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27-inch iMac Review: Review of the 27-inch 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac (Fall 2009)

27-inch Display May Be Best Yet From Apple

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27-inch iMac Review - Review of the 27-inch 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac (Fall 2009)

Late 2009 27-inch iMac.

Courtesy of Apple

The 27-inch iMac sporting the Intel 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo processor may be the best value in the current iMac lineup. Offered at $1699, the 27-inch model has a gorgeous display that may well be the best display Apple has produced so far. Paired with the huge display is a well-designed and well-performing iMac, with plenty of features and enough oomph to handle almost any task you throw at it.

27-inch iMac Review: Overview

The iMac has long been Apple's consumer desktop. The iMac's all-in-one design is an appealing package that has driven consumer computing design for a decade.

The latest incarnation of the iMac brings stunning changes; not just the large 27-inch display, but also the well thought out base configuration, which will probably meet the needs of 90% of consumers looking to purchase an iMac.

Base Configuration of 27-inch iMac

  • 27-inch LED backlit glossy widescreen display
  • 2560x1440 resolution (true 16:9 aspect ratio)
  • 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 4 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 1 TB 7200 RPM hard drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics processor with 256 MB memory
  • AirPort Extreme (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Built-in iSight + microphone
  • FireWire 800 port
  • 4 USB 2.0 ports
  • SD card slot
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • 2 internal 17-watt amplifiers
  • Headphone/optical digital audio out
  • Audio line-in/optical in
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • Wireless keyboard
  • Magic Mouse

27-inch iMac Review: Unpacking and Installation

27-inch iMac Review - Review of the 27-inch 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo iMac (Fall 2009)

The iMac is well packaged for hazardous shipping.

Coyote Moon Inc.

Apple ships the iMac double boxed, with a nondescript brown shipping box on the outside and a white box complete with an Apple logo, a picture of the iMac, and a handy carrying handle inside.

Unpacking the 27-inch iMac is a straightforward task. Open the box and you'll see a small container right at the top that holds the keyboard, mouse, install DVDs, and instructions on setting up and using your iMac.

If you're like us, you'll quickly put those aside and move on to taking the iMac out of the box. Remember, though, that the 27-inch model weighs in at a hefty 30 lbs., so having a friend hold the box while you lift the iMac out is not a bad idea.

The iMac is covered in a white spun foam sheet that is easily removed, revealing a clear plastic film that further protects the display, as well as the iMac's aluminum foot. After you remove these last pieces of shipping regalia, your iMac is ready for installation.

iMac Installation

Before turning on the iMac for the first time you need to either plug in the keyboard and mouse or, as in our configuration, turn on the wireless keyboard and Magic Mouse. You should also have your planned network connection ready to go. For us, that's a wired Ethernet cable. If you're using wireless, make sure you have your wireless router set to hand out IP addresses (DHCP; Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol), so the iMac's built-in AirPort Extreme can connect to your network when powered on.

With all that in place, it's time to hit the power on button.

27-inch iMac Review: First Startup

If you're using a wired keyboard and mouse, your iMac will start right up, with a setup process that will configure the iMac and create an administrator user account. If you're using a wireless keyboard and mouse, you must first pair the iMac with the keyboard and mouse. This is a fairly straightforward process, except that the instructions for how to turn the keyboard on or off aren't clear.

We were repeatedly told that no keyboard was detected. I even replaced the batteries, thinking they might be weak. It turns out you have to press and hold the power on button on the keyboard until the indicator light blinks to indicate that it's powered on. With that out of the way, the keyboard was recognized and we were ready to start the installation.

The first startup is straightforward. You'll be walked through the process, which includes selecting a default language, setting time and time zone, and creating the administrator account. You can also register your iMac with Apple, though registration is optional. There's no activation process like the one found in Windows systems.

Once the first startup configuration is completed, you'll be presented with the desktop and ready to start enjoying your 27-inch iMac.

27-inch iMac Review: The 27-inch Display

The display is gorgeous. I know I keep using that word, but it's true. Once you lay your eyes on this display, there's no going back to something smaller.

Apple uses an IPS (In-Plane Switching) LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panel. IPS panels are known for a very wide viewing angle, color accuracy, and above average image quality. The panel is backlit by LEDs that produce a uniform backlight that helps boost the 27-inch iMac's overall brightness, and contrast.

While sitting at the iMac, you'll notice that the display is bright and uniform, with little or no color shift when viewed off angle. That's a big plus, especially once you start using your iMac to view HD movies with a friend or two. Speaking of HD content, the 27-inch iMac display uses a 2560x1440 pixel resolution. This works out to a true 16:9 aspect ratio, the same ratio most TV HD content and many movies use.

This same widescreen aspect ratio works very well for working with applications. The display area is more than able to display two browser pages, two word processing documents, or two of just about anything and still have some room left over. If you work a lot with graphics applications, this means you can easily have an image and all of an application's floating toolboxes and menus on screen, without covering up the document you're working on.

The iMac's display also has another nifty trick. It can be used as an external display for another Mini DisplayPort-equipped Mac, such as the current MacBook or MacBook Pro, or, with an optional third-party adapter, with other devices that output a digital video signal.

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