Apple adds Sandy Bridge, Thunderbolt to new iMacs

As expected, Apple has rolled out an iMac update that brings Intel’s Sandy Bridge CPUs to the all-in-one desktop line. Quad-core processors have been deployed across the board, starting with a 2.5GHz Core i5 in the base 21.5″ system. Apple doesn’t list model numbers for the CPUs, but you can upgrade the 21.5″ to a faster Core i5 or a Core i7. Similar upgrade options are available for the 27″ iMac, which starts with a 2.7GHz Core i5.

Sandy Bridge has surprisingly competent integrated graphics, but Apple has instead gone the discrete route with a collection of Radeon GPUs. The Radeon HD 6750M and 6770M are the only options available with the 21.5″ iMac, while the larger model can be configured with a potent Radeon HD 6970M with either 1GB or 2GB of memory. Serious Mac gamers (all three of them) would do well to consider the 2GB upgrade given the 27-incher’s 2560×1440 display resolution. The Radeon HD 6700 series should be adequate for everyone else, especially given the fact that the 21.5″ model’s display maxes out at 1080p.

In addition to CPU and GPU upgrades, Apple has added Thunderbold connectivity to the new iMacs. There are dual Thunderbolt ports at the rear of the 27-incher and just one tucked behind the 21.5″ model. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm. Thunderbolt peripherals are still rare in the wild, while USB 3.0 storage devices are relatively cheap, readily available, and certainly not bottlenecked by the latest USB interface. The new iMacs eschew SuperSpeed USB connectivity completely, and they only have four old-school USB ports. Apple has, however, added a 720p webcam for hi-def FaceTime calls and Chatroulette sessions.

Rumors of a cheaper iMac with a new panel size failed to bear fruit in this update. The base iMac still starts at $1,199, and you’ll have to pony up $1,699 to get into 27″ territory.

Comments closed
    • d0g_p00p
    • 9 years ago

    Yeah!! Apple adds a unless thunderbird ports and no USB 3 ports and this fisher price computer does not even have a single expansion slot to add a USB 3 card.

    I guess the plus for mac users is they get to purchase horribly expensive LaCie external drives using the thunderboard ports whenever those come out. In the meantime they can yap about how much of a better tech it is while everyone else is using their USB 3 devices now.

      • NeelyCam
      • 9 years ago

      Mac users have money to buy expensive LaCie drives. It’s not their fault that non-Apple users can’t afford the best.

    • wmgriffith
    • 9 years ago

    Anyone else see that these use the Z68? [url=http://www.9to5mac.com/65319/new-imacs-use-intels-unreleased-z68-chipset-allows-for-hybrid-ssd-hdd-and-may-account-for-ssd-imac-delays/<]9to5mac[/url<]

    • Anonymous Coward
    • 9 years ago

    I would like to express my annoyance with the overlapping product names between “mobility” and “desktop” GPUs (naturally this is extra annoying what a desktop comes with mobility parts). For a moment I thought the iMac came with crossfire-on-a-stick. Its terribly misleading and dishonest to conflate significantly different products by intentionally overlapping the names. A stupid “M” hiding on the end is not much of a hint to consumers.

      • crsh1976
      • 9 years ago

      Thing is, ever since Apple introduced the “stand-up” iMac form factor (first with G5 then with Intel chips), they always used mobility GPUs but somehow always forgot to mention the “M” part; this is the first time Apple specifies that they are mobility chips.

      A few years ago, the iMacs even used laptop-grade Core 2 Duo processors, it was only mentioned deep in support docs the chips were Txxx rather than Exxx; there was a switch to desktop processors not so long ago, it was never clearly stated either.

      I’m in no way excusing them, they were indeed misleading and now they’re a bit more honest about it.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]four old-school USB ports.[/quote<] Heh, would be great if they actually put USB 1.0 ports on there.

      • Airmantharp
      • 9 years ago

      What’s really bad is that USB 1.0 ports are faster than most people’s internet connections- I don’t even have the option to purchase anything faster than 10Mbps. So one could be used for that!

      Then mouse and keyboard, and hell, printer/scanner… beyond that ๐Ÿ™‚

      • yuhong
      • 9 years ago

      AFAIK I don’t think the the 5-series and later chipsets even has an UHCI controller anymore. They use rate-limiting hubs instead.

    • sweatshopking
    • 9 years ago

    Now we’ve got the most advanced cpu’s, gpus, I/O, and the most advanced OS in the world. Why would you buy anything else?

      • PenGun
      • 9 years ago

      What that baystud FreeBSD/Next/Darwin POS? Heh. Does it do 64 bit yet?

      • FuturePastNow
      • 9 years ago

      Do I still have to take the screen off to swap a hard drive?

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        Yes, and Pengun, yes.

          • PenGun
          • 9 years ago

          Good. It was 8 years behind Linux with a 64 bit kernel.

          How is the supercomputing and web serving coming along? That work at all yet.

          Best OS … in yer dreams.

            • riviera74
            • 9 years ago

            How large is Linux’s market share in desktops and notebooks again?

            Servers, all variants of Unix (in terms of market share) are hard to beat. For consumers, especially when it comes to games….. the penguin comes up short. So Sorry.

            At least Mac has games that can be played, and games normal people have heard of.

            • PenGun
            • 9 years ago

            The penguin runs over 90% of all supercomputers. The OS is head and shoulders above OS X.

            You are talking about popularity.

    • indeego
    • 9 years ago

    Needs 120Hz.

      • DancinJack
      • 9 years ago

      For all the games you play on Mac?

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        For all those Blu Ray discs you can’t play on a Mac.

        • glynor
        • 9 years ago

        I have Portal 2 fired up on my Mac Pro right now. Works great.

          • DancinJack
          • 9 years ago

          Sure needs that 120Hz doesn’t it?

      • BestJinjo
      • 9 years ago

      What for? 120hz helps gamers who want to “experience” faster frames (but you can’t really get 120 fps in modern games on a mobile 6970). Alternatively, 120Hz comes into play for 3D gaming. However, Apple isn’t a gamer’s platform to begin with; so going with 2560×1440 120hz display would have been prohibitively expensive without any of the realizable benefits to an iMac owner.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 9 years ago

        The main reason would be because it’s a multiple of 24, which lets you watch movies in the proper frame rate.

        • indeego
        • 9 years ago

        – Tearing above 60 fps (or limited 60 fps)
        – Because there are apparently alternative framerates between 60 and 120.
        – Because the [url=http://www.anandtech.com/show/3842/asus-vg236h-review-our-first-look-at-120hz<]user experience[/url<] is far better than any other recent jump. - Because we should be demanding improvements in display technology where it counts, ESPECIALLY in static devices like an iMac.

    • NeelyCam
    • 9 years ago

    [quote<]The new iMacs eschew SuperSpeed USB connectivity completely, and they only have four old-school USB ports.[/quote<] This is very strange... I guess they want to control the peripheral options, and offering TB only (USB2.0 doesn't count...) is a good way to do that.

      • DancinJack
      • 9 years ago

      Expected, not strange. Disgusting. Pisses me off they can’t add 1 or 2 SS USB ports.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        If it’s not made possible by Intel’s chipsets, they don’t want it in their computers. I don’t get it, either, but it’s definitely, as you said, expected.

          • End User
          • 9 years ago

          It’s pretty simple. They are backing the stronger horse. USB 3.0 comes nowhere close to offering what Thunderbolt brings to the table.

            • DancinJack
            • 9 years ago

            Compatibility and current market share are enough to make me want USB. I won’t argue that TB is possibly a better tech, but it isn’t my choice right now.

            • NeelyCam
            • 9 years ago

            Those don’t matter in an Apple market. Apple has 100% of apple market, and apple items are 100% compatible with apples. If all that has USB2.0 or TB, it will remain 100% compatible.

            • DancinJack
            • 9 years ago

            That is the point. They’re affecting the non-Apple market. Firewire didn’t work out so much, but who is to say that some manufacturer’s won’t follow suit soon and produce some TB devices? Hopefully, if that were to happen, PC makers would start incorporating TB somewhere.

            e: I don’t disagree with what you said though. I use both Mac and PCs on a regular basis and would rather not have to utilize two devices for a high speed data transfer that isn’t Ethernet.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 9 years ago

            They could easily have both, especially at the margins Apple makes.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            I think you’re under-thinking it and a pro-Thundabolt bias is showing. Don’t think for a minute that once USB 3 shows up on an Intel chipset that Apple won’t implement it straight away. Not doing that’d be silly.

            • End User
            • 9 years ago

            I totally have a pro-Thunderbolt bias. It is the better tech. I’m not interested in supporting two standards.

            My gut feeling is that Apple wants to do away with USB altogether.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 9 years ago

            They might be. They’ve tried before with Firewire. I remember how that turned out.

            • KoolAidMan
            • 9 years ago

            Firewire was limited to just external storage. Thunderbolt has much more in common with USB in terms of usage, except that you can plug even more devices into it (monitors, etc) while also getting the benefits of more bandwidth and full speed in both directions.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            No, it wasn’t. And it still isn’t limited to external storage.

            • KoolAidMan
            • 9 years ago

            Right, cameras too. I can’t think of anything else that Firewire was used for. I’ve never seen or heard of a Firewire mouse, keyboard, monitor, etc etc.

            The applications for Thunderbolt are much broader and have much more crossover with USB, that’s the point.

            Oh, and no licensing fees on the technology or the port (this is why they went with mini-DP instead of USB shaped connector, which Light Peak was first demoed on). That’s a big leg up TB has over FW.

            • End User
            • 9 years ago

            There are major differences this time around:

            1) backed by Intel in a big way
            2) Apple is in a much stronger position to push Thunderbolt that it was with FireWire
            3) much richer feature set
            4) double the bandwidth of USB 3.0
            5) based on PCI Express
            6) “thereโ€™s no per-port licensing fee or royalty for peripheral manufacturers to use the port or the Thunderbolt controller” [url<]http://goo.gl/SX1Wo[/url<]

            • derFunkenstein
            • 9 years ago

            For Thundabolt to succeed, it’ll always be a secondary standard. You’re not going to buy Thundabolt keyboards, mice, printers, thumb drives, game controllers, and so on.

            • End User
            • 9 years ago

            A Thunderbolt keyboard with a Thunderbolt hub would be very cool. I would kill for a Thunderbolt thumb drive. 800+ MBs in the palm of your hand!

            If they ship USB to Thunderbolt adapters then my need for a USB port drops to 0.

          • FuturePastNow
          • 9 years ago

          That’s a completely BS argument. Apple uses third-party controllers for plenty of things. Marvell gigabit ethernet, Broadcom wireless, TI FireWire, not to mention discrete GPUs.

      • StashTheVampede
      • 9 years ago

      It should be no surprise that USB3 isn’t on the iMacs: they aren’t on reference Intel chipsets. Anyone looking at what Apple may be working on should look at Intel’s timelines to get a good guess.

      There are some products that don’t fit into this mold (Mini, specifically), but Apple hasn’t really skipped a beat.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 9 years ago

    Is 2560×1440 a 16:9 aspect ratio?

      • ImSpartacus
      • 9 years ago

      Yes, it’s 16:9. The 16:10 version is 2560×1600. 2560×1440 is “1440p”, the next step after 1080p.

        • DancinJack
        • 9 years ago

        16:10 4 lyfe

          • StashTheVampede
          • 9 years ago

          Once you get a 16×9 large enough, then it’s fine. At the 2560×1440 resolution, I’d like to see someone have serious complaints vs. 2560×1600.

          I’m sitting in front of 1920×1080 and am not a fan.

            • DancinJack
            • 9 years ago

            Wouldn’t argue there. I wouldn’t go smaller than my 1920×1200 though.

            • StashTheVampede
            • 9 years ago

            That’s the res that I have on my 24″ iMac. It’s much better than this 1920×1080 screen at work. 1080 still isn’t enough lines of res for my day to day work.

            • KoolAidMan
            • 9 years ago

            Exactly. My 24″ is 1920×1200 and I wouldn’t want 1080p in something around the same size, but I love the 2560×1440 monitor next to it. There is plenty of vertical space to work in, and it is so wide that it almost feels like dual displays.

      • jensend
      • 9 years ago

      If you don’t have access to a calculator or a calculator application on your computer, Google will act as a calculator for you. No need to rely on other gerbils for multiplication and division.

        • dpaus
        • 9 years ago

        But many of our gerbils are [i<]so good[/i<] at manipulating numbers!

    • dpaus
    • 9 years ago

    Maybe the 2GB 6970M is for hard-core Mac creative types? I understand some of them do that kind of stuff, probably more than buy computers just to play games.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 9 years ago

      Or making games, in my case.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 years ago

        Do you need a Radeon 6970M for iPhone development? ๐Ÿ˜†

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 9 years ago

          Unity3d, Maya, Illustrator, Photoshop… these are all pretty taxing things. Particularly if you’re running a simulated-device running a Unity3d app. So yeah, smart ass.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 9 years ago

            While Photoshop and Illustrator are indeed taxing, how much does a powerful GPU really help you there?

            • ssidbroadcast
            • 9 years ago

            You can do some neato stuff with Unity3d:

            [url<]http://unity3d.com/[/url<] but you better get a decent system. (and probably a 2nd monitor)

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 9 years ago

            I didn’t know what Unity3D did, but I figured it would make use of a GPU with “3D” in the title.

            I do have to think you would be better off with professional version like a Fire GL or Quattro?

            • ssidbroadcast
            • 9 years ago

            Not necessarily, although a FireGL or Quattro would make sense if you were doing heavy-duty 3d modeling stuff like using Z-Brush/mud meshes to generate normal maps, etc.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 9 years ago

      The 2GB card only seems needed if you are doing something like driving two external 30″ monitors off of it like Engadget did, or multimonitor gaming/Eyefinity type thing which Macs cannot do. I game with a 1GB card on my 2560×1440 display and it works great.

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