The SSD-equipped price is not to be sniffed at, but the performance of the 27in iMac in this quad-core configuration is extremely impressive. It's also a more compact, yet just-as-capable, option as the entry-level Mac Pro, and cheaper too if you factor in the cost of the forthcoming 27in LED Cinema Display.
Blistering SSD performance; SSD can now be fitted alongside hard drive; bright, vibrant IPS screen
256GB SSD too small for single-drive use and a very expensive option
£2,249 (as reviewed)
27in display (2,560 x 1,440), 2.8GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD 5700, 256GB SSD
When Apple last updated its iMac range, it replaced the old plastic-backed 20in and 24in models with all-aluminium 21.5in and 27in designs that packed in all manner of new features.
That was less than a year ago, though, so this late 2010 update simply sees increased specifications across the board rather than a more sweeping overhaul.
The biggest specification tweak is the switch to Intel Core processors across the board, and all models now use either a Core i3, i5 or i7 chip. Memory speeds have been increased to 1,333MHz too, and all models also get a discrete ATI graphics cards.
The recently launched Magic Trackpad is still an optional extra, but Apple has added an SSD option for buyers with money to burn.
Apple supplied us with a 27in iMac with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics card.
This isn't quite the top-of-the-range iMac, but it isn't far off. The only other upgrade options are a 2.95GHz Core i7 chip for an additional £160, along with more memory and storage for varying amounts.
Adding a 256GB SSD costs an extra £480, but Apple also offers the option to fit this alongside the hard drive rather than instead of it, albeit it for an extra £600. That's the arrangement of the iMac we reviewed, and it brings the total price to a not-inconsiderable £2,249 inc VAT.
That said, the 27in iMac does at least look like a costly computer, and its enormous display is a sight to behold. As with the old model, the frameless glass screen is LED-backlit and uses in-plane switching technology to reduce the amount of scattered light.
Horizontal and vertical viewing angles are very wide as a result, and there's also very little off-centre colour shift. It's just the job for impromptu group proofing sessions around a designer's desk.
Apple made Mac OS X much more multicore aware with the launch of last year’s Snow Leopard and Hyper-Threading is also supported in all but one of the Intel Core chips used in the new iMac line-up (the 2.8GHz i5 used in this model, unfortunately).
So, even though the Xbench synthetic Mac OS benchmark isn’t particularly geared to multicore testing, it still measured a distinct performance benefit over last year’s 3.06GHz dual-core model and turned in a result that was 38 per cent higher.
However, that benchmark was run using the iMac's 7,200rpm hard drive, and our review iMac had a 256GB SSD as its primary drive. This brings many less tangible speed improvements, from shorter boot times to snappier application launches, but it also makes a big objective difference to overall performance.
In fact, when run using the SSD rather than the hard drive with Xbench, the benchmark result was 83 per cent higher than last year's hard drive-based iMac.
The SSD was around 20 per cent faster than the hard drive in this iMac for sequential data access, but an astounding 600 per cent faster at random access.
General performance gains aside, another immediate practical benefit of this is that 4GB of RAM suddenly becomes much more viable for demanding Mac users, since the performance penalty usually associated with excessive swap file use is dramatically reduced.
We'd need to perform further in-depth testing to determine whether or not the £600 256GB SSD is a more cost-effective option than an £800 16GB RAM upgrade, but it's certainly something to consider.