The Display

Apple offers two display options with the iMac: a 1920 x 1080 21.5-inch panel and a 2560 x 1440 27-inch panel. I tested the latter for this review.

Right away I noticed a huge difference in the default settings for the 27-inch iMac vs. my 27-inch Cinema Display. The new iMac has a lower white point, I measured 6102K uncalibrated vs. 7133K on the 27-inch Cinema Display. Here's a quick pic showing you the difference side-by-side:

27-inch iMac (left) vs. 27-inch Cinema Display (right)

Obviously that's just a calibration issue, but it shows a little more foresight on Apple's part with the 27-inch iMac. Viewing angles seem the same between the two as well. There is a noticeable change in how Apple maps brightness levels to the software OSD on the iMac vs. the Cinema Display however. The iMac's controls are far more linear:

I'm not sure if Apple has made similar changes in currently shipping versions of the 27-inch Cinema Display but it makes a whole lot more sense now. Linear controls for non-linear curves are silly.

The change in default white point alone should be an indication that Apple is experimenting with panels or panel vendors, the rest of the data seems to back this up as well. Maximum brightness is down a bit and but so are black levels, which means overall contrast ratio remains unchanged.

White Level - XR Pro and Xrite i1D2

Black Level - XR Pro and Xrite i1D2

Contrast Ratio - XR Pro and Xrite i1D2

The new panel seems less uniform than the old one but it's not something that's noticeable in regular use, only if you actually measure the white/black levels on the panel.

Where the 2011 iMac does a lot better than my Cinema Display is in its color reproduction. The overall delta-E of the new panel is measurably lower than what was used in the first run of 27-inch Cinema Displays (and presumably last year's iMac):

Color Tracking - XR Pro and Xrite i1D2

I will say that despite what you see here numerically, you'd be hard pressed to tell a difference between the two panels as long as they're both calibrated.

Color gamut is a bit worse on the new panel vs. the old one from what I can tell. Both are WLED backlit which limits the spectrum of colors they can accurately reproduce.

LCD Color Quality

Overall I'm just as much a fan of the 27-inch iMac display as I was of the 27-inch Cinema Display. The iMac is obviously bulkier but overall desk footprint is similar and you get a Sandy Bridge system as a part of the deal.

FaceTime HD & Network Performance The Peripherals


View All Comments

  • stm1185 - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    So basically to get rid of having a tower, which probably can take up floor space you don't use anyway, you get about $700 worth of desktop hardware and a $1000 monitor rolled into one at the price of $2000. Which does not seem that bad of a deal, except I could never see myself having a monitor that costs more then the computer used with it. It seems very backwards.

    For instance is the experience with having 2560x1440 resolution over 1920x1080 better then the experience that you get with $1600 worth of hardware over $700? I think I would say No.
  • MrBigglesw0rth - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    Did you stop to consider what youre going to get for that 900$ more hardware cost? The main thing would be an SSD, then double the RAM. After that, what? Better speakers? Another optical drive? Expensive headsets? Maybe $300+ for 15% better processing power? How about a new paintjob on your car?

    Dont be silly. The best investment would be something you look at constantly; the display. When youre looking at minimal computational gains over a vastly better viewing experience for 2-3 new computer builds to come.

    Also, this isnt 1995 anymore. You can get 80% of the power for 20% of the cost. The largest cost in a good system today is a quality SSD and a quality screen, followed by the CPU, mobo/ram, etc.
  • aguilpa1 - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    Fine a display is important and that is why I have 3 of them at 5760x1080, 120Hz Alienware Optx23's but ONLY if the displays are independent of the system, meaning not built in whereby the computer becomes obsolete and then what??? How are you going to upgrade the motherboard on a proprietary and overpriced all in one? Proprietary junk will never be of great value no matter how pretty they are. It's been tried again and again.

    Keeping your old monitor that is still good to save money makes sense but not on an all in one unit. It never has and never will.
  • harshbarj - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    That is a good point! I have been running the same lcd now for 7 years and this is the 5th desktop to use this monitor. It was the first high end gaming 19 inch lcd on the market when I got it and even today it still looks great. Had I gone the imac way (which I would never as I play games) and bought an all in one, I would have needed to buy a new monitor with each new system. Reply
  • headbox - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    whatever. You can get a 23" widescreen display for barely over $100 now. You're just not in the crowd of people that can afford upgrades. All of these price criticisms always come from people that Apple doesn't market towards anyways: broke nerds. For MANY people, $2000 is not a big deal for a computer every 2 years (or less.) Reply
  • harshbarj - Friday, May 27, 2011 - link

    Really? Best price on newegg is about $150 and that monitor is noticeably smaller in height than my 19 inch. Anyway why replace something that still works just fine? Seems kind of stupid to me!

    Also for MOST people $2000 is a big deal.
  • samirotiv - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    buddy, this is a 27 inch LED backlit IPS display. What you're talking about is a TN display. Reply
  • samirotiv - Saturday, May 28, 2011 - link

    Don't get me wrong, I do agree with you. 2000USD is an investment. Some people have very basic performance needs, and can live with the same machine for 5 years. They value a good display, way more than a fast CPU. They attribute almost no importance to a GPU. A Mac takes almost no space, has almost no cables, no clutter. Some people value that.

    Besides, macs have a decent resale value too. But if I wanted a machine for myself, I wouldn't take a mac. I'd go for a custom built one.
  • utlragear - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Well it's not like blowing $2000 for an imac will get you major performance anyway. Apple only ships mdgrade hardware and it's always been that way. They pocket an extra $1000 off each isucker, and that can be PROVEN and broken down in itemized price lists. If one must, just build a PC for $700 that runs rings around an imac. Then hackintosh it and it will be faster than the one apple ships for $2000 by far. PROOF that they do exactly what I'm saying they do. But I can't see any reason to run an OS that is no better than win 7. If you want someone that has almost no cables get an ALL IN ONE PC. They are not like that because they are Macs. Macs are simply PC's anyway. There is NO value in it simply being apple. That statement will make some people mad, but sometimes when you break up someone's fantasies they also get mad. Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Sunday, May 29, 2011 - link

    A 27" 2560x1440 IPS display with LED backlighting is going to cost a lot more than a 23" 1080p LCD with a TN panel.


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