Review: Hands on with the new Haswell chip iMac

If you liked the look and performance of the previous iMacs, you'll like the new models, too

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That's almost too easy.

But, that's really what we expect from computing devices these days. Because all machines are relatively responsive -- especially at these price points -- it's not so much about benchmarks as it is about accessing our content no matter the device. Apple gets a lot of heat because its online services have more issues than some competitors, but when it works, it works well. And when using the iMac, it worked well for me.

As for the iMac itself, it was always responsive in overall use, always ran cool and remained completely silent. If you operate in a quiet environment and want that environment to stay that way, the iMac should fit right in.

No doubt the Fusion drive helps keeps the noise level down. Remember, the Fusion drive is actually a hybrid drive, with a small SSD segment and a larger portion that relies on a 5400rpm hard drive. The Fusion Drive makes OS X feel snappier. It's only when you need to access files stored on the hard drive that things start to slow down a little. Many users won't even notice, but I did. That's why I recommend an SSD drive if you can afford it as an option, the Fusion drive as a fallback and the 5400rpm drive never.

How fast is the Fusion drive? Using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, I got results showing write speeds averaging between 260MBit/sec. and 315MBit/sec., and read speeds between 490Mbit/sec and 515MBit/sec. Those are noticeably faster speeds than you'll see with any hard drive, even the 7200rpm versions.

Whenever I review a Mac, I have a complex, 50-minute iMovie project that I render. (The iMovie '11 file was exported using Apple's "Large" settings, resulting in an h.264 m4v file with a 960-by-540-pixel resolution.) The 2.8GHz quad-core i5 iMac from 2010 rendered the movie project in an hour and eight minutes; the iMac I tested last year did it in just 48 minutes. The newest iMac did it five seconds faster than that.

In other words, this year's iMac is virtually as fast as last year's in that test.

One last note: As OS X matures, so does its multitouch support. With that in mind, I highly recommend using Apple's Magic Trackpad ($69) with the iMac instead of the included Magic Mouse. It puts the massive screen literally at your fingerprints, allowing you to swipe with ease through documents, photos and apps and navigate quickly through virtual desktops. It really will boost your productivity.

At $1,999, this iMac isn't inexpensive, but wow, is it a stunner, even at that price. If there's a better all-in-one computer around, it would have to be the 27-in. iMac with the Intel Core i7 chipset. With 32GB of RAM. And a 1TB SSD for storage. Of course, that one will cost $3,799.

For more mainstream users, the $1,999 version should do just fine. That's true whether this is your first iMac or you're simply looking to upgrade an iMac bought before last year's big style change. The current lineup should serve you well for years to come.

My verdict on the 2013 iMac: Recommended.

iMac family
The iMac lineup offers two screen sizes and a variety of processor, storage and memory options. (Image: Apple)

Michael deAgonia, a frequent contributor to Computerworld, is a writer, computer consultant and technology geek who has been working on computers since 1993. You can find him on Twitter (@mdeagonia).

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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