Lab test: New 27in iMac speed results

James Galbraith
14 January, 2013
View more articles fromthe author
AAA
Features

Finally, after many phone calls to many Apple Stores—as well as a few heartbreakingly fruitless trips to far-flung retail stores—the hard-to-get 27in iMacs are in our lab and tested. The results, however, were not what we expected.

The new 27in iMacs are available in two standard configurations. Both have 8GB of RAM and feature Intel’s quad core Ivy Bridge processors. The $2199 model sports a 3.2GHz Core i5, while the $1999 model uses a 2.9GHz Core i5.

Both iMacs include 7200-rpm, 1TB SATA-3 hard drives, but the drives in these two iMacs we received are not identical—and neither were their performance scores. Our $2199 iMac has a Western Digital WD10EALX Caviar Blue drive with 32MB of cache. Our $1999 iMac has a Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 hard drive with 64MB of cache—twice the cache of the WD, and the advantage of the larger cache is evident in our test results.

2012 27in iMacs: Speedmark scores

Speedmark 8
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 224
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 238
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive, 16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012) 313
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 189
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 187
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 275
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 82

All results are scores. Higher scores are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics. Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith, Albert Filice, and Kean Bartelman.

 

The $1999 iMac was 34 percent faster than the $2199 iMac in the 2GB folder copy test, and 20 percent faster when uncompressing a 6GB file. In fact, the $1999 iMac was faster than the $2199 iMac in nine of the 15 tests that make up our Speedmark 8 benchmark suite. The $1999 iMac had an overall Speedmark 8 score that is 6 percent higher than the $2199 iMac.

As a reality check, I ran Blackmagic’s Disk Speed Test, using the 5GB file settings. I found read and write speeds between 180MBps to 190MBps on the Seagate hard drive, and about 120MBps on the WD drive.

When put into context with the results of the 2011 iMacs, this doesn’t seem to be a case of Apple choosing slower drives for the high-end model, it’s just that the Seagate drive is very fast. The $1999 iMac took 96 seconds to copy a 6GB file from one part of the drive to another, while the WD drive in the $2199 iMac took 146 seconds, the same result as the high-end 2011 27in iMac.

While the Seagate drive is fast, it’s nowhere near as fast as the Fusion Drive in our custom-built 2012 27in iMac, which finished the 6GB file copy in just 41 seconds and had Blackmagic write speeds of over 310MBps and read speeds of over 400MBps.

In better news for the $2199 iMac, it was faster than the $1999 iMac in both the Cinebench CPU test (7 percent faster) and MathematicaMark (5 percent faster). The $2199 iMac was also faster than its predecessor, a 3.1GHz Sandy Bridge quad-core Core i5 system. This year’s model was 19 percent faster overall than the 2011 high-end iMac, 14 percent faster in the Cinebench CPU test, and 16 percent faster in our Handbrake test—the extra RAM in the 2012 standard configuration helps boost performance. (The 2011 iMacs came with 4GB of RAM.) TheVMWare/ PCMark test loves that extra memory. The new $1999 iMac 2012 was 28 percent faster overall than its predecessor, a 2.7GHz Sandy Bridge quad-core Core i5 system. The new $1999 iMac’s zippy hard drive, larger amount RAM, and faster CPU all contribute to its increased speed.

The 2011 iMac used AMD Radeon graphics, but Apple, as they are wont to do, has switched alliances for this generation, going with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M with 512MB GDDR5 memory in the $1999 model, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 675MX with 1GB GDDR5 memory in the $2199 model. (The $2199 iMac can be upgraded to 2GB of video memory for an additional $175.) The graphics test results were mixed; Cinebench’s OpenGL test showed the older Radeon graphics to be about 6 percent faster than the new Nvidia graphics on the $2199 iMac, and 11 percent faster on the $1999 iMac. Portal 2 test results showed the opposite effect, with the new Nvidia graphics showing a 7 percent advantage over the older Radeon graphics in the high-end models and 6 percent in the low-end models.

Our customised 2012 iMac with a 3.4GHz Core i7 processor, 1TB Fusion Drive, and 16GB of RAM, was 40 percent faster overall than the standard $2199 iMac, and 32 percent faster than the $1999 iMac. The Core i7’s Hyper Threading helped the custom iMac post Cinebench CPU scores that were 24 percent faster than the $2199 iMac and 29 percent faster scores than the $1999 27in iMac.

 

2012 27in iMacs: Individual application scores

Duplicate
2GB File
Compress
6GB Folder
Uncompress
6GB Folder
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 145.7 293.8 129.2
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 96.1 295.7 102.8
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive,
16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012)
40.6 262.4 40.6
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 145.4 322.7 142.3
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 140.1 301.9 137.5
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 37.7 286.8 41.2
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 236.9 522.8 228.2

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

2012 27in iMacs: Individual application scores

Import
iMovie
Archive
iMovie
Share to
iTunes
HandBrake
Encode
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 59.2 47.0 51.0
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 54.8 51.3 54.0
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive,
16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012)
41.6 39.3 49.0
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 65.8 49.8 61
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 69.7 46.0 64.3
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 45.1 59.3 81.3
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 185.9 104.1 167.7

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

2012 27in iMacs: Individual application scores

iPhoto
Import
Aperture
Import
Photoshop
CS5 Action
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 82.6 64.4 92.6
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 69.3 52.6 90.9
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive,
16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012)
39.2 45.2 85.0
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 98.2 71.0 140.7
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 99.9 73.3 139.3
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 46.1 51.4 89.3
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 173.2 164.7 267.7

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

2012 27in iMacs: Individual application scores

iTunes
Encode
Cinebench
CPU
VMware
PCMark
Mathe-
maticaMark 8
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 92.7 77.3 3979 2.02
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 91.1 83.3 4515 1.92
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive,
16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012)
84.7 59.0 4329 2.16
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 98.3 90 1406 1.9
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 95.7 101.7 1389 1.7
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 90.7 64.7 4184 2.0
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 162.7 333.7 708 0.6

iTunes and Cinebench CPU results are in seconds, (lower results are better). VMware PCMark and MathematicaMark 8 are scores (higher results are better). Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

2012 27in iMacs: Graphics tests

Cinebench
OpenGL
Portal 2
27in iMac/3.2GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 39.9 134.5
27in iMac/2.9GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 40.1 129.5
27in iMac/3.4GHz Core i7 1TB Fusion Drive,
16GB RAM BTO (Late 2012)
44.7 148.6
27in iMac/3.1GHz Core i5 (Mid 2011) 42.6 125.7
27in iMac/2.7GHz Core (Mid 2011) 44.5 122.2
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 39.2 128.6
21in iMac/2.4GHz Core 2 Duo (2007) 12.8 30.1

Results are in frames per second. Higher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Peter says:

    so……if i’m looking at a 27 inch i5and the most intensive thing i’m going to be doing is some home video editing on a casual basis of high def (avchd) clips/movies……i am better off going the 2.9 (bang for buck) or do i go the 3.2 due to the higher and 1GB graphic card.

    any ideas/guidance/help/statements of moral outrage?

    ps hoping to not need to buy another imac for another 5 years if it all works out

    cheers

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us