Apple iMac 27-inch (Late 2013) full review

27-inch iMac Apple Late 2013

Apple sells two versions of its 27-inch all-in-one desktop iMac, differentiated only by processor speed and graphics card. Here we speed test the late-2013 iMacs and look at which is best for you.

The iMac is, of course, a great example of Apple’s elegant industrial design. It houses everything – display, processor, graphics, storage, memory and so on – within its super slim case. It manages to pack everything into the thin case by use of advanced friction-stir welding, full-lamination display and micro engineering.

It comes with a wireless keyboard and wireless Magic Mouse (buy the £25 Apple Battery Charger), so all you need to add is a modem/router and you’re in business.

The LCD screen is big (really big!), glossy and vibrant – great for web browsing, editing, games and watching movies. If you don’t need such a giant screen Apple offers smaller but still spacious 21.5-inch iMacs too from as little as £899, although we recommend the mid-range £1,049 model. Read out Apple 21.5-inch iMac reviews.

For more on the whole range, see 2014 iMac range review.

2014 Apple iMac model range

The resolution of the widescreen displays is 2,560-x-1,440 on the 27-inch iMac, compared to 1,920-x-1,080 on the 21.5-inch iMac.

The 27-inch iMacs are fitted with faster 7,200rpm hard drives compared to the 21.5-inch iMacs that have 5,400rpm hard drives. The 27-inch models also have a lot more storage options at point of purchase – right up to a 3TB Fusion drive for an extra £280.

Each of the 27-inch iMacs is powered by a quad-core Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor, with a build-to-order option up to a 3.5GHz Core i7.

Every iMac comes with four USB 3 ports and two Thunderbolt ports for fast transfer speeds and expansion opportunities. The iMac supports ultra-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology is also built in.

None of the iMacs offers a DVD drive. You can buy these separately from Apple for £65.

27-inch iMac Apple Late 2013

Entry-level 27-inch iMac

The entry-level 27-inch iMac costs £1,499, and has a 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, 1TB hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GT 755M graphics card with 1GB of video memory.

Top-of-the-range 27-inch iMac

For £1,599 you get a 27-inch iMac with a slightly faster 3.4GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB memory, 1TB hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M graphics card with 2GB of video memory. This model can, for £160, be upgraded at point of purchase to use a 3.5GHz Core i7 chip.

27-inch iMac tested: Full power iMac worth the extra?

There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of performance difference between the two 27-inch iMacs, but in our tests the extra £150 buys you an 11% speed boost – not a bad increase for powwer users.

But we also tested the Ultimate iMac you can order from Apple.

Our Ultimate 27-inch iMac takes the £1,599, high-end configuration and upgrades the processor from a 3.4GHz quad-core Core i5 processor to a 3.5GHz quad-core Core i7 processor, a £190 option. The memory stays at 8GB, though 16GB and 32GB upgrades are available through the Apple Store for £160 and £480, respectively.

Our ultimate iMac also upgrades the standard 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive to a 3TB Fusion Drive, a £280 upgrade. Finally, our iMac has the upgraded graphics card as well, opting for an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of video memory (extra £130) over the standard GTX 775M with 2GB of RAM. With these £600 in upgrades, the retail price of our CTO iMac came to £2,199.

The customized top-of-the-range iMac was 39 percent faster overall than the top-of-the-line stock £1,599 iMac. The Ultimate iMac’s 3.5GHz quad-core Core i7 processor helped it outpace the high-end iMac and its 3.4GHz Core i5 processor in Cinebench’s CPU test, MathematicaMark, and HandBrake by 25, 19, and 16 percent, respectively. The 6GB folder copy test took just 41 seconds on the custom iMac with Fusion Drive, versus 103 seconds on the high-end stock iMac. Testing was carried out at the Macworld Labs.

Upgrading extras for the 27-inch iMac

If you want a larger or faster internal drive or more memory, it’s best to customize your iMac at the time of purchase. The 27-inch iMac allows for more, later user customization than the hard-to-upgrade 21.5-inch models. Upgrading the memory is easy on the 27-inch iMac, and might be cheaper than buying RAM from Apple.

Available options for the 27-inch model include 256GB or 512GB of super-fast flash storage (£160 and £400, respectively) or a 1TB Fusion Drive (£160) that marries 126GB of fast flash storage and 1TB hard drive into a single volume that performs much like an SSD, but with the capacity of a hard drive. You could also add an available 3TB hard drive for £120, 3TB Fusion Drive for £280, or 1TB of flash storage for a cool £800.

Upping the memory from 8GB to 16GB will cost £160, or £480 for 32GB of RAM.

The higher-end 27-inch iMac’s processor can be upgraded from the standard 2.9GHz Core i5 to a 3.5GHz quad-core Core i7 processor for another £190. And the graphics card can be maxed to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of video memory.

Of all these upgrade options we think the Fusion Drives are the ones to go for as they really increase speed, especially in copying files.

2014 Apple iMac model range

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