PROS / Like its 27-inch big brother, this machine boasts the signature Apple attention to detail and general outstanding experience.
CONS / Not all software programs are compatible with OSX. However, this problem is quickly disappearing.
VERDICT / Whether you're an Apple fan boy or not, you have to respect the quality of all their machines.
The Apple iMac 21.5-inch media center computer is the entry-level machine in a pedigreed line of products that have continually improved since the first iMac in 1998. Powered by an Intel Core i5 or i7 quad-core processor, plenty of RAM and a capable graphics card, this is truly a workhorse computer. The included software is easy to use and OS X Lion couldn't be more intuitive, but we have to be honest – we prefer the 27-inch screen of the larger iMac.
As with every all-in-one media center computer, the display is the big standout. While the 27-inch monitor is missed, the gorgeous 21.5-inch LED display with full HD 1080p resolution deserves praise in its own right. Movies, video games and photos look fantastic on this display. Increasingly more media center computers come with touchscreen monitors, though this Apple hasn't been updated with this functionality.
The Apple iMac 21.5-inch media center computer comes with a quad-core Intel i5 processor with 4GB of RAM. It ships with a 500GB hard drive, though you can upgrade to a 1TB drive. Both have plenty of space for all your documents, music, photos, video files and more. It also features a FaceTime HD Camera, a keyboard and Apple Magic Mouse, though we prefer the Magic Trackpad, which is sold separately and is like using the MacBook Pro's glass trackpad. The built-in speakers are very good, and you can of course plug in a pair of headphones if you’d like.
There are several input/output ports, including the new Thunderbolt technology, which is one of the fastest ports available. It can work with another monitor and provides some of the fastest transfer speeds available at 10 Gbps, making it perfect for the next generation of external hard drives, RAIDs and other devices. There are also USB ports, FireWire 800, audio ports and an ethernet port.
Apple also includes several of their software titles with the iMac 21.5-inch media center computer, including the iLife suite of apps, which features iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand. Plus, it ships with iTunes, arguably the best music player and multimedia store.
The iMac 21.5-inch center computer features a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, and you can upgrade to a Core i7 unit, which is even faster. It comes with 4GB of RAM, though you can upgrade to 8GB. These upgrades from Apple can quickly become expensive, so we recommend upgrading only if you absolutely need to. The graphics are great too, featuring the AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics card with 512MB of GDDR5 memory, though you can step up to the 6770M. With such high-end hardware, this media center computer can easily power your work projects and facilitate your fun time.
Apple's OS X Lion is incredibly easy to use and has virtually no learning curve for first-time Lion users. The multimedia iLife apps and other software that ship with the Apple iMac 21.5-inch media center computer are also intuitive and simple to work with, echoing Apple’s philosophy that their hardware and software "just work."
Apple provides several help and support options, including excellent online support, documentation and forums. If you have an Apple Store nearby, you can even receive free service and help with getting started with your iMac. It ships with a one-year warranty, but you can purchase an additional extended warranty through their award-winning AppleCare support. If you need more help, you can reach Apple by telephone or email.
If you’re looking to get into a quality all-in-one media center computer, the Apple iMac 21.5-inch is a terrific and relatively affordable way to do so. It packs quite a punch under the hood, plus the display – though not too large – has excellent resolution.