Apple updates iMac with faster processor, graphics options

Apple on Monday updated its iMac consumer desktop computer, adding faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors as well as a more powerful graphics option for its 24-inch iMac.

As with the MacBook and MacBook Pro upgrades from earlier this year, the updated iMacs now feature the latest generation of Core 2 Duo chips code-named Penryn. These chips use a 45-nanometer microprocessor architecture, which is more efficient than the previous 65-nanometer architecture. The new Penryn chips also boost the amount of shared L2 cache in these new iMacs to 6MB; the previous iMac models topped out at 4MB of L2 cache.

Processor speeds are also boosted from the previous generation of iMacs. Prior to Monday’s update, the iMac featured either a 2GHz or 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo chip. The updated machines run at 2.4GHz, 2.66GHz or 2.8GHz, depending on configuration. Apple also offers a 3.06GHz processor as a build-to-order option. The only other Macs to top the 3GHz mark are build-to-order configurations of the Mac Pro, with either 3GHz or 3.2GHz Quad Core Xeon processors.

Apple increased the amount of RAM that ships with two of the three standard iMac configurations. The 20-inch 2.66GHz iMac and the 24-inch 2.8GHz iMac ship with 2GB of RAM; previously, the two higher-end iMac offerings featured only 1GB of memory.

Other changes to the iMac line include a 1,066MHz frontside bus on all three iMac configurations; previously, the frontside bus ran at 800MHz.

“The iMac is doing really well,” David Moody, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Mac Product Marketing, told Macworld. “The new iMac appeals to more customers than ever before.” Quoting numbers from market research firm NPD, Moody said the Mac now has 17 percent of the U.S. consumer market share.

The revamped iMacs use the same graphics processors as before—an ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB of memory on the entry-level iMac, and an ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB of memory on the other two models. However, for the first time on an iMac, Apple will offer the Nvidia GeForce 8800GS with 512MB of video memory as an option for the 24-inch iMac.

“When you compare the performance of the NVIDIA graphics cards with the current standard iMac model, you can see an increase of up to 2.2 times,” Moody said. “It certainly is great for gamers or any application that uses intensive graphics.”

As with previous iMacs, the new models also feature AirPort Extreme 802.11n Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR; Gigabit Ethernet; built-in iSight video camera; a total of five USB 2.0 ports (including two on the Apple Keyboard); and one FireWire 400 and one FireWire 800 port.

The new iMacs come in three basic models:

  • The $1,199 20-inch with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT with 128MB GDDR3 memory;
  • The $1,499 20-inch model with a 2.66GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory; and
  • The $1,799 24-inch offering with a 2.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and an ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB GDDR3 memory.

Apple also offers a $2,199 build-to-order 24-inch model that ships with the 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo chip, Nvidia GeForce 8880 GS graphics card and 500GB hard drive. The processor and graphics card options are available separately for the 24-inch iMac for $200 and $150, respectively. (Previously, Apple had offered a build-to-order iMac with a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo extreme chip.)

Storage options include hard drives of 500GB, 750GB, and—for the 24-inch iMac—1TB.

All iMac models are available immediately.

Updated at 6:27 a.m. PT to include comments from David Moody of Apple.
Updated at 11:20 a.m. PT to add more information on the processor upgrades and to clarify information on the graphics options.

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