Apple's iMac, or all-in-one desktop Mac, has always had a flair for the dramatic. From the "transparent gumdrop" original, to the "Pixar lamp" model, through to today's enormous flatscreens, it's been perhaps the most distinctive desktop computer in each of its iterations.
Now, at the event where Apple introduced the new iPad Mini, it also refreshed its mainstream desktop Mac lineups. Both the Mac Mini and iMac got new models, each faster and more powerful than the previous year's. But while the Mac Mini still looks basically the same, the iMac now cuts an incredibly slim profile, which Apple says is 5 millimeters thin at its edge.
It's not as thin as it seems -- it curves substantially towards the back, not that you'd be able to tell from most of the photos on Apple's site. But it doesn't just have its looks going for it.
The iMac still doesn't have a Retina Display; that honor went to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the second Mac to get a screen so sharp you can't discern individual pixels with your unaided eye. Apple claims that the iMac's screen now features 75 percent glare reduction, however, as well as an IPS display for improved viewing angles. Finally, the screen is now flush with the glass, so that it looks like there's nothing in between you and the picture.
No optical drive
The new iMac has an SDXC card slot, so you can plug in up to 64 GB digital camera memory cards. It also has two high-speed Thunderbolt ports, for attaching external displays and backup hard drives, as well as four USB ports. The slot-loading DVD drive, however, has been removed ... so make room in the budget for an external drive, if you still need one.
Dramatically improved performance
It's a cliche that each new generation of computers is faster, better, and smaller than the last these days. Apple provides concrete numbers and handy benchmarks, however: "up to 60 percent faster graphics," for instance, and it says that they feature the new third-generation quad-core Intel Core processors. Obviously, how much faster it is than the last iMac will depend on the specs of each, but the high end is now much higher.
What about hard disk access speeds -- the tightest bottleneck, when it comes to computer performance? One way to get around those is to use a solid-state drive, or SSD, which uses flash memory like on the iPad and is much faster than a magnetic hard disk. SSDs cost more, though, and don't offer nearly as much storage space.
Apple's solution to get around this is Fusion Drive, which pairs a smaller SSD with a 1 TB (or larger) hard disk. OS X and its core apps are preloaded on the faster SSD, and Fusion Drive automatically puts your most-used stuff on it as well. Expect this add-on option to be pricey, however; it costs $250 extra on the Mac Mini, and isn't even available on the cheapest Mac Mini model.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.