Product Notes: Apple iMac
May 3, 2011
Apple announced significant updates today to its iMac line of all-in-one desktop systems. Specific changes include the addition of Thunderbolt I/O technology and Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset. This update follows a previous iMac refresh in July 2010, and shows Apple's continuing pattern of extended refresh cycles with the iMac.
Design and Changes
This latest generation of iMacs retains the same general enclosure that iMacs have had since the introduction of the "aluminum" iMac in August 2007, with some modifications to account for the move to 16:9 displays in October 2009.
The biggest connectivity change is the addition of Intel's Thunderbolt I/O technology (originally code-named Light Peak). Thunderbolt integrates the PCI Express and DisplayPort protocols over the same connector and is intended for storage and display peripherals. As of mid 2011, there are few Thunderbolt peripherals (though current DisplayPort peripherals are expected to function) and the success of this technology will be determined by how quickly these products arrive.
Inside, the iMac now features Intel's Sandy Bridge chipset, the second generation Core i technology. There's also an upgraded 720p integrated web camera.
Missing (again) from this latest update is the availability of Blu-ray drives. Also, there is no matte screen option, which matters to some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons. Finally, there is no USB 3.0.
These new iMacs meet or exceed the specifications in the newly-revised Performance Desktop Buyer's Guide.
Both versions of the iMac are EPEAT Gold-compliant and Energy Star 5.0-certified.
Several considerations when ordering an iMac:
See ISC's Performance Desktop Buyer's Guide for more configuration hints. As of May 2011, configuring an iMac to the Performance Desktop specification can be done for approximately $1,150 to $1,600 (the Mac mini remains the best choice for a Mac OS-based Value Desktop). The University's Computer Connection will have new iMac ordering configurations available as soon as possible.
ISC sees the updated iMac as being a solid choice among desktop systems available in mid-2011 and the iMac continues to serve as the Apple component in the University's Desktop Recommendations. Continuing improvements in the standard specifications once again have dropped the barrier to entry for appropriately configured models.
ISC will follow up with a full review of the iMac as soon as testing has been completed.
iMac graphic courtesy of Apple
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (May 3, 2011)
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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