Oh, what’s that? It’s Tuesday you say? Well that must mean it’s time for another classic rendition of Apple Hardware Upgrade. On this edition of Apple’s “whenever the hell they want” ritual, we have a lovely update to their flagship desktop: the iMac. Ever since their 2009 redesign, the iMac has become a powerhouse of a machine. Sporting a fantastic screen, real desktop caliber chips, and steadily improving graphics options, Apple has shown that they are taking the iMac quite seriously. Does this upgrade keep to this new tradition? You better believe it.
The big addition here is the inclusion of Intel’s 2011 “Sandy Bridge” processors and with that comes quad-core at every price point. Our $1200 base model is equipped with a 2.5Ghz chip with 4 cores and threads plus all the Sandy Bridge goodness of TurboBoost 2.0, the integrated video accelerator, and AVX vector processing. $300 more jumps you up to 2.7Ghz and a larger 1TB HDD and faster graphics. On the 27-inch model, your choice is between the 2.7Ghz processor or a 3.1Ghz processor. Built to order options also include the 3.4Ghz Core i7, thus making the iMac capable of becoming scary fast. All models also come with 4GB of DDR3-1333 RAM. All of these improvements lead to a reported 70% increase in performance for the iMacs at each price point. That’s something to write home about.
A lot has changed about the iMac’s graphics. While continuing to use AMD’s cards exclusively, this round Apple is using their mobile parts instead of desktop cards. The choice is odd and honestly beyond me since the last generation iMac could handle both desktop CPU and GPU. Regardless of the reason, it could be a problem when the inevitable comparisons happen between Apple and their competitors’ offerings. Still, Apple touts that these GPUs are up to 3 times as powerful as their last generation offerings. I’m inclined to agree. The base GPU is the HD6750M with 512MB, twice as much video RAM as the old HD4670 and quite a bit more powerful. One notch up brings you to the HD6770M also with 512MB but a decent performance gain. The top of the line is the HD6970M with 1GB of RAM. Being the top of the line mobile part places this far ahead of the last iMac’s HD5750, but still fairly middling in terms of the desktop cards. A built-to-order option also includes an HD6970M with 2GB of RAM, showing that Apple is really starting to care about video memory. No word if Apple is tapping Sandy Bridge’s internal GPU for any work, but the transcoding engine is an advertised feature.
Of course the other big addition is Thunderbolt, Apple’s new I/O port that promises to revolutionize the capabilities of peripherals. Thunderbolt allows for bi-directional 10Gbps transfers through PCIe and DisplayPort protocols, meaning you can attach any peripheral or display to the port. The iMac comes with this new port ready to go. The 21.5-inch model has one, but the 27-inch model has two. Not only does this mean twice the Thunderbolt action, but it also means you can output to two displays for a total of three. That’s pretty awesome. Also along for the ride is a Facetime HD camera.
Not the most groundbreaking upgrade to the iMac, but an excellent refresh if I do say so myself.
P.S, this is my 200th post!