CPU Performance

I ran the entry level iMac through our normal OS X CPU test suite. I don't have a ton of Mac desktops in the database but I do have results for last year's 27-inch iMac that'll help put things in perspective. Also keep in mind that the 21.5-inch iMac came equipped with a HDD, while nearly everything else I'm comparing it to has an SSD inside.

Cinebench R11.5

Single threaded performance is about on par with an upgraded 13-inch Haswell MacBook Air, which is sort of insane when you think about it. The Core i7 upgrade in the 13-inch MBA can turbo up to 3.3GHz, compared to 3.2GHz with the entry-level iMac’s Core i5. The amount of L3 cache dedicated to a single core is actually the same between both parts (at 4MB). In the case of Cinebench, the 128MB L4 cache doesn’t seem to do much.

Cinebench R11.5

Multithreaded performance is obviously much better than what you’d get from a MacBook Air. You’ll notice the entry-level iMac’s performance here is actually quite similar to that of my old 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro. Although the Core i5-4570R has higher IPC and more TDP to work with, since it’s a desktop Core i5 it doesn’t support Hyper Threading and thus is only a 4 core/4 thread part. The Core i7 in my old MBP however is a 4 core/8 thread part, letting it make better use of each core’s execution resources in heavily threaded applications. This is really no fault of Apple’s, but rather a frustrating side effect of Intel’s SKU segmentation strategy.

iMovie '11 (Import + Optimize)

iMovie '11 (Export)

Looking at our iMovie test we see another 50% advantage comparing last year’s highest end 27-inch iMac configuration to the entry-level 21.5-inch model. The explanation boils down to lower max turbo frequencies and fewer number of simultaneous threads supported. There’s also the fact that I’m testing a HDD equipped system and comparing it to those with SSDs, but most of my OS X CPU test suite ends up being largely CPU bound with minimal impact from IO performance.

iPhoto 12MP RAW Import

iPhoto import performance runs pretty much in line with what we’ve seen thus far. The entry-level iMac is a good performer, but power users will definitely want to push for a faster CPU.

Adobe Lightroom 3 - Export Preset

Our Lightroom export test is perhaps the most interesting here. The gap between last year’s 3.4GHz Core i7 and the Crystalwell equipped Core i5-4570R is only 12%. My first thought was to attribute the difference to Crystalwell, but if we look at the gap vs. the 1.7GHz 2013 MacBook Air the iMac’s advantage isn’t really any different than under our iPhoto test. Instead what I believe we’re seeing here is yet another benchmark where Haswell’s architectural advantages shine.

Adobe Photoshop CS5 Performance

Performance in our Photoshop test is similarly good, with the entry-level iMac coming relatively close (within 20%) to the performance of a high-end 2012 27-inch iMac.

Final Cut Pro X - Import

There aren’t any surprises in our FCP-X test either.

Xcode - Build FireFox

I'm slowly amassing results in our Xcode test. What's interesting about the 21.5-inch iMac's performance here is just how inconsistent it was due to the HDD. Subsequent runs either gave me similar performance to what I'm reporting here, or much, much higher build times. If you needed a reason to opt for an SSD, this is a great one. Even looking at the best performance the iMac can deliver, you can see it's not tremendously quicker than the MacBook Air. With an SSD I'd expect to see far better numbers here.

Introduction & The CPU GPU Performance: Iris Pro in the Wild
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  • Calista - Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - link

    They have become pretty inexpensive nowadays. A Dell 21" Dell Ultrasharp IPS-screen is only 40-50 USD more expensive than the cheapest TN-panel. Still don't think people are fair when complaining about the cost of the iMac. It's quiet, it looks good, it holds a great resale value. A lot of people would think twice about dropping $500 a month of their car, why not spend a few extra quid on a computer? Back in the days a computer was expensive, now it's so cheap it's almost silly.
  • repoman27 - Monday, October 7, 2013 - link

    Not that I'd buy a base model 21.5-inch iMac, but I think most consumers could care less about their CPU and GPU specs and are looking more at the overall package. For most office desk jockeys, school computer labs, customer use / internet kiosks, parents, etc., the iMac probably makes more sense than a custom built overclocked gaming rig.

    It also depends on how much you value what you get in said package. The i5-4570R is essentially an i5-4430S with Iris Pro 5200, so it's likely a $240-270 part. Then there's the rather well calibrated 1920x1080 IPS panel which would run another $150 or so. The keyboard and mouse that are included have a combined retail price of $138. Then there's the 3x3:3 802.11ac Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.0, Broadcom GbE NIC and SDXC UHS-I card reader, Thunderbolt, 720p camera, dual microphones, built-in amp and stereo speakers, plus whatever value you put on OS X and the bundled iLife suite.
  • Flunk - Monday, October 7, 2013 - link

    Screen, form-factor, OS. Performance isn't the number one concern for many people.
  • Dug - Monday, October 7, 2013 - link

    Someone that wants everything built in that doesn't sound or look like a piece of crap.
    Add up everything that is included and it's not that expensive. Especially when you consider the cpu is quad core (almost all laptop i5's are dual core), 802.11ac, dual mics, webcam, speakers, bluetooth, sdxc, thunderbolt, wireless keyboard and trackpad, a calibrated IPS monitor, and the best part is no noise and only one cable with no power brick. Try and do that with any diy build and tell me how much it is.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Monday, October 7, 2013 - link

    IPS screens aren't cheap, nor are AIO designs. Dell, HP, and Lenovo can't get lower prices when they try to compete in specs or display quality either.

    A $500 laptop isn't going to have a good display, keyboard, or trackpad either, and resale value is going to be nothing. Comparing a trash laptop to something with much higher quality components that holds value over time doesn't make sense.
  • robsparko - Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - link

    This argument is getting old and inaccurate. People don't always want laptops. Additionally, bottom of the barrel hardware has a very short life span. Sometimes, it is nice to have a well integrated AIO without cables running everywhere. Sure, not everyone wants a computer that will last 3+ years and that is perfectly fine.

    But, just for fun, here's some pricing from NewEgg parts I believe would be of similar quality to an iMac. Yes, you can find cheaper cases/PSU/etc, but an iMac isn't built using the cheapest components. Likewise, feel free to buy a Dell! But, to call people who buy an iMac ignorant/ out of the mind/ etc is just proving a lack of insight into the situation and market pricing.

    250 i5 cpu w/ IRIS (good luck finding it! NewEgg's uses HD4600)
    150 mobo
    75 case
    75 psu
    235 IPS 21.5" lcd
    65 hdd
    50 webcam w/ mic
    75 ram
    140 windows
    65 wireless kb/mouse
    35 speakers
    ?? shipping/tax
    ?? Time to built
    1215 Total + extra
  • Calista - Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - link

    What you did is a game created to let Apple look good. I made a similar list with parts from Newegg. It was only $1150 but included a Shuttle case, a 27" IPS-display from Dell, a 240 GB Intel SSD and 16 GB of RAM. And Windows 8 Retail obviously. A similar config but with a 21" display from Apple was $1870. The 27" iMac with similar configuration was almost $2400, i.e. twice as expensive as the PC.
  • web2dot0 - Saturday, October 12, 2013 - link

    Let me guess, your parts are the same part quality as Apple's ? :)

    The case isn't worth anything, a calibrated monitor isn't worth anything, AIO isn't worth anything, fusion drive isn't worth anything, .... That's cool.

    I can play that game too jackass
  • foolio5 - Monday, October 14, 2013 - link

    Are you really equating an inflated price to higher quality parts? Quick tell me the difference between Kingston and Samsung Ram! How do you know his PSU isn't a Seasonic? What exactly is the brand HDD Apple uses? I heard this all the time about quality parts when everything Apple uses is Samsung or Foxconn. Yes Foxconn... the epitome of quality OEMs!

    You are adding a lot of money for having an AIO. He is using a Dell 27" IPS, that should clue you into the fact that it is an Ultrasharp which is calibrated, also hes using an SSD so again tell me how a Hybrid beats out an SSD.

    Lastly, are you 12 or something. Your name calling is immature.
  • abazigal - Tuesday, October 8, 2013 - link

    I would (if I didn't already own a 2011 27" imac), which I found to be worth every cent.

    It makes perfect financial sense when you realise that you are not so much buying a computer, as you are getting an integrated solution that's ready to use right out of the box. I find that Macs come with excellent functionality without me having to spend much time setting it up.

    Already, it comes preloaded with the excellent iLife suite, a great pdf annotation reader (preview), a stable OS that continues to run smoothly 2 years on without me needing to do anything to maintain it, entry to the Apple ecosystem, and access to fairly inexpensive Mac software.

    Then, there is the good aftercare service. Once, my Imac developed screen issues. I made a call to the service centre. 20 minutes later, an appointment was made. They came down to my house the next day, brought it back for servicing, and delivered it back to my house 2 days later. Problem solved with minimal effort or stress on my part.

    So in the end, the extra that I am paying is well worth it for the promise of a seamless and hassle-free computing experience. Which I value more than if I were to simply build a desktop using parts sourced individually (and then having to deal with all the troubleshooting on my own subsequently).

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