IMac 21.5-inch 1.6GHz Late 2015

The low-end iMac gets a re­fresh, but doesn’t get the SSD it needs

Mac Format - - RATED -

£899 Man­u­fac­turer Ap­ple, ap­ Pro­ces­sor In­tel Core i5 1.6GHz Mem­ory 8GB Stor­age 1TB HDD

When Ap­ple de­buted this par­tic­u­lar form of low-end iMac (pretty much a MacBook Air’s brains in an iMac’s body) last year, we weren’t im­pressed – and lit­tle has changed. The MacBook Air lacks over­all horse­power, but its pro­ces­sor speed is fine when backed by fast solid-state stor­age. Lengthy pro tasks will still be slow, but most of your gen­eral use around the desk­top is eas­ily nippy enough be­cause it can pull files and data rapidly from stor­age. But in this iMac you’ve got the same 1.6GHz pro­ces­sor, but it’s paired with a slow 5,400rpm hard drive – the kind that Ap­ple moved its lap­tops away from a few years ago in favour of SSDs.

Now, the hard drive here is a 1TB model, so you do get loads of stor­age space, which for some peo­ple will be im­por­tant. The iMac also bests the MacBook Air when it comes to RAM, since you get 8GB as stan­dard, com­pared to 4GB in the Air. But for us, it’s still a mis­step.

Weigh­ing up op­tions

The MacBook Air costs £150 less, and you get the flex­i­bil­ity of it be­ing por­ta­ble, and hav­ing a zippy 128GB SSD. Also, you can up­grade its 4GB of RAM to 8GB for £80. You can add on ex­ter­nal stor­age or a larger ex­ter­nal dis­play with the ex­tra money saved. Al­ter­na­tively, the next iMac up costs £150 more and fea­tures a much more pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor and im­proved graph­ics chip (al­though it has the same hard drive). Put sim­ply, we’d take ei­ther of those over this op­tion. You can bump this ma­chine to a Fu­sion Drive model for £80, which will help.

Hid­den value

We should be clear that our prob­lems with this ma­chine all re­late to its value com­pared to the other op­tions – it’s not like it’s any less re­li­able than Ap­ple’s usual of­fer­ings. If you really want an all-in-one for as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and won’t ever care about games or pro tasks, and don’t mind if it’s just a lit­tle slow to do com­mon things, this is still a rea­son­able pack­age, and the up­grade to In­tel’s lat­est chips has given it a lit­tle per­for­mance boost over last year’s model.

It com­pleted our Hand­brake video en­cod­ing test in 69 min­utes (com­pared to 74 min­utes from its pre­de­ces­sor) and we got 20fps play­ing Bat­man Arkham City at 1080p on High set­tings – up from 17fps last year. Th­ese are okay fig­ures, but are a re­minder of its lim­i­ta­tions – the game is sev­eral years old, but is un­playable like that even at the iMac’s na­tive res­o­lu­tion.

As we’ve said, though, the killer is where you just catch the slow­ness of that hard drive in gen­eral use: us­ing Spot­light or delv­ing through fold­ers. The screen is still nice, of course, though it pales com­pared to the Retina op­tions, and we’re fans of Ap­ple’s new pro­vided key­board. For peo­ple who specif­i­cally want a cheaper all-in-one, this will work fine. For ev­ery­one else, we sug­gest an Air or an up­grade. Matt Bolton An iMac that works fine if it’s what you really want, but it’s not good value for money for most peo­ple.

8GB of RAM as stan­dard

1TB stor­age is use­ful…

…but this needs an SSD

Poor value for money

The low-end iMac is es­sen­tially a MacBook Air, but with ham­pered per­for­mance thanks to a slow hard drive.

Even the low-end iMac comes with Ap­ple’s lat­est Blue­tooth key­board and mouse, which are also re­viewed in this is­sue.

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