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Late 2013 iMac review: Faster than before, but the gains over previous models are modest

James Galbraith | Jan. 17, 2014
Back in October, we reviewed the new $1299 entry-level iMac, the first of the new iMac models that we could get our hands on. Regrettably, it took us a while to get the other three standard-configuration iMacs in the Macworld Lab to test. We finally took a good look at the rest of Apple's iMac line.

Like the 21-inch iMac, the new low-end $1799 27-inch iMac was also 5 percent faster overall than its predecessor. The new model was 14 percent faster in our HandBrake Encode test 28 percent faster in our iMovie test. The new iMac's Nvidia GeForce GT 755M graphics helped the system post 17 percent higher frame rates in the Cinebench OpenGL test than the GeForce GTX 680M graphics in the older iMac.

The high-end $1999 27-inch iMac was 15 percent faster overall than the 2012 high-end stock iMac. It was also faster than the older iMac in all but the aforementioned Zip and Unzip tests. Highlights included a 42 percent faster iMovie test results 18 percent faster Handbrake times and 28 percent faster files and folder copy times.

Tests of our CTO 27-inch iMac show that the Fusion Drive and processor upgrade definitely give the custom iMac a nice performance boost. The custom 2013 iMac was 39 percent faster overall than the top-of-the-line stock $1999 iMac. The CTO 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.

Bottom line
The new iMacs have the same strengths and weaknesses as the 2012 iMacs that ushered in the current design : strikingly thin-edges and decreased screen glare, but at the cost of eliminating the optical drive from the iMac line and RAM upgradability in the 21-inch models. The new models are faster than their predecessors in most tests, but CTO options can really increase performance.

Finder tests

Mac model

Copy 6GB File

Compress 12GB Folder

Decompress 12GB Folder

iMac/3.4GHz (27-inch, quad-core, Late 2013)

102.7

437.5

125.0

iMac/3.2GHz (27-inch, quad-core, Late 2013)

96.8

414.0

116.9

iMac/2.9GHz (21.5-inch, quad-core, Late 2013)

147.3

417.7

173.0

iMac/2.7GHz (21.5-inch, quad-core, Late 2013)

138.1

300.2

124.4

Mac Pro/3.0GHz (eight-core, Late 2013)*

23.5

324.8

39.1

iMac/3.5GHz (27-inch, quad-core i7, 8GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive, 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M, Late 2013)*

3.7

241.3

33.6

iMac/3.2GHz (27-inch, quad-core, Late 2012)

2.6

280.3

123.6

iMac/2.9GHz (27-inch, quad-core, Late 2012)

3.0

280.4

84.3

iMac/2.9GHz (21.5-inch, quad-core, Late 2012)

3.0

288.0

143.0

       

*Customize to build model.

Results are times in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

 

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