Apple refreshes iMacs, adds a new top-of-the-line model to the family

  • Cupertino (CA) - It's hard to distinguish the new iMacs unveiled earlier today from the previous generation on looks alone. Instead of altering the form factor, Apple opted for the expected under-the-hood changes which bring the inner workings of its popular all-in-one consumer desktop up to date with today's technology. In short, the new iMacs run faster versions of Intel Core 2 Duo processors clocked at higher speeds and include twice the storage and memory as before. They also come with the same integrated Nvidia graphics found in unibody MacBooks, while higher-end models feature speedier discreet Nvidia or ATI graphics. There is also an additional USB port on the back, as well as Mini DisplayPort interconnect. Apple also added a new top-of-the-line model to the family. The same $1,499 that previously bought you entry-level 20-inch model now buys you the 24-inch model.

    Apple today refreshed its aging iMac family to bring the all-in-one system in line with today's hardware. The updated models now come with twice the storage and memory as before, and support up to 8 GB of memory, which doubles the 4GB limit seen in previous models. A faster Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 1066MHz front-side bus and a 6 MB shared L2 cache now clocks at 2.66 GHz at the low-end, topping out at 3.06 GHz on the high. The new architecture features the same Nvidia graphics found in unibody MacBooks, as well as new Nvidia and ATI discreet graphics options. The expected addition of the Mini DisplayPort video output enables users to connect their new iMacs to a recently introduced 24-inch LED-backlit Cinema Display. The Mini DisplayPort also supports DVI, dual-link DVI, and VGA video connections via converter boxes (sold separately).

    The company also addressed shrinking consumer budgets and sharp decline in sales of desktops by bringing price points down. The new 24-inch model now goes for the same $1,499 price as did the previous 20-inch iMac model. The price drop enables users to get a 30 percent larger screen for the same fee previously paid just to get into the iMac game. "Our flagship 24-inch iMac with twice the memory and twice the storage is now available for just $1,499," said Apple's operations chief Timothy Cook.

    Apple also touts the new iMac family as the most environment-friendly. According to the company, new iMacs exceed current Energy Star 4.0 requirements while "leading the industry" as early adopters of the more stringent Energy Star 5.0 requirements which will become effective later this year. The all-in-one system uses PVC-free internal components and cables and contains no brominated flame retardants. In addition to a material-efficient system and packaging design, the product is made of highly recyclable materials. All of this enabled new iMacs to achieve EPEAT Gold status, just like its unibody MacBooks.

    Apple literally kept the desing of new iMacs intact and instead opted for under-the-hood improvements which bring more oomph for less money. The new iMacs pack faster processors, better Nvidia or ATI graphics, Mini DisplayPort interconnect, an additional USB port and double the disk storage and memory.

    Mini DisplayPort and one additional USB port

    With the exception of the Mini DisplayPort interconnect and an additional USB port, the new iMacs feature the same set of expansion ports found on the back of the computer as the previous generation: one FireWire 800 connection, four USB ports (three before), built-in stereo speakers, microphone, optical digital audio output/headphone out, optical digital audio in/audio line in, 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet, built-in IR receiver. The new generation also features the same glossy widescreen TFT active-matrix LCD and slot-loading 8x SuperDrive with 4x double-layer burning (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) as before, in addition to the iSight camera, AirPort Extreme 802.11n wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR -- all found in the previous generation.

    Under-the-hood changes

    A new top-of-the-line iMac model expands iMac family to four members. Two 20-inch models from previous generation are now replaced with a single 20-inch entry-level iMac, with three different 24-inch models. Unlike the rumors, there is no 28-inch iMac model. The entry-level 20-inch iMac (1680 x 1050) is powered by a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and comes with 2 GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 memory and a 320 GB SATA hard drive, both double from the generation before. It packs Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics with 256 MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory.

    The remaining thee 24-inch models feature the same 1920 x 1200 resolution as before and a faster Intel Core 2 Duo processor clocked at 2.66 GHz on the low-end, 2.93 GHz in a mid-range and 3.06 GHz on a high-end model, up from 2.4 GHz, 2.66 GHz and 2.8 GHz found in the previous generation. The three 24-inch iMacs also double the memory to 4 GB of 1066 MHz DDR3 as the default, up from 2 GB of 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM found in the two high-end iMac from the previous generation. Doubled storage options now include 640 GB of SATA hard drive (7200 rpm) in low- and mid-end 24-inch models, up from 320 GB found in two previous iMac models on the high-end, while top-of-the-line iMac model comes with 1 TB of SATA hard drive (7200 rpm) as the default. Mid-range iMac comes with Nvidia GeForce GT 120 with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory, while high-end model runs Nvidia GeForce GT 130 graphics 512 MB of GDDR3 memory.

    Build-to-order options

    Build-to-order features include the choice of 4 GB or 8 GB memory and 640 GB or 1 TB hard drive for the 20-inch model. Options for the low-range 24-inch model include the choice of 8 GB of memory and 1 TB of storage. Mid-range 24-inch model can be pimped with the same 3.06 GHz processor that powers the high-end model. You can also replace the default Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics with a choice of either Nvidia GeForce GT 130 or ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512 MB of GDDR3 memory. Customers eyeing top-of-the-line 24-inch model can choose to replace its default Nvidia GeForce GT 130 graphics with ATI Radeon HD 4850 with 512 MB of GDDR3 memory and increase the memory to 8 GB. Other build-to-order options feature the same various mice and keyboard, USB modem and IR remote as before, while software options include the choice of iWork ’09, Aperture, Logic Express and Final Cut Express.

    Price points and availability

    The entry-level 20-inch iMac sells for $1,199, while 24-inch models start at $1,499 for low-end model and climb all the way up to $1,799 and $2,199 for mid- and high-end models. All models are available now for immediate purchase from authorized brock-and-mortar Apple resellers around the world, or Apple's stores, or online. You can find more information about the new iMac line at Apple's iMac page.

    The entry-level iMac now starts with 20-inch screen, while all other members pack 24-inch 1920 x 1200 full-HD screen resolution. However, the $1,499 that could previously get you entry-level iMac with 20-screen now buys you the 24-inch model. Apple also added a new top-of-the-line iMac odel that features 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1 TB SATA hard drive and 4 GB of memory, in addition to a range of discreet graphics options.