July 27, 2010
The popular all-in-one Macs get Intel's latest-architecture chips -- the i series -- and faster graphics. The company has also introduced a standalone version of the multitouch trackpad found in its laptops.The MacBook Pro line of laptops got Core i5 and i7 chips last April, and now Apple has put those chips (and the i3) into its iMacs. These chips support Hyper-Threading, which lets the operating system use four virtual cores rather than just the two physical cores; and Turbo Boost, which can increase the speed of the processor as needed by a demanding application. The new machines, which were last upgraded in October 2009, also get beefier graphics processors, while most of the other features -- and the prices -- remain the same.
The "low-end" iMac (if that term means anything with computers this powerful) now starts with a 3.06GHz Core i3 chip (up from a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo) and an ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics chip with 256 MB of memory behind its 21.5-inch screen. It keeps its 4 GB of memory, its 500GB hard drive, and its $1,199 price. The next step up, also with a 21.5-inch screen, gets a 3.20GHz Core i3 (up from a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo) and a Radeon HD 5670 graphics chip with 512 MB of memory. The 4 GB of RAM and the 1TB hard drive match the previous specs, as does the $1,499 price. This model also offers the option of a $200 upgrade to a 3.60GHz Core i5 chip. Or, you could spend that additional $200 on a larger screen: $1,699 buys a 27-inch iMac with that 3.20GHz Core i3 chip and the same graphics chip, memory, and storage as the 21.5-inch model. Again, for another $200 you can move up to a 3.60GHz Core i5. This all leaves the $1,499 as still the weakest value proposition in the line for SMBs, in my opinion. The extra $300 over the low-end model buys a slightly faster chip; a better graphics chip -- great for games and video editing, but of minimal advantage for business apps -- and an extra 500 GB of storage--handy, but easily and cheaply acquired elsewhere. At the same time, you only have to spend another $200 to get significantly more screen real estate (the 27-inch is not only larger but it offers 2560x1440 resolution, compared to 1920x1080 on the 21.5-inch). And that brings us to the top of the line: a 27-inch iMac with a 2.8GHz quad-core Core i5, up from the previous 2.66GHz chip. If you're really feeling flush, you can max this one out with 16 GB of RAM, a 2TB hard drive, and a 256GB solid state drive, for the not-so-low price of $4,099. Besides the new iMacs, Apple has also introduced the Magic Trackpad, which brings the multitouch features already in the MacBook Pros to the desktop. These trackpads take a little getting used to, but those who've used them in their laptops tend to love them. You can swipe two fingers along the glass surface to scroll, swipe three fingers to page back and forth, use two fingers to zoom in and out, or use your thumb and forefinger to rotate an image. Pushing down on the surface is the same as a mouse click. The Magic Trackpad costs $69 and requires a Bluetooth-enabled Mac plus the latest version of OS X Snow Leopard.
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