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Fan Noise and Heat
No formal measurement evaluation was made of heat and noise, but the comments here are in context of running the same tests in this review on the MacBook Pro with Retina display and two Mac Pro systems (6 core and 12 core).
First of all, measuring fan noise is misleading out of context. Meaning that a Mac Pro sits under my desk, but an iMac sits in front of my face. So a lower fan noise on the iMac can be quite a bit louder.
The late 2012 iMac is not a quiet machine under load. It was noisier than the Mac Pro or MacBook Pro under the same test scenario, as per my seated position in front of each.
On the other hand, the iMac fan noise is of a tone and volume that is not really objectionable as sounds go, but the fan noise is “in your face” as compared to a Mac Pro under a desk.
Under processing load for tasks like RAW conversion, the fans could be easily heard ten feet away (and I’m sure I could hear it much farther away, but that’s beyond the walls of my office). My office has 1" thick sound deadening material on half of the wall area, so it is not a “lively” room for sound.
The late 2012 iMac is vastly superior to the prior 2010 quad-core iMac model. That older model became so hot that it nearly scorched my hand after grasping the case (my hand hurt for 30 minutes). That late 2012 iMac does NOT have that problem.
I did the “hand grasp test” and found that the exterior of the iMac case remained at most slightly warm to the touch. This is encouraging for longevity of the internal components (excessive prolonged heat is death for electronics).