The 27-inch Apple iMac takes a huge leap forwards with the 2011 refresh. Although the only change to the enclosure is a minor revision to the ports at the rear, the switch to new second-generation Sandy Bridge processors and powerful AMD graphics give a massive performance boost over the previous generation of iMacs.
The new iMac range's Sandy Bridge processors offer greater efficiency and performance than the first generation of Core-i CPUs, and the Turbo Boost feature is enhanced and improved with the 2.0 release.
The quad core 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor – available only as a custom option for the top-of-the-range 27-inch iMac – also offers Hyper Threading, allowing its four cores to run two threads at once for eight virtual cores. This means applications that support multiple cores can spread their tasks more evenly, again giving an improved performance.
The new Thunderbolt port will really only come into its own when compatible peripherals are released, but it has the potential to revolutionise I/O technology.
The SD card reader now supports higher-capacity SDXC cards, and the built-in camera has been improved, giving HD resolution, a 16:9 aspect ratio and better low-light performance.
Although the 2011 Apple iMac's 27-inch display is of a very high quality, we wish there was an option to fit an antiglare screen instead of the standard glossy finish. If you order a MacBook Pro on the Apple online store, you can opt for a matte display, so why doesn't the iMac range offer a similar choice? The optical drive is looking long in the tooth too.
This top-of-the-range, 27-inch 2011 Apple iMac with a 3.4GHz Core i7 processor added as a custom option is an incredible machine, but it might be more than you actually need.
Creative professionals might welcome the larger screen and extra power, but for the average home user, a sub-£1,000 21.5-inch iMac could well prove more than good enough.