A User’s Joyful Reaction to Apple’s Late 2013 21.5-inch iMac

| John Martellaro's Blog

Apple's "late 2013" 21.5-inch Haswell powered iMac is compact, fast and runs very, very cool. I just received one, and I was very impressed. Here are my observations.

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First, this is not a review. The best review I have seen of this iMac is by Anand Lal Shimpi: "21.5-inch iMac (Late 2013) Review: Iris Pro Driving an Accurate Display." It's simply an awesome review, as are all those by AnandTech.

If this Mac has been on your shopping list, read the review. Then you'll want one. Straight away.

So did I.

In my case, an aging 2010 27-inch iMac and a hardware failure led me to an earlier than planned decision to move to a 21.5-inch late 2013 model iMac. I opted for the Core i7, as always, with discrete graphics, 16 GB of RAM, and (for me) the essential 256 GB SSD.

I was, at first, concerned that the smaller display of 21.5 inches at 1920 x 1080 might be a little cramped compared to my older 27-inch iMac (2560 by 1440), and it is. But I only expect to be using this iMac for a short period and then move on to the late 2013 Mac Pro. By and large, the display is a little less real estate than I'm used to, but everything I do there: Firefox, YoruFukurou (Twitter), ImageWell and PathFinder all still fit.

The first thing I noticed was that this Mac has a very clean and tight design. While the edges of the 2010 iMac were large and boxy, this smaller iMac, with its thin edges, just feels sexier. It makes the old, thick 2010 iMac look dated.

Of course, like everyone else, I read the stories about how a thin edge isn't really important because we view straight on. Plus, in the back where the guts are, it's thicker. I no longer subscribe to any of that now. When not writing, I get to view the iMac from many angles. As a reviewer, I'm constantly fussing with the iMac, adjusting its position, working with items on my desk, etc. I'm delighted with this iMac's design as I handle it.

Look Ma, No Heat

The next thing I noticed is that this Mac runs incredibly cool. It's been on constantly for several days, and it remains cool to the touch. While the 2010 iMac has a long slot at the top to let heat escape, this new iMac has a small grill on the back just above the power plug. There is no noticeable heat coming out of there in my normal operations. (I haven't done any stress testing yet.)

That 2010 iMac, in normal use would run so hot that I had to install smcFanControl and occasionally crank up the fans when my office got warm. I don't think I'll need it on this new iMac.

In fact, this Mac so far has been perfectly silent. I'll be amused to hear what the fan(s) sound like if they ever do come on. I'm loving low-power, fast desktop iMacs.

When I set this iMac up out of the box, I used a Time Machine backup that was saved to a Synology DS412+ NAS/RAID system. It took far less than an hour to load 120 GB via gigabit Ethernet. The process was fast and flawless, and I was delighted to see my new iMac identical in every operational aspect as the day before when using the old iMac.

As an aside, the Time Machine archive, as is standard practice, did not include my Parallels virtual machine (.pvm) files. Those should be and were excluded from Time Machine and were archived and reloaded separately, this time to an external USB 3 drive from Other World Computing.

Left: 23-inch Apple Cinema Display (DVI > Displayport connector.)
RIght; 21.5-inch Late 2013 iMac.

Speed

With 16 GB of RAM and an Intel "Haswell" processor that's several generations newer than the "Lynnfield," it's delightful to have a palpable feel to the increased speed. The old iMac was nice, but things snap on the display even faster now. Contrary to a peculiar, divergent line of reasoning, you can never have a computer that's too fast. Never. (Too expensive? Maybe.)

For the curious, Geekbench benchmarks are available at PrimateLabs. In 64-bit, Single Core mode, this particular i7 iMac comes in at 3868. Compare that to my trusty but old 2009 Mac Pro at 2315.

SuperDrive

I haven't burned a CD/DVD in years, and I agree that this technology is dead. Losing that drive makes all the difference when it comes to allowing a beautiful industrial design. However, for the sake of being able to still read some DVDs, including an emergency boot DVD from ProSoft (Drive Genius), I'm planning to buy an external SuperDrive from Apple. It's only US$79, and I'm guessing I may never need to use it. Still, it's nice to have handy for the day, coming soon, when no Mac in the house has a built-in SuperDrive.

Concluding Remarks

Macs have a reputation for lasting a long time. My average time to hold a Mac is four to five years. One can become accustomed to an old friend while technology marches on, and I submit that it's a good thing to seriously think about a new Mac after four years. It's not because the Mac becomes non-functional. Rather, it's because it's just good sense to keep up with technology before it's too late. One loses touch with what's new and risks unrecoverable hardware failure as well.

My wife will get the (fixed) 2010 iMac as a hand-me-down, then we'll recycle her old Mac to Apple and get some cash. We'll use Apple's "Reuse and Recycling Program."

This awesome new Mac came with a joyful reminder: it's good to move on to Apple's latest and flow with the technology, design and speed of new Macs. It's been a delightful experience so far.

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iMac teaser image via Apple.

Comments

Jim Tanous

John, don’t spend that much on Apple’s SuperDrive. It is truly overpriced. If you need something really sleek, try this Samsung USB 2.0 DVD-RW for $34 (I know, the dreaded Samsung - just keep it in a drawer when you’re not using it).

If you can’t stand the thought of a Samsung product, there’s an AmazonBasics model for $30, although it has an average rating one star lower than the Samsung.

Lee Dronick

I am assuming that the audio out is still on the back. I wish that they were easier to get at, perhaps use a software switch to choose internal or external speakers.

PSMacintosh

Yeah, I got a late 2013 27” iMac with Hybrid HD and love it so far.
(I’m in love again!)

I had been using an 2007 Macbook Pro for years, but almost always had it operating on my desk.  So I was a bit shocked the other day when the power went off and I lost my work (a letter) on the iMac.  Whoops.
I haven’t had a UPS since the 1980s, but went right out and bought one.

However, I really dislike the fact that it doesn’t have an internal SuperDrive. I would have paid for one!
I’ve hit that wall a couple of times in the first 3 months already. 
First, when i needed to load (but couldn’t) and then burn a CD. So I found an old external CD player. (But I commented on that before.)
Second, when I stuck a DVD into the CD Player, without thinking, and then realized I can’t even play a DVD.  Had to use my old MBP.

Bryan Kennedy

I’ve had my 27” 2013 iMac for 3 months now. I use Final Cut Pro and Handbrake all the time and I’ve never heard a fan.

I got an external ASUS re-writable Blu-Ray drive at Fry’s for $70.

John Martellaro

Lee: Yes, the audio out jack is in the same place as previous iMacs.

John Martellaro

Lee:  P.S. For a view of the back, scroll down on Apple’s tech spec page.

http://www.apple.com/imac/specs/

brett_x

Lee: I assume the problem you have is that once you plug in speakers/ headphones, you can’t switch to internal speaker. I’m not sure how well it is supported in Mavericks, but soundflower might be able to help you with that.

Also a related tip: holding option + clicking on the volume item allows you to quickly change input / output.

fudfud

Are the iMacs serviceable, either by the the Apple store or the user? Can memory or a larger drive be added? What happens after the warranty is over, and something fails, is the only option to replace? I’m getting desperate for a new Mac, but had avoid these after the Apple store told me they were sealed. Over the years, I’ve extended the life of many Macs by adding memory and new drives.  Didn’t realize there was an I7 build option, this is a nice configuration.

The Senior List

Great article- Thinking about getting one very soon!  Thanks for the info-

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