A Most Awesome PC: iMac 2011 3.4 GHz
Feb 12, 2012 (Updated Mar 10, 2012)
Review by Alan Lake
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Quality of Tech Support:
Pros:Easy to use, no viruses, eery compact, awesome monitor.
Cons:Slightly more than an equivalent self build PC.
The Bottom Line:
Just a great computer which I find easy to use. My next computer will be an iMac if this ever dies.
I love macintosh computers. They are easy to use and easy to maintain. The operating system is not as ugly as windows. It is just an easy computer to use.
Recommend this product?
Ever since I bought my Mac Mini 2.5 years ago, I have fallen in love with their desktop computers. They are easy to use and don't have many of the problems that plague Windows operating systems (OS). Macintosh computers do not have viruses and the Malware is taken care of fairly quickly through updates. The Malware is such a non-issue that I don't have anything like Malware bytes or other Malware checking programs. Keep in mind that some people will state that Macintosh computers can be infected with a virus. This is not true, but they can be infected with some Malware programs and (I think) key loggers.
This is the latest in the iMac line up. It is a desktop computer with a small footprint. It also runs the Macintosh operating system. I have run Snow Leopard and Lion on it. It has several hardware options but I got the basic setup.
The iMac can be thought of as a LCD monitor with a lap top glued to the back. One heck of a laptop mind you. By using Laptop components it becomes a small desktop computer. You can still have a box like you do with a PC, but that is called a mac pro and starts at 2500 for the case. From looking at the bench marks, the average person will find that the iMac is a much better value than the Mac Pro. But if you have the money and very special needs, then a 14 thousand dollar set up may interest you. I personally like my 2,200 dollar set up.
My 27 inch monitor is awesome. It blows my Samsung 21 inch out of the water both in size, brightness, and sharpness. The monitor is as good a monitor as anyone normal user would want.
A concern that previous iMac users have had was with excessive yellowing with the monitor. From what I have gathered online, it seems they have finally solved this problem. At least greatly improved this flaw from previous years since I have not see much gripping from new buyers. But if you can’t stand the monitor, just take it back to an Apple store and they will find a monitor you can be happy with.
2.5 years ago I had reached the top of my patience with my pc desktop computer. Dealing with Microsoft, spyware, viruses (that other people in my household opened), and the normal problems you have with these pc’s. In order to get them to run perfectly, they require many hours of maintenance in a given year. And I had mine working like a dream (unless someone installed a virus or mal ware). Finally I received my final straw. I got a Mac mini 2 years ago. It wasn’t great, but worked perfectly for what I wanted from it. I didn’t play many video games, partly because the Mac Mini can’t handle many games (see Starcraft II experience below). But for the web and text it worked just fine. Besides I have my consoles to play with.
But I have started to edit videos and edit some of my pictures and I found that the Mac mini was too slow for those tasks. So that is the primary reason I upgraded to this machine. Plus it plays games well and does everything faster. I am very pleased with buy thin iMac.
The iMac is an all in one box. Everything is in the monitor housing. This makes it very compact. So you don’t have a tower on the floor (or desk) with a bunch of cables going to the monitor. I love this design. It looks clean and untangled. The box only came with a blu-tooth keyboard, a track pad, and power cable.
Installing my memory
The first thing I did was buy two sticks of 4GB memory. This changed my ram from 4GB to 12GB. Some people will say you don’t need that. They’re wrong. Most people will use this much ram if not more. While looking at pictures I have maxed out my 12GB of ram. If you had the money, you should be able to put in 4 8GB ram for 32 GB of ram. Not very many people would use that unless you do work with some big files. Most people will max out at 16GB because the 4GB ram sims are around one tenth the cost for the 8GB ram. The basic set up comes with 4GB (2 2GB ram). Since you only have 4 ram ports, you will have to get rid of your 2 original ram strips to make room for your second pair of 4 GB ram strips. I currently have 2 sims of 2GB and 2 sims of 4GB, for a grand total or 12GB of ram. Fine for my needs at the moment.
The hard ware that works or does not work
I use a USB microsoft keyboard. I also use a USB Microsoft mouse. For gaming you want wired, not wireless.
I also use a scanner and a printer with no issues. These were automatically recognized.
My speaker system just uses a 1/8 inch port whack works perfectly with my speaker system. I have recently bought a headphone/mic that also works with the audio ports. I bought a splitter and plugged in both my headphone and speaker system with no problems at all. Both can work at the same time. The iHome 79 works of course.
My WX-9 digital camera was immediately recognized by the iMac. The software on the camera was installed with no issues. My W510 was not able to connect via the USB port.
I have had no problems with my USB hard drive or my Firewire external drive. I use the USB 2GB external hard drive for time machine. It took 4 hours to reinstall everything during the one time I used it (fire wire can be 2-4x faster depending on factors.) Time machine also works perfectly and automatically. Time machine comes with the OS. My internal hard drive is 1TB and the 2TB hard drive currently has 1.56 TB of information (from the 1TB content I have and have deleted) on it.
My external DVD burner also works perfectly. But since this iMac has a DVD burner of it's own, I don't need the external DVD burner. You have to plug in this DVD burner directly, not through a USB hub. I will eventually buy a LaCie Blu-Ray burner in the next year.
My SanDisk SD card reader works fine. But you don't need one because there is an SD card reader on the right side of the computer. Just under the DVD drive. Amusingly some people are not careful with their SD card and have put it into the DVD drive accidentally. It take a little bit of patience to fish it out. Thankfully I have never done that.
No Problems with using my Logitech Wireless Powerpoint Presenter. Worked with NeoOffice with no issues.
My Droid X works through my USB port. But it can seem slow from time to time. It also leaves the screen in an on state (but nothing showing) from time to time. Not sure if it is a phone issue or a iMac issue. Never had this issue with my Mac Mini.
My Sony Walkman works well as an external 16GB external hard drive. It does not work well as an external hard drive on my Windows PC at work for some strange reason.
My Nikon D5100 does not connect to this computer directly.
My first experiences
The first big difference I noticed was with Starcraft II. It was incredible. Instead of using the lowest settings, like I used on my Mac Mini, I used the highest settings. I got 10-30 frames per second at the highest settings. The buildings and units have shadows, moved, glistened, and just looked awesome. Just wow. But I don't run it at max much because Frame rate can be sketchy and I don't like to mess with setting inside a running game/map. I usually play Starcraft II with medium graphic settings in the Mac OS (at least until I loaded windows 7.)
I also edited some pictures and that was considerably faster. The compiling of my movies (like the ones for YouTube) were much faster. About 3 times faster.
You have several options as far as upgrades are concerned. I first bought my own ram from an external vendor for half the price apple would have charged me. Get Ram from ANOTHER VENDOR.
In the 2011 iMac you have two places for 2 physical hard drives. You can get any combination of SSD drives or magnetic hard drives. Two SSD, two magnetic, or one of each.
Other options are
21 vs 27 inch screens
2.5GHZ, 2.7GHZ, 3.1 GHZ, or 3.4 GHZ quad core processors
AMD Radeon HD 6970M 1GB or 2 GB video card
Magic mouse or magic trackpad
Wireless or wired keyboard
What do I recommend?
I really don’t like people that say that most people don’t need the fasted processor. I find that the 3.4 can be too slow at times depending on the application. So my rule is get the best computer you can.
I currently use my USB keyboard and USB mouse. I prefer a wired mouse to wireless due to gaming.
This is the data displayed online.
27-inch (viewable) LED-backlit glossy widescreen TFT display with support for millions of colours
Resolution: 2560x1440 pixels
I also installed Windows 7 using Bootcamp. This is merely so I can play games released on the windows OS. Sad, I know. I just recently did this in the last 2 months. The issue I had when starting it is that you have to disconnect most devices otherwise it may hang on boot up.
I can connect up to 2 additional monitors at the same time. You have to plug it into the Thunderbolt port. I only have my old Samsung plugged in. And after having 2 monitors at the same time, there is no going back. If I do end up setting up my Mac Mini with the Samsung monitor, I will buy a 350 dollar 27 inch.
You can buy a 27 inch mac monitor for 1000 dollars. Not in my price range.
A big problem with Macintosh is the lack of software compared to the Windows OS. It has actually be a bit frustrating at times. And that software that is available for the Mac OS typically costs more. Free software I use on a PC costs 1-20 dollars on a Macintosh computer.
I have had plenty of problems that had to be resolved through tech support.
The first issue I had could not be diagnosed. At the store they just put a Snow Leopard image.
After I reloaded Snow Leopard I decided not to load Lion again. I’ll do it later after an update or two. But I immediately used time machine with my 2GB external hard drive. It appeared to have worked perfectly. I’m just not going to reinstall Snow Leopard again to double check that it was done right. I still have my 750GB external hard drive that I manually save my files on. So incase the 2GB fails, I at least have a second back up for photos and music. I know, I’m paranoid. When I get a Blu-Ray burner, I'll do a third back up.
I had another problem. I went through phone tech support and they couldn’t figure it out. Then I went to the store a second time. They couldn’t figure it out so they just put snow leopard back on the computer by copying an image very quickly.
The third time the phone tech support was useless, again. Went to the store and they took my iMac in for 3 nights (long time without a computer) and did not find anything. They said they did nothing but my computer was running perfectly. No idea why. My personal files and software were unchanged. But I did not have the internet connection issues and I was able to load Windows 7 through boot camp with no problems. I sure hope there isn't a fourth time.
I have also had some issues with USB hubs. Not sure what the problem really was, I assume the hub. But some products would not communicate with the computer. I have bought some USB splitters (non-powered) and they work perfectly. I highly recommend this splitters.
There is also an emulator for certain pc games. I was not able to get this to work with black and white 1. So I had no luck with this feature. This feature is not available in Lion.
Software I use or have
I use these listed programs a lotFirefox-Internet browser
iMovie-Edit video into various formats.
Starcraft II- My favorite games of the past year, at least until I got Modern Warfare 2.
Time machine-Automatic backups of drives you have selected.
Converter programs-Converts to different formats of audio and video.
Neooffice-Free document, presentation, and spreadsheet editor.
App store-Download apps and games.
VLC player- Plays videos and audio.
Handbreak-Converts your disc movies into a video file.
iPhoto -Edit pictures. I like my adobe photo shop better.
Adobe Photo Shop.
GarageBand- Making music.
iDVD- Making DVD video. I've used this quite a bit for school.
Time Lapse-Streaming together a bunch of photos from my Nikon D5100 (timed setting)to make a time lapse movie from static photos.
I have also installed
plants vs Zombies
Dragon age 1 and 2
The force unleashed
star wars empire at war
star craft II
I now only play StarCraft II in Windows 7 because I have it at max resolution with no issues. I generally get 40-60 frames per second. It just runs better in Windows like a lot of other games.
DVD movies are nice. Easy to control and view.
THIS MAC DOES NOT PLAY BLU RAYS (from the box). This is something Steve Jobs would not allow. I think because of licensing.
Now you can watch blu-rays by ripping them off of an external blu-ray drive using Handbreak. There may be a program that lets you watch them normally but I don't know about it. Some people have ripped their entire collection and put it on an external hard drive. Anything that has access to the server can play these files (with proper settings of course).
Who is this for?
Someone that does not want the problems of a Windows PC.
I use a computer wipe to clean it off. You can also use a soft cloth with water.
I have had no issues with any accessory or port. So far it works very well. There is no issue with the Monitor since I have owned it. I have also heard plenty of stories where their iMac has lasted over 6 years, and are still trucking. Look at MacRumors for several of these claims. I have also not had dust get under my screen.
An awesome desktop computer. The iMac can run windows if you wish, but the best aspect of using the Mac OSX is it does not have the problems windows OS' have. And this computer is fast. It will meet the needs of most people. I whole heartily recommend this computer.
© Alan Lake's Kitchen 2012
Other reviews you might be interested in.
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LaCie USB portable DVD burner.
Microsoft Natural ergo keyboard.
Maxtor 750 GB external USB hard drive.
Amount Paid (US$): 2200
Operating System: Windows and Macintosh
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