Apple Injects New iMacs With Thunder and Lightning
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) on Tuesday released new editions of its all-in-one iMac desktop computers.
These all have quad-core Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Core i-5 processors, the recently announced Thunderbolt port technology, integrated memory controllers, new media engines, AMD (NYSE: AMD) Radeon HD graphics processors and a FaceTime HD cameras.
The new iMacs come in two sizes: 21.5-inch or 27-inch screens.
Prices range from US$1,200 to $2,000 depending on screen size and configuration. The new iMacs are available now at Apple's online and brick-and-mortar stores as well as from authorized Apple resellers.
Tech Details of the iMacsThe 21.5- and 27-inch iMacs are available in two configurations each.
The base 21.5-inch iMac has a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, an AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor and a 500GB hard drive. It's priced at $1,200.
The other 21.5-inch iMac has a 2.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor, an AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics processor and a 1TB hard drive. Price: $1,500.
Moving up in size, the lower-end 27-inch iMac has a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, an AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics processor and a 1TB hard drive. Price is $1,700.
For the top-of-the-line 27-inch iMac, which has a 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, an AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics processor and a 1TB hard drive, the pricing is $2,000.
Making Flippy Floppy With AMD and NvidiaThe new models bring some new hardware names to the table. Why not use Nvidia (Nasdaq: NVDA) graphics processors?
"Apple's been swopping back and forth between AMD and Nvidia every three or four years, and that keeps the competition going between the two manufacturers," Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld. "Their model is to buy the best one, and 'best' is left undefined, so it depends on how they define it."
Options for the new iMacs include faster Intel Core i7 processors rated at up to 3.4GHz, additional hard drive capacity going up to 2TB, a 256GB solid state drive, additional DDR3 memory, and the ubiquitous AppleCare Protection Plan.
The Intel processors all have integrated memory controllers.
Power to the GraphicsApple claims to have built a new media engine for high-performance video encoding and decoding into the new iMacs, but didn't give any details.
"There's a built-in feature in the Mac OS that uses the graphics processor for offloading the main processor, so I'm wondering if that's what they're talking about with mention of the new media engine," the Yankee Group's Howe said.
The combination of the new media engine and the AMD graphics processors let the new iMacs deliver up to three times the performance of their immediate predecessors, Apple claims.
So, is Apple repositioning the new iMacs as fun machines, like iPads on steroids, and moving away from offering them for office use?
"Apple's intent has always been to make every product that it builds and markets a fun product, whether it's for consumer or corporate use," Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told MacNewsWorld. "ITIC survey data shows that about 85 percent of Apple device owners indicate they employ their devices, whether they're iPhones, iPads, iPods or MacBook laptops, for both personal and business use."
Apple did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
hundering Great ConnectivityThe new iMacs are the first desktop computers to include the Thunderbolt I/O technology jointly developed by Intel and Apple. That sounds impressive -- but Apple had, in February, delivered new MacBook Pros incorporating Thunderbolt ports, so essentially this is a continuation of its move to the new technology.
Thunderbolt uses two protocols: PCI Express for data transfer and DisplayPort for displays. The technology's compatible with existing DisplayPort displays and adapters. It also works with existing adapters for HDMI, DVI and VGA displays.
Thunderbolt devices let users daisy-chain up to six peripherals with electrical or optical cables.
"There's another thing you get with the new iMac," the Yankee Group's Howe pointed out. "The high end has two Thunderbolt ports, which means you can natively hook up three monitors."
Is There a Market for iMacs?The move toward mobility has seen a massive shift in computer sales.
"Desktops in general are being undermined by laptops, particularly with the new MacBook Pros, which have about the same performance as the old Mac Pro desktops, which had eight cores," the Yankee Group's Howe said.
Meanwhile, it's been widely reported that laptop and notebook sales have been undercut by sales of the iPad.
However, there may be hope for the iMac yet.
"The iMac is an all-in-one product, so it appeals to people in the PC market," ITIC's DiDio suggested. "After Apple refreshed it last year, they saw an almost 24 percent sequential quarterly growth."
Further, the overall market for desktop devices appears to be picking up.
PC sales grew 4 percent year over year in March according to figures from NPD, Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes told investors in a note recently, pointing out that this is the first positive growth rate for PCs since October. These figures exclude sales of iPads.
The pickup in PC sales will likely continue throughout 2011, Reitzes forecast.
"The two value propositions for desktops is big screens and lots of storage capacity," Howe stated.
"You can't get 27 inches of real estate on a laptop, for example. And in terms of storage capacity, you can get both a solid-state and a garden variety disk drives together preconfigured on the new iMac."