Apple has updated its iMac and Mac mini desktop lines, including faster processors and twice the memory. Cosmetically, very little has changed with the new iMac (except for a row of ports on the back), but the line now comes with faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors (up to 3.06GHz), better graphics technology (although still way behind Windows machines), double the memory and up to 1TB of storage. Overall, the iMac is still an excellent desktop machine and is certainly the best 24-inch all-in-one computer on the market.

The iMac has been a large part of Apple’s consumer desktop offerings since its introduction in 1998, and has evolved through four distinct forms. Apple’s latest machine is gorgeous. Seriously, you don’t even need to turn the machine on to appreciate the engineering genius that has gone into producing a widescreen display (either 20- or 24-inch) encased in an elegant aluminium (or glass) enclosure. And the anodised aluminium keyboard. Yikes! Perhaps not the most ergonomic for long periods of typing, but its slim design (just 0.33 inches thin at its front edge) and low-profile keys are an absolute pleasure to behold. As you can see, we were pretty impressed even before we turned it on…

Redefining Apple’s signature all-in-one design, the new iMac integrates the entire computer system into a sleek enclosure for a striking, clutter-free desktop. An elegant glass cover joins precisely to the aluminium enclosure creating a virtually seamless front surface. With the iMac, details make all the difference. For example, because it’s made from a single sheet of anodised aluminium, you won’t see any seams or screws except for a single compartment on the bottom that provides easy access to the memory slots. The built-in iSight camera, microphone and stereo speakers are even integrated so neatly you’ll barely notice they’re there – until you need them for a video chat.

The iMac line starts with a 20-inch model (£949), which comes with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 memory, 320GB Serial ATA hard drive and nVidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics. The 24-inch iMac (£1199, reviewed here) features a beautiful 1920×1200 (also known as HD 1080p) widescreen display that offers 30% more screen real estate than the 20-inch model. The 24-inch iMac includes up to a 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (no quad-core option), 800MHz system bus, 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 memory, 640GB or 1TB of internal 7200rpm storage (no RAID option), slot-loading DVD burner on the right side of the case, and a variety of graphics technology from nVidia’s GeForce 9400M integrated graphics to the GeForce GT 130 or ATI Radeon HD 4850 discrete graphics for better performance. Sadly there is no Blu-ray option to take advantage of the Full HD display, but at least you can edit video at this high resolution.

There’s even a high-quality iSight video camera for video conferencing (and messing around in iLife ’09), making the system a stylish choice for both consumers and professionals. A new optional Apple Wireless Keyboard is available, along with Apple’s wireless Mighty Mouse, to offer a highly recommended cable-free desktop. The iMac also includes a Mini DisplayPort connector for a pure digital signal to Apple’s 24-inch LED Cinema Display with adapters available for DisplayPort, VGA, DVI and Dual-Link DVI displays. The iMac further includes built-in AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, Gigabit Ethernet, a total of six USB 2.0 ports (including two on the Apple Keyboard), and one FireWire 800 port.

Every Mac comes with Apple’s amazing iLife ’09 suite of applications for managing photos, making movies and creating and learning to play music. iLife is so good that it is one of the biggest reasons consumers choose to get a Mac – besides the lure of shiny aluminium! The suite consists of iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, Garageband, and iWeb, which are applications for organising, viewing and publishing digital content (pictures, movies, music, and Web pages). iMovie, iTunes, and iPhoto were originally available free via Apple’s Web site, while iDVD was available only with computers that included SuperDrives. In January 2003, the programs were packaged together as ‘iLife’, while iTunes remains a free application. iLife ’09 is included with every new Mac purchase and available separately for the rest of us (Best Current Price: £63.18). Sadly the suite is not available for Windows users.

Apple’s iMac is the pinnacle of computing, making most Windows-based machines look like they’re out of the stone age. Even Sony VAIO LVs can’t match its design and display quality. Apple has even made the pricing extremely competitive, undercutting Sony’s offerings by a couple of hundred pounds and offering even better specifications – and a bigger display. And what a display! Viewing angles are accommodating for multiple viewers, and colour accuracy is good enough for keen photographers and graphic designers. If you’re not bothered about Windows, gaming, Blu-ray movie playback, remortgaging your house for upgrades, and don’t mind a computer that is limited in its expandability, the iMac remains the mother of all-in-ones.