The current crop of iMacs pack more speed, RAM, and data storage than Apple’s Mac Pro towers did only a couple of years ago at a fraction of the price. With quad processors, built-in 21.5″ or 27″ color-accurate, LED backlit screens, and superb video hardware that supports an additional external display up to 30″ in size, these iMac are workhorse desktop computers.

All today’s iMacs include:

  • 4GB of RAM, upgradable to 16GB.
  • FaceTime High Definition Camera
  • Support for an external monitor up to 30″ (2560 x 1600 pixels)
  • Support for extended desktop and video mirroring modes
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Two internal 17 watt amplifiers
  • Headphone/optical digital audio output minijack
  • Audio line in/optical digital audio input minijack
  • Built-in microphone
  • Support for Apple iPhone headset with microphone
  • Thunderbolt ports: one on the 21.5″ models, two on the 27″ models
  • Mini DisplayPort output with support for DVI, VGA, dual-link DVI (adapters sold separately
  • One FireWire 800 port; 7 watts
  • SDXC card slot for copying data to and from the SD cards commonly used in digital cameras and mobile phones
  • Slot-loading 8x double-layer SuperDrive with 4x double-layer burning (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Audio in/out
  • 10/100/1000BASE-T gigabit ethernet
  • IR receiver
  • Airport Extreme Wi-Fi that supports 802.11n, g, a, and b
  • BlueTooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) for connecting to wireless keyboards and mice, syncing mobile phones, etc.
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard
  • Apple Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad…your choice

All Macs are built around Intel microprocessor designs that have multiple processors built into a single chip. Each processor on a multi-processor chip is a core. The current crop of iMacs all use Intel Core i5 or i7 microprocessors with four cores (quad-core).

The speed shown for these iMacs is the speed of a single core. Mac OS X and all current programs are designed to use multiple cores together to achieve greater speed, so the maximum speed for these iMacs equals the speed of one core multiplied by the number of cores.

For example, the base model iMac 21.5-inch: 2.5GHz has four cores. 2.5GHz per core multiplied by 4 cores equals a maximum speed of 10GHz.

Bottom Line

21.5″ Models

At $1199.00, the base model 21.5″ iMac offers the best bang for the buck between the 21.5″ models. With its 2.5GHz Quad-Core processor (maximum speed 10GHz) and 500GB hard drive, it’s a superb home or business computer that can also handle graphics and web production.

Spend $300 more ($1499.00) and you get a slightly faster 2.7GHz Quad-Core processor (maximum speed 10.8GHz), twice the hard drive space (1TB vs. 500GB), and a faster video card. Unless you have a specific need for a 1TB internal drive or the faster video card, save the $300 and go with the base model.

27″ Models

At $1699.00 27″ 2.7GHz model (maximum speed 10.8GHz) is the most cost effective choice for print and web graphics production environments, and the best bang for the buck between the 27″ models. Its 1TB drive provides plenty of disk space, and if its expansive 27″ screen doesn’t give you enough space you can connect an external display up to 30″ for a two-screen setup.

Spend $300 more ($1999.00) and you get a significantly faster 3.1GHz Quad-Core processor (maximum speed 12.4GHz), a video card that’s more than 50% faster than the other iMac models, and twice the video RAM. Unless you do high frame-rate video production or are a serious computer gamer, save the $300 and go with the 2.7GHz model.

Darryl Lewis