iMacs and MacBook Pros take a dip in Kaby Lake

When Apple unveiled its slimmer, trimmer MacBook Pros last October, we had to wonder whether the company's goals for those notebooks ended up out-of-sync with Intel's product cycle. Those machines relied on Intel's Skylake processors instead of the higher-boosting, more-responsive Kaby Lake mobile chips that launched about two months later. Subsequent complaints about performance, limited memory capacity, and battery life from MacBook Pros may have been related to that choice of CPU. Today, Apple is harmonizing MacBooks and iMacs with Intel's latest CPUs by replacing Skylake with Kaby Lake.

iMacs now come with Kaby Lake quad-core CPUs ranging up to 4.2 GHz base and 4.5 GHz Turbo Boost clocks. Apple is also taking this opportunity to add its Fusion Drive hybrid storage system to all 27-inch iMacs, and the highest-end 21.5" iMac will also benefit from that upgrade. New iMacs will come with two Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of Thunderbolt 2, and Apple further claims the SSDs in these machines will be 50% faster than those in its outgoing all-in-ones. 21.5" models will top out at 32GB of RAM, and 27" models can take up to 64GB.

The latest iMacs will also feature optional Radeon RX 500-series graphics chips. The entry-level 21.5" iMac will rely on its Kaby Lake CPU's Iris Plus graphics, while 4K versions of the 21.5" machine will offer Radeon Pro 555 and Radeon Pro 560 pixel-pushers with up to 4GB of RAM. The 27" iMac will give buyers a choice of the Radeon Pro 570, Radeon Pro 575, and Radeon Pro 580 graphics processors with up to 8GB of RAM. Apple announced that it's partnering with Valve to bring the SteamVR SDK to the Mac, and the new graphics options for the 27" version offer the hardware foundation required to power VR headsets for folks who prefer to create VR experiences in macOS.

Other improvements to the iMac line include displays with 10-bit color support (through dithering) and 500-nit maximum brightness ratings. The 21.5" 4K iMac now starts at $1299, as well.

On the mobile Mac side of the aisle, the MacBook's infusion of Kaby Lake lets Apple's thinnest and lightest laptop hold low-power CPUs up to a Core i7 with 1.3 GHz base and 3.6 GHz boost speeds. Apple also says the CPU upgrade allows the MacBook to address twice the maximum amount of memory compared to older models. MacBook SSDs should run up to 50% faster than their predecessors, as well.

The 13" MacBook Pros get (presumably dual-core) Kaby Lake Core i7s running at up to 3.5 GHz base and 4.0 GHz Turbo speeds, while the 15" models will get quad-core Core i7s running at up to 3.1 GHz base and 4.1 GHz boost speeds. 15" MacBook Pros will also get more powerful discrete graphics chips at the base of the lineup. The 13" MacBook Pro is now more attainable with prices starting at $1299. All of these machines will be available to order today from Apple's online store.

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