Posted on December 26, 2009 at 6:54pm by

Apple’s Quad-Core iMac

Courtesy of Apple, Inc.

Apple recently re-configured its iMac line of computers.  Most of the reconfigurations represented good upgrades to the existing models, but nothing to cause you to run out and buy a new one if you already had a fairly current model.  In addition to reconfiguring its existing models, Apple added a substantially different unit to the line.  For the first time, Apple included a quad-core model at its top end.  The quad-core comes in a base mode that includes  27-inch display, 4GB of RAM, a 2.66GHz quad-core i5Nehalem intel processor, a 1TB hard drive, an 8x double-layer superdrive and ATI Radeon HD 4850 graphics with 512MB OF RAM.  The base model comes with built-in Bluetooth,  10/100/1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet, Apple Airport Extreme (802.11a/b/g) WiFi, built-in amplifiers and stereo speakers, an iSight webcam, a microphone, Apple’s Bluetooth wireless keyboard and its impressive new Bluetooth Magic Mouse.  The computer also comes with 4 USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port and a built-in SD card slot.  The newly configured model includes a mini DisplayPort output port that supports DVI, VGA and dual-link DVI adaptors.  It supports full native resolution on the built-in display and up to a 30-inch external display (2560 x 1600 pixels).

Apple allows for you to upgrade the base model by moving to a 2.8GHz  i7 quad-core Nehalem processor for an additional $200.  You can upgrade the RAM from 4GB to 8GB for another $200 (4x2GB boards).  For $600, you can get the 8GB in 2x4GB boards, leaving two slots open for future expansion.  If you want all the RAM you can get, you can bump it to 16GB for $1400.  In my opinion, don’t hesitate to take the 8GB for an extra $200 option.  Chances are if you do the upgrade for $600, you will not use the two slots you freed up for the extra $400.

If you want, you can upgrade the the 1TB drive to 2TB for an extra $250.  If you store, or plan to store, a lot of media on your computer, that may prove to be a good choice for you.  Otherwise, 1TB should suffice for most users.   I have a very extensive audio library on my computer and, together with an increasing amount of video it takes less than 200GB of space.  I have had a 1TB drive for the better part of the last year and still have 368GB of available space.

The base model sells for $1999.  While that may sound expensive considering what has happened to prices in the computer market, I consider it a very good value due to the power, capabilities and performance of the computer.

The ideal model for my use included the 2.8 GHz processor, 8GB of Ram ($200) and the 1TB hard disk.  The total cost came to $2399 plus tax (shipping costs nothing).

The computer comes with the usual collection of Apple software, the current OS (Snow Leopard) (OS X v10.6), iTUnes, TIme Machine, Spaces, Mail, Safari, Address Book, Spotlight, Photobooth, Front Row, iCal, QuickTime, DV Player, Dashboard and the iLife suite (iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb and GarageBand).

I really like the new 27″ screen.  The three inch increase over my 24″ diagonal display provides a significant amount of extra work and viewing space.  The display provide an exceptionally clear, bright and sharp image, as good or better as any I have seen on a computer.

The combination of the quad-core processor and Snow Leopard OS enables the computer to handle 64 bit as well as 32 bit programs.  I have had no issue with software that ran on a dual-core iMac and Snow Leopard not running on the quad-core iMac with Snow Leopard.  The quad-core boots noticeably faster and runs noticeably quicker than its dual-core cousins.

Having 8GB of on board RAM helps the computer run better and faster using Mac OS X native software.  It also helps considerably with the performance of a windows virtual machine running under Parallels 5.0 (the new version of Parallels).  I have tried it with both Vista and XP professional.  I have not yet upgraded any of my virtual machines to Windows 7.  Having the extra RAM allows me to upgrade the RAM for the virtual machine (you can go up to 3GB without a hitch) and still have sufficient RAM for the Mac to run well concurrently.

I had no problem with any of my existing peripherals or with interaction of my quad-core Mac to my network (which consists primarily of dual-core iMacs  and Xerox Phaser networked printers with intermittant connection by a MacBook or MacBook Air.

The bottom line:  I REALLY like the new quad-core iMac.  I am glad that I upgraded my desktop unit to the quad-core.  I will likely do the same to my home-office desktop sometime next year.

Note:  Image courtesy of Apple, Inc..  Apple, Inc. provided no consideration respecting this commentary.

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