Update: Apple upgrades iMac, gets Intel’s Montevina CPU early, sort of

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Cupertino (CA) - Apple today announced refreshed iMacs and is offering an unannounced
Intel processor as part of the package: The systems can be ordered with
a "special" processor that matches the specifications of the  45 nm
Core 2 Duo Extreme X9100 processor, which is expected to
officially launch with Intel’s Montevina refresh. Once again, Apple has
the privilege of offering a faster processor than what PC vendors are
selling today.

You have to admit, there is a certain pattern. A little over a year ago, Apple announced the availability of an Intel 3.0 GHz quad-core-processor, which, at the time, was not officially announced and appeared to be exclusive to Apple back then. When we asked Intel about this “special” CPU, which turned out to be the Xeon X5365, we were told that the chip was shipping in “limited” quantities.  

Intel told us Monday afternoon that this new processor in fact is not the X9100, but rather a "special" SKU of the 45 nm Penryn processor for the company's Santa Rosa platform. We can’t imagine that HP and Dell are happy about the fact that Apple can  officially ship a Core 2 Duo processor that matches most of the specifications of an unannounced Intel product - the only technical differentiator is the CPU's power thermal design power (TDP), which is 11 watts above the 44 watt X9100.

The new iMacs look just like the iMacs introduced in August of last year, but received a solid hardware upgrade across all major components. Processor speeds now reach from 2.4 GHz over 2.66 and 2.8 GHz all the way to the 3.06 GHz CPU with 6 MB L2 cache and a 1066 MHz FSB. Apple continues to exclusively rely on mobile processors, even if the power consumption increases on the high end. While the mainstream chips 2.4 and 2.66 GHz versions are rated at a TDP of 25 watts, the 2.8 GHz (T9600) model runs at a 35 watt TDP and this special 3.06 GHz SKU at 55 watts.

Hardware capacities no go up to 1 TB, while the standard system memory in the base system remains at 1 GB. There are also new graphics card options, including Nvidia’s 8800GS, which is indicated by Apple to transform the iMac into a gaming system. Realistically, this chip has been available in numerous $1000 PCs for some time and is currently Nvidia’s mainstream graphics chip, positioned below the not available 8800 Ultra, 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS and, oddly enough, the specific 8800 GT for Mac.

Pricing remains about the same as before. Apple charges $1200 for the entry-level 20” iMac with a 2.4 GHz processor, 1 GB memory, a 250 GB hard drive and an ATI HD 2400 XT graphics card. The product family tops out at about $2700 for a system with a 3.06 GHz chip, 4 GB of memory, a 1 TB hard drive and an Nvidia 8800 GS graphics card.