Apple's 27-in. iMac 'the center of my digital universe'

The latest model offers a two-punch combo of beauty and brawn

For the past month, the latest 27-in. iMac from Apple has been the center of my digital universe.

Apple updated its iMac all-in-one desktop computers in late July, revamping the internal architecture with updated Intel processors while retaining the line's already successful aluminum-and glass design.

The new iMac comes in two versions: One features an LED-backlit 21.5-in. widescreen LCD with the Intel Core i3 architecture (starting at $1,199), the other is a massive 27-in. widescreen model, which starts at $1,699 and includes either a Core i3 or a Core i5 chip. (You can also special-order one with a Core i7 processor for more speed.) All models come with 4GB of RAM, at least a 500GB hard drive and a discrete graphics card from ATI.

Luckily for me, Apple sent over the $1,999 27-in. iMac. This particular model has a quadcore 2.8-GHz Intel Core i5 processor, an ATI Radeon HD 5750 graphics card with 1GB of video RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Apple also included its new Magic Trackpad. There's a lot to like in this computer package.

Connectivity and details

The 27-in. iMac's most prominent feature, of course, is the 2560- by 1440-pixel screen, which is framed by a black border. This border is now customary on most Apple products, from the iMac to the MacBook Pro and displays. The glass is enveloped by solid (and recyclable) aluminum, the case chiseled from a single aluminum block using Apple's unibody manufacturing process. The entire screen swivels up and down on a hinge; the action is surprisingly smooth given the screen's size.

Like the last generation of iMacs, the design is exceedingly clean, almost minimalist: There are no blinking lights, no plastic bits just asking to be snapped off -- and the optical drive is still a slot-loading slit on the right side of the screen. As before, the slot-load drive limits the type of optical disks the iMac can read and write to standard-size DVDs and CDs. No small, odd-shaped discs will work in it.

Also on the right side of the machine, near the optical drive, is a built-in SDXC card slot. The slot accepts SDXC, SDHC and SD cards used in many digital cameras and video recorders. Note: The slot will not read Compact Flash, Memory Stick, or xD cards, which are also common in cameras and video recorders, though you can still connect peripherals to the iMac using one of the four USB 2.0 ports on the back.

The rear of the iMac also features a headphone jack, an audio-in jack, the aforementioned USB ports, a FireWire 800 port, a Mini DisplayPort and a Gigabit Ethernet connection. Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth 2.1 and an 802.11n Wi-Fi card that's 802.11a/b/g compatible.

That AirPort card can use either the 2.4 GHz or the 5 GHz bands, depending on your needs. My results indicate 42.5Mbit/sec. download speeds and 21.57Mbit/sec. upload speeds, on average, connected to an AirPort Extreme wireless router. Obviously, your speed will vary depending on your setup and distance from your router.

27-in. iMac
The 27-in. iMac (center) dwarfs other Apple hardware.

The iSight camera is located in the middle of the top border of the screen and is nearly hidden in the black border. When the camera is in use, the iMac's only LED -- situated invisibly near the camera -- lights up green. There are a number of applications that take advantage of the built-in camera, my favorite being iChat, which allows videoconferencing with others on iChat or AOL Instant Messenger.

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