Courtesy of Apple

Courtesy of Apple

Sometimes you just can’t keep waiting for the next version of a product before you buy it. But in tech, your purchase becomes old hat in about 12-18 months. In my case, it took only seven. You see, I plunked down my cold hard cash back in March for the new iMac models that debuted on March 3rd. I have since gotten a lot of mileage out of my 24″ iMac mid-range model. But I must confess that since I bought it, I’ve always wanted more memory, more storage, and more graphics oompf! But Apple, well, was charging way too much for an additional 4GB of SDRAM module (a grand!), while another $700 would have gotten me that terabyte of storage that I wanted and really fast graphics, but $2,199 was out of the question for a desktop!

Spring turned to summer, summer turned to fall, and now Apple has turned over a new leaf on its iMacs! This week, Apple streamlined its iMac lineup and tweaked its MacBook too. It’s kept the same entry level and lower mid-price points of $1,199 and $1,499 but compressed the top two to $1,699 (down from $1,799) and $1,999 (down from $2,199). It’s really revved the CPU engines and graphics in the process as well!

Your two display choices are now 21.5-inch in two SKUs and 27-inch in two other SKUs, all sporting new LED backlit technology with a 178° viewing angle and colors really pop out! The entry-level and lower mid-tier SKUs come with 1920×1080 resolution, while the $1,699 and $1,999 SKUs sport 2560×1440 resolution, meaning that HD video will really pop! Apple upped the ante on video performance as well across three out of the four SKUs. NVIDIA’s integrated GeForce 9400M graphics processor is still on the entry level iMac, but it has driven ATI’s graphics chipsets down onto the other three, where it was only optional on previous iMac models. I must say that streaming videos on Hulu on my 7-month old iMac usually produces a buffer stall, which is really annoying, but this could be my ISP too (Comcast). Running DVDs in the multi-drive look great, run smooth, even though they are not HD quality.

On the CPU side, Intel’s 3.06 Core 2 Duo is now on the entry-level and both mid-tier SKUs, replacing the 2.66GHz and 2.93GHz offerings, while the top end SKU sports Intel’s 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo i5 quad core CPU with 8MB of L3 cache.

On the storage side (where most of my previous beefs laid), the entry-level SKU jumped from 320GB to 500GB and all the other SKUs in the iMac lineup are now at a terabyte.  Apple also finally added an SD slot for portable Flash storage, and it beefed up the speaker system too, which was pretty good to begin with on the March 3rd models.

Courtesy of Apple

Courtesy of Apple

When I bought my iMac at the Apple store last March, Apple had changed its keyboard and mouse choices, which meant that I had to pay extra for wireless, and extra for the corded extended keyboard with numeric pad. It even went so far as to make the extended keyboard unavailable at the store level, meaning you could only get it online, which was annoying. With the new models, the cord has been officially “retired.” Apple now ships its cordless keyboard and has debuted a new cordless Multi-Touch Magic Touch mouse. I have tried to use Apple’s keyboards and mice but while they may be aesthetically appealing from a design standpoint, I have not found them to be ergonomic at all. Two months of wrist pain using Apple’s Mighty Mouse and keyboard made me switch straight to Logitech’s keyboard for Mac and their MX Mouse, and I’ve never looked back!

So my $1,499 investment in March would now bring me a smaller display (21.5″ vs. 25″) but LED backlit, which is really impressive when you see it, slightly less resolution (1920×1080 vs. 1920×1200), a faster processor (3.06GHz vs. 2.66 GHz), the same memory configuration (4GB SDRAM), and a bigger hard drive (1 TB vs. 640GB). I’m still happy with my purchase.

Apple continues to hold up its iMac desktop and MacBook price points in the face of significantly lower prices on Windows-based PCs. But yet its earnings, announced this week, point out that it is still delivering value to types of customers it serves. It may no longer be the computer for the rest of us, which was its mantra back in the early days, but that’s OK.


I personally own an iMac and an iPod

-Randy Giusto