Apple revamps iMac line, Mac Minis

All iMacs, including a new 24-in. model, now use Core 2 Duo chips

Apple Computer Inc. today unveiled a revamped lineup of its all-in-one iMac desktop computers, including a new $1,999 top-end version that sports a 24-in. LCD screen. All of the new iMacs now use Intel Corp.'s recently released Core 2 Duo dual-core processors, code-named Merom -- with two build-to-order models available at chip speeds of 2.33 GHz.

Touting the 24-in. model, which offers a high-definition-level screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, Dave Moody, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Mac Product Marketing, said, "This is a price that we think both consumers and professionals will love. You get professional-level performance in a sleek integrated iMac design."

Moody, in an interview today, also noted that Apple's entry-level 17-in. iMac is now available for $999 -- "the lowest price point ever for the 17-in. configuration." That model, however, comes with the company's combo drive that does not burn DVDs and has integrated video graphics rather than a separate graphics card. An upgraded 17-in. version, with a faster processor, more RAM, dedicated video RAM and a SuperDrive, goes for $1,199. And the new 20-in. model, which offers still better specifications, sells for $1,499.

Apple officials today also unveiled changes to the company's Mac Mini computers, with both of the latest models offering dual-core processing power, albeit using older Intel Core Duo processors rather than the newer Core 2 Duo chips. Despite faster processors in both models, prices of the mini remain unchanged at $599 and $799. The biggest change: the entry-level model now has a dual-core chip, since the single-core processor model has been discontinued.

But it was the iMac line that Moody wanted to focus on, stressing that while the processor speeds of the Core 2 Duo models are not substantially higher, performance in the new hardware is up dramatically because of internal changes related to the chip architecture. In all but the entry-level model, the Core 2 Duo offers 4MB of Level 2 cache memory. In the base model, the processor uses 2MB of Level 2 cache.

"This is Intel's latest and greatest dual-core architecture," he said. "It delivers outstanding performance. [With] the new Core 2 Duos, almost all the configs have 4MB of dynamic shared Level 2 cache ... and they're 64-bit processors. All of it comes together and gives us huge performance. In terms of performance, we ran the industry-standard [tests]. Between the previous high-end iMac model and the new highest-end iMac, we saw a 50% increase on SPEC [test] and 40% on floating-point tests."

Moody said the new hardware offers similar performance gains when running applications such as Final Cut Pro, Keynote and iWeb that have been updated to run natively on Intel processors. "Even with things like Safari and iPhoto, not only do you see an increase in benchmarks but [also] in real-world [performance]."

He also pointed out that the 24-in. model comes standard with a 2.16-GHz Core 2 Duo processor, a 250GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM and a FireWire 800 port in addition to two FireWire 400 ports and an Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT graphics card with 128MB video RAM. Both the processor and the card can be upgraded, with the slightly faster 2.33-GHz processor adding $250 to the bottom line.

"Not only is this a product high-end consumers will be attracted to, but they'll get performance and great screen real estate," he said. "All of these models are going to appeal to our customers. The $999 [entry-level price] is one of those magic price points, and we're delivering great value and performance at that level. There's going to be people we reach with that iMac that we haven't been able to reach before. And this is the first time we've had the 20-in. [model] break the $1,500 price point."

Asked why Apple designed a larger iMac, Moody said: "More screen real estate is better. The more screen real estate you have, the more productive you can be."

Asked whether the revamped lineup of iMacs heralds any changes to the company's Cinema Displays, Moody declined to comment -- although he noted that prices on the company's LCD displays were reduced just last month.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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