Aluminum iMac Q&A - Revised November 4, 2011
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What are the "pros and cons" of the Aluminum iMac models? Is one right for my needs?
Like any other purchase, only you can make the decision whether or not one of the Aluminum iMac systems is the right Mac for you, but you can evaluate the pros and cons to see if your needs are met. This summary may be helpful in making a decision:
- Attractive, sleek, and solid industrial design.
- Quite fast. In addition to fast processors, currently shipping "Mid-2011" and "Late 2011" as well as discontinued "Mid-2010" models all have "dedicated" graphics for improved performance compared to some earlier models as well.
- All 21.5-Inch and 27-Inch models have beautiful LED-backlit displays created for optimum use with 16:9 high-definition video.
- RAM is very easy to upgrade and the processor in some models can be upgraded as well.
- Dual-layer DVD write support, 802.11n, and Firewire "800" standard in all configurations (the current "Mid-2011" models support "Thunderbolt" as well).
- Official dual display support and built-in iSight for easy video conferencing.
- SD Card slot standard in all 21.5" and 27" models (the previous "Mid-2010" and current "Mid-2011" and "Late 2011" models support the more advanced SDXC standard as well).
- Reasonable value.
- All-in-one design limits internal expansion. Apple provides no support for end-user upgrades beyond RAM.
- The hard drive in 20" and 24" models is difficult to upgrade and even more difficult to upgrade in 21.5" and 27" models.
- The processor, likewise, is difficult to upgrade yourself in all models and apparently blocked in others.
- Glossy display in all models. Discontinued 20-Inch models have lower quality 6-bit displays with more limited viewing angle.
- Keyboard design is polarizing -- some will like it, some will not.
- Depending on the desired configuration, it may be less expensive to purchase an Intel-based Mac mini.
- Limited legacy support -- uses "Rosetta," no support of MacOS 9/Classic applications.
- SD Card Slot on 21.5" and 27" models is placed awkwardly close to the optical drive slot on the right hand side, which makes it easy to mistakenly stick an SD Card in the optical drive.
- Premium compared to generic "white box" PCs.
Essentially, if you are looking for a relatively inexpensive and powerful Mac, and have no Mac OS 9/"Classic" applications, and no "mission critical" applications that are incompatible or run too slowly using "Rosetta", then an Aluminum iMac model would be an excellent choice particularly if you appreciate an all-in-one design.
If cost is a higher priority, an Intel-based Mac mini may be better depending on desired configuration. If expansion is a high priority, a Mac Pro would be wise.
Site sponsor PowerMax has new 21.5" and 27" iMac models (as well as used iMacs) available for sale free of sales tax. Operator Headgap Systems specializes in heavily upgraded systems with an eye on backwards and future compatibility.
Also see: What are the "pros and cons" of the "White" iMac "Core Duo/Core 2 Duo" models? Is one right for my needs?
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