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Apple iMac Refresh: Powerful Processors, Prettier Graphics

Apple announced an update to its iMacs to include Retina display and sixth and fifth-generation Intel Core processors.
iPhone 6S, iPad Pro, TV, Watch: Apple's Fall Lineup
iPhone 6S, iPad Pro, TV, Watch: Apple's Fall Lineup
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Apple refreshed its iMac line of desktop computers on Tuesday with the promise of better graphics and more powerful processors. 

The refresh added the Retina 4K display to the 21.5-inch iMac for the first time, as well as the Retina 5K display to every version of the 27-inch iMac.

"These are the most stunning iMacs we've ever made. With our gorgeous new Retina displays, more powerful processors and graphics and all-new Magic accessories, the new iMac continues to redefine the ultimate desktop experience," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in a Oct. 13 statement announcing the news

Apple claims that the Retina 5K display is the world's highest-resolution all-in-one display, with 14.7 million pixels. That's seven times more pixels than an HD display.

With standard sRGB-based displays, some colors are not displayed accurately on a screen. The Retina 5K and 4K displays feature a wider P3-based color gamut (used in digital movie theaters) that provides a 25% larger color space.

The 27-inch iMacs use a sixth-generation ("Skylake") Intel Core processor and the latest AMD high-performance graphics that can deliver up to 3.7 teraflops of computing power. The new 21.5-inch iMac with Retina 4K display features a fifth-generation Intel Core processor ("Broadwell") and integrated Intel Iris Pro Graphics.

Two Thunderbolt 2 ports now come standard on all iMacs. They can support up to 20Gbps data transfer speeds for external drives and peripherals. The included three-stream 802.11ac WiFi allows the iMac to support up to 1.3Gbps wireless networking.

Apple's Fusion Drive, which is a hard disk and flash memory combination, has been reduced in price to a $100 option for the 21-inch iMac. (A 1TB hard drive comes standard.) Fusion Drive uses the Mac OS X software to analyze what files and apps are used most. It then transfers them to flash storage from the hard drive.

The new lower-priced configuration pairs a 1TB hard drive with 24GB of flash storage. It is also available with 2TB and 3TB configurations with 128GB of flash. Optional all-flash storage is available up to 1TB, which is now up to 2.5 times faster, Apple claims.

'Magic' Peripherals

The Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 were also announced Tuesday. Designed around a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, all three accessories eliminate the need for disposable batteries. The keyboard and mouse are included with the iMac, and the upgrade to the trackpad is a $50 option.

The new Magic devices pair with the iMac when they are plugged in via the Lightning-to-USB charging cable. Apple says they can last about a month or more on a full charge.

Inquiries to Apple about exact communication methods used by the new peripherals were not returned by the time this blog was posted.

[Find out how Apple dumped ad-blocking apps over privacy fears.]

The Magic Keyboard features a full-size keyboard in a design taking up 13% less space on the desktop. With a new scissor mechanism and a lower profile, Apple says the Magic Keyboard provides a better typing experience.

The new Magic Trackpad 2 features a 29% larger surface and brings Force Touch to the desktop for the first time. Force Touch gives differing levels of touch in the trackpad interface -- ranging from a quick tap to a more forceful tap. It is also very useful in pressure-sensitive drawing.

Pricing

The 27-inch iMac comes in three models starting at $1,799, $1,999, and $2,999. The 21.5-inch iMac's three models start at $1,099 and $1,299, with a Retina 4K display starting at $1,499. All models are now available at the Apple stores and online.

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