Faster than ever: Macworld Lab speed tests the mid-2011 iMacs

We’ve already shared the results of our benchmark tests for the $1999 27-inch 3.1GHz Core i5 iMac, one of four new iMac configurations released by Apple this week. We’ve had the chance to finish testing the remaining three standard-configuration models, with our results showing a significant boost for the new iMacs over the models they replace. However, not much differentiates the performance of the four new iMacs among each other.

The new entry-level iMac is a 21.5-inch, $1199 model with a 2.5GHz Core i5 quad core processor, a 500GB hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics with 512MB of video memory. The other 21.5-inch iMac has a 2.7GHz Core i5 quad core processor, a 1TB hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics with 512MB of video memory for $1499. A 27-inch iMac with otherwise identical specifications to the $1499 iMac costs $1699. And finally, the previously benchmarked 27-inch iMac is a $1999 system with a 3.1GHz Core i5 quad core processor, a 1TB hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 1GB of video memory. All four systems run on Sandy Bridge processors from Intel.

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Lab Report: New 27-inch Core i5 iMac/3.1GHz speed results

On Tuesday, Apple released an updated line of iMacs, featuring quad-core Sandy Bridge Intel processors and Thunderbolt ports. Macworld Lab has all four standard configuration models, and the results for the $1999 27-inch iMac are in. The results do not disappoint, with the new iMac besting the previous generation of standard-configuration iMacs. The new 3.1GHz iMac even bested the performance of some impressively-equipped build-to-order models we've tested previously.

The $1999 iMac was the first to arrive in our lab and the first to be tested. At the heart of this iMac is a 3.1GHz Core i5 quad-core processor. This iMac also has a 1TB 7200-rpm hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 1GB of video memory.

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CRU-DataPort ToughTech Duo

Like its name implies, the ToughTech Duo RAID from Cru-Dataport looks sturdy and feels like it can take a pounding. With its quad interface connectivity, easy-to-use LCD menu system, and screwless hard drive trays, the ToughTech Duo is a two drive portable RAID array that’s simple to set up and use.

The ToughTech Duo’s aluminum housing looks right at home when paired with a MacBook Pro or Mac desktop computer, and at 6.3-by-3.5-by-1.3 inches, the array resembles a small paperback book in size. Cru-Dataport touts the ToughTech Duo’s portability as one of its selling points (especially to audio/video enthusiasts), though the device feels very heavy when held in one hand—at 1.75 pounds, you’ll definitely feel the additional weight when traveling.

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OS X update and the MacBook Air's 3D graphics performance

In theory, software updates are good things. They fix problems or add features and functionality. And that's certainly been the case with the recent OS X 10.6.7 update, which, among other fixes, improved the reliability of Back to My Mac, fixed problems with transferring files to certain SMB servers, and resolved issues with the Mac App Store. However, Macworld Lab stumbled across a problem introduced by the 10.6.7 update on the mid-2010 MacBook Airs. While it may be a minor issue affecting a small number of users, we decided to share our findings.

We discovered a graphics performance issue when running our Speedmark 6.5 benchmark test suite on a MacBook Air with the 10.6.7 update installed. We had updated the OS from 10.6.4 to 10.6.7 using the combo updater, a large download that doesn’t require the previous update (10.6.6 in this case) to be installed. We found that the 11-inch 1.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air’s Call of Duty scores dropped from 37 frames per second to 9.2 fps. Cinebench R11.5’s OpenGL score also fell precipitously from an 11 to 1.8.

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HP Officejet 100 Mobile Printer

The HP Officejet 100 Mobile Printer is a color inkjet printer specifically designed to be a portable model for mobile users such as real-estate agents or insurance agents. It delivers, but for a high initial price, as well as high ongoing ink costs.

Offering features that are tuned for simplicity and portability, the Officejet 100 is small and solidly constructed. It weighs 5.5 pounds including the battery, so carrying it is about the same as toting around an all-purpose laptop. If you know that you'll always have AC power available, you can shed about 6.4 ounces by leaving the battery behind. USB and Bluetooth connectivity are standard. The top cover folds back to create a 50-sheet rear vertical feed, but the printer has no output tray. Controls are minimal, limited to power, cancel, Bluetooth on/off, and paper feed.

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ioSafe SoloPro 1TB

ioSafe has achieved a reputation for producing tough-as-nails hard drives. Meant to survive conditions that standard hard drives cannot—namely fires and floods—an ioSafe drive such as the SoloPro may be ideal when you’re worried about the worst thing imaginable happening to your home.

According to ioSafe’s Website, the SoloPro is fireproof up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 30 minutes. While that may not sound like a very long time, what ioSafe is saying is that at ever the most intensive fires, it can keep working. Longer exposures to lighter temperatures, presumably, wouldn’t affect the drive—though we have not confirmed this.

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Epson WorkForce 635

A color inkjet multifunction printer, Epson's WorkForce 635 earns its $200 list price with its impressive speed, print quality, and features. Even better, its inks are reasonably priced. The WorkForce 635 has the edge in speed and print quality compared with the HP OfficeJet 6500A Plus e-All-In-One ( ), though the HP's high-yield inks are slightly more economical.

The WorkForce 635's control panel is a bit busy-looking but straightforward, with separate controls for copying, faxing, and scanning. The menu structure displayed on the 2.5-inch color LCD is logical and concise. USB, ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections are available.

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