieved an overall score of 88 in our benchmark tests. That's a far better performance than most rival all-in-ones and is easily powerful enough to satisfy any desire you might have for power-hungry tasks like multimedia editing and encoding. If you want greater scope for bulk image editing or virtualisation, you may want to increase the computer's 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, but we encountered no problems in our tests.

Comparing the iMac's gaming performance to its Windows rivals is rather hard as none of our reference games run on it. Instead, we've opted for a 3D game which does run on a Mac: Call of Duty 4. The 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750M mobile graphics processor isn't exactly a gaming powerhouse, but we got a perfectly respectable frame rate of 41fps at a resolution of 1,920x1,080 (the screen's native resolution) and 4x AA, so you should be able to play most Mac games.

Whatever you play, it'll look gorgeous on the widescreen display. Colours are intensely rich and vibrant, lighting is even and contrast is excellent. Because Apple hasn't bothered with the often-redundant touchscreen that you see on so many Windows all-in-one PCs, there's no chance of the gritty look that such displays sometimes suffer. The screen is glossy, with the reflectiveness and tendency to pick up fingerprints that goes with it, but its overall quality makes up for these issues. It's easy to tilt and swivel, too.

You don't really need a touchscreen, as Apple's OS X 10.7 Lion operating system doesn't require one. It's easy to use and the bundled keyboard has shortcut keys to access Mission Control, which zooms out to show you all of your open windows. We're not big fans of the supplied mouse, though, which is small and a bit uncomfortable to use; we recommend taking the free upgrade to the Magic Trackpad, which lets you use multi-touch gestures to use the OS.

The integrated speakers are far better than anything else we've heard from an All-in-one computer, with clear tones and a bass that's rich and present. This is for the best, as there are only the usual 3.5mm headphone and mic ports on the back. If you want surround sound, you'll have to connect an external sound card. There are a few other limitations, too - there's only a DVD drive and Apple doesn't provide an upgrade option for a Blu-ray. You can add an external model and use the Mac Blu-ray Player to movies, though.

There are just four USB ports, and Macs don't use USB3. There is a mini-FireWire port and Thunderbolt, the new Apple/Intel high-speed connection standard which can be used to connect both external Mini DisplayPort monitors and very expensive external storage. There's a memory card reader, too, which supports all the SD standards but nothing else. The network port on the back supports Gigabit Ethernet, while the built-in Wi-Fi adaptor can handle dual-band 802.11n.

The 21.5in iMac is entry-level by Apple's standards, but it's an excellent AiO. It's powerful, attractive, well supported and easy to use. Unlike most Windows AiOs, it doesn't have a touchscreen, but it doesn't need one, either. If you want a powerful, glossy and hassle-free desktop and multimedia experience, the iMac is a brilliant choice.

It's a bit expensive, but this 21.5-inch iMac is powerful and fantastic to use - it's brilliant, if you're happy with the restrictions of Apple's design and software choices

Basic Specifications

Part CodeMC309B/A
Review Date25 Aug 2011
Rating***** stars out of 5
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2400S
Processor external bus100MHz (DMI)
Processor multiplierx25
Processor clock speed2.5GHz
Processor socketLGA1155
Memory typePC3-10666
Maximum memory16GB
MotherboardApple iMac


USB2 ports (front/rear)0/4
Firewire ports (front/rear)0/1
eSATA ports (front/rear)0/0
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support802.11n (dual band)

Internal Expansion

PCI-E x1 slots (free)N/A
PCI-E x16 slots (free)N/A
Free memory slots2

Hard Disk

Hard disk model(s)Western Digital Caviar (WD5000AAKS-402AA0)
Total storage capacity500GB


Graphics card(s)512MB AMD Radeon HD 6750M
Graphics/video portsDisplayPort


SoundIntel HD Audio
Sound outputs3.5mm stereo line out, 3.5mm mic in

Removable Drives

Supported memory cardsSD, SDHC, SDXC
Optical drive type(s)DVD+/-RW +/-DL


Viewable size21.5 in
Screen modelintegrated
Native resolution1,920x1,080
Screen inputsnone

Other Hardware

KeyboardApple Keyboard
MouseApple Magic Mouse


Software includednone
Operating systemMacOS X 10.7
Operating system restore optioninternet recovery