The brominated flame retardant-free iMacs are here!

This past Tuesday morning—or this morning if you're stuck in your own, less-entertaining version of "Groundhog Day"—Apple released updated iMac all-in-one-except-for-external-RAIDs-second-monitors-routers-and-all-in-one-printers models. And like Gollum trapped inside a Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Five Dollar Footlongs store, I wants one.

Specifically, I want the 27-inch model upgraded to the 3.4GHz quad-core Core i7 with 8GB of haphazard access memory and Radeon HD 6970M graphics with 2GB VRAM. I also want a pony. Because nothing goes better with a new computer than a celebratory pony barbecue. It's tasty times two. And speaking of two, the 27-inch models sport two Thundercat, sorry, Thunderbolt interfaces. Which means you can power two additional displays, probably external ones, and recreate the triple-screened version of TX-1 from 1983. Heck yeah.

I have yet to find test results for the 3.4GHz Core i7. Probably because it's a build-to-order option. Which, to be honest, seems a very silly, silly, quasi-French thing to do. The Sandy Bridge Core i7 is the top-of-the-line chip. Shouldn't it be standard in at least one iteration of the top-of-the-line machine? Oh, I hear your snickering. Some of you assert that Apple doesn't want to upstage the Mac Pro since that line hasn't been updated with Sandy Bridge chips yet. Others speculate that Apple just wants to tap the power hungry for an extra 200 bucks because that's what Apple does. Still others think it's both a floor polish and a whipped topping.

Those first two groups are probably right.

And I still don't like it. Going build-to-order (hereafter BTO) with the Core i7 basically forces you to take care of business direct from Apple, which is never my preferred method of buying Mac products. Especially expensive ones. Little things like sales tax tend to add up. And considering places like MacMall and Amazon routinely have rebates on their Macs, you miss out on those, too. So that $200 i7 could end up costing you an additional $350 in tax and lost rebates. Grr. Arrg. You can avoid the tax issue by ordering from one of the few places that will stock a BTO Mac, like Small Dog, but you're still hosed on the rebates.

Regardless, the i7 promises to be ridiculously fast according to Intel press materials. Also, the chip isn't exactly unknown in the world of PCs, and plenty of reviews have proven its speediness while running all manner of obligatory-if-somewhat-dubious-in-the-real-world test suites. Except for Scott's, of course. It's full of legit numbers. Also, as MacWorld points out in an easyish-to-read chart, the 3.1GHz i5 iMac bests the latest 2.2GHz Sandy Bridge i7 MacBook Pro in Speedmark 6.5 testing. Yes, not by much and it's obviously a function of clock speed. But a 3.4GHz i7 versus a 2.2GHz should be muy caliente.

The new iMacs also offer SSDs as BTO options, either as HDD replacements or as additional drives. And the nifty thing is that these new machines are using Intel's yet-to-be-officially-released Z68 chipset that supports SSD caching (as revealed in this iFixit teardown). There's no evidence that the new iMacs are actually utilizing this feature at the moment, but it's there for the taking.

Finally, these new machines crush my poor Hackintosh. Geekbench scores for the i7 have started being posted, ranging from the high 11,000s to the high 12,000s. A good 35% geekier than my Hackintosh with none of the wonky compatibility issues. Of course, that nice i7 will cost about double what I spent on the Hack, so I can console myself with that. Assuming I hadn't spent that savings on baby wipes and minivan windshield repairs. Which I did. Hmm.

Regardless of my personal financial concerns, it is indeed a good time to be in the market for an iMac. The new ones scream, and the previous two generations—no Tippy the Turtles in their own rights—just got even cheaper on the used market. And if you're not in the market for an iMac, well, umm, yeah.

And if you're still wondering about the title, here's a hint.



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