July 04, 2011, 7:52 AM — Remember the old ad campaign for Miller Lite? "Tastes great, less filling."
The latest update to Apple's iMac line, which rolled out in May, in a way reminds me of that. Apple left unchanged the minimalist aluminum-and-glass design while switching to Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, AMD graphics chips and adding the new Thunderbolt port for high-speed connections with peripherals.
The new iMac still looks great, and it's even faster.
That sums up what Apple has done with its all-in-ones, with the biggest change being the introduction of Thunderbolt, a technology that's definitely still ahead of the curve but could prove to be quite popular down the road.
Specs and prices
Like the previous generation, this iMac lineup starts at $1,199 for a 21.5-in. model with a 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution screen and $1,699 for a 27-in. version, which sports 2560-by-1440-pixel resolution. There's also a high-end $1,999 model, which comes with a 3.1GHz quadcore i5 processor; this is the model Apple provided for my review.
All iMacs feature Intel's Core i5 quadcore processors (and you can upgrade to an i7 if you need more speed), a 720p wide-angle FaceTime camera for high-definition video chats, 4GB of memory, and at least 512MB of video memory. The entry-level model uses an AMD Radeon HD 6750M video card with 512MB of RAM; the pricier iMacs rely on the AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 1GB of video memory. (You can double that to 2GB on the 27-in. iMac, but it'll cost you $100.) The $1,199 model has a 500GB hard drive; the rest come with 1TB of storage, which can be expanded to 2GB or combined with a solid-state drive for a more responsive machine.
All of the changes Apple made to the lineup match the company's past practice of beefing up hardware while leaving prices intact, yielding a thoroughly modern all-in-one computer, with a sharp, bright screen that's perfect for editing movies, organizing/editing photos, watching streaming video or making your own presentations. Best of all, the iMacs come with Apple's iLife suite of apps -- iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, iDVD and iWeb. I still haven't found any software quite as intuitive -- or as easy to use -- on the Windows side that beats the iLife suite.
For the environmentally conscious, the iMac meets Energy Star 5.2 requirements, and is rated EPEAT Gold in the U.S. and Canada.