Today, Apple showed off one of the most attractive desktop computers ever created, the stunning new Mac Mini. It bears more than a passing resemblance to HP’s recent Spectre XT desktop, but as just about every technology expert would tell you, HP’s Spectre was so pretty mostly because it looked like an iMac. But that’s neither here nor there – let’s talk about the thin new iMac. And when we say thin, we mean thin.
The new Apple iMac takes tapering to an insane new level – the edge of the new all-in-one is just 5mm thick – an impressive achievement for something clad entirely in aluminum. And let’s be honest here; we’d be impressed if this was just a new Thunderbolt Display – add in the fact that there’s a whole computer inside, as well, and the end result is, well, flabbergasting.
We predicted earlier in the week that there’d be new iMacs and Mac Minis. Rumors surfaced in just the past day or so suggesting that the iMac release dates had been pushed out some way, and it was coming down to a ‘game day’ decision as to whether the new products would be announced. Clearly, the iMacs were pushed out a ways, but Apple felt comfortable taking off the wraps now.
Apple is sticking with the same basic sizes it had previously: a 21.5-inch model featuring a 1920×1080 display, and a 27-inch model that employs a much higher resolution, 2560×1440 display. From the side, the new computers are sleek enough to evoke a feeling of the 60s modern culture and design aesthetic. It was mentioned during today’s presentation that the new iMac design shed up to eight pounds from the computers, and we can believe it.
The 21.5-inch model now weighs an almost unbelievable 12.5 pounds, with the 27-inch model weighing 8.5 pounds more. Overall volume has been reduced by a shocking 40%.
Cupertino managed to engineer the new iMacs’ thinness in a couple of notable ways. Firstly, the new display is itself much thinner than the panel used in older models despite the other properties (300-nit brightness, 178° viewing angles) remaining the same.
The other notable change is that the display is now fully laminated – read: attached – to the glass that sits in front. On current iMacs, you can see the gap between the display and the surrounding edge-to-edge glass. On the new models, that has all but disappeared, giving Apple another few millimeters of thickness to shave.
Reportedly, the thinness of the new iMacs was too difficult for traditional joining methods to be employed during the computers’ fabrication. Instead, Apple and its manufacturing partners were forced to employ an advanced solid state joining process known as friction-stir welding.
Despite the glass and display being laminated, the new desktops actually feature an antireflective coating; that is, as antireflective as Apple gets these days, with glass everywhere. The company noted that the new iMac screens are actually 75% less reflective than the current models. Given the mirror finish on today’s iMacs, that’s really nice to hear.
In addition to the brighter, more saturated look that a fully laminated display will offer end users, Apple is actually going to the trouble of individually calibrating every single screen as it heads down the pipeline. We don’t know yet quite how that will affect the color fidelity of the shipping product, but it does inspire hope.
The webcam at the top of the screen has been upgraded to a 720p FaceTime HD model, and the new iMacs feature the same (well, thinner) stereo speakers and dual microphone setups that the old ones did.
Each size will come with two set configurations, starting with a 2.7GHz quad-core i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, and going to a 3.4GHz quad-core i7, with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz. Each ships with 8GB of RAM; the 21.5-inch model can go to 16GB, while the 27-inch model can shoot up to a surprising 32GB of memory. All ship with a 1TB 5400- or 7200RPM hard drive by default, though higher-end models can swap that out for one of Apple’s new Fusion Drives, or a full-on SSD (up to the same 768GB SSDs found in the Retina MacBook Pros).
The 21.5-inch model will come with either NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 640M or 650M graphics, while the 27-inch model steps it up to one of the GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 675MX, or GTX 680MX GPUs, with up to 2GB of GDDR5.
Around back are the same complement of ports, though USB 2.0 has been swapped out for USB 3.0. To wit: Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an SD card slot (now on the back, instead of the side), the headphone/audio jack, and the AC plug. Eagle-eyed readers will note that there are no more optical drives, but for skittish users, Apple still ships an optional USB SuperDrive.
The new machines start at $1299 for the 21.5-inch iMac, and $1799 for the new 27-inch model; Apple used the redesign as an excuse to bump the pricing up by $100 across the board over the previous level. Each ships with Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and a copy of iLife ’11; the 21.5-inch model will ship next month, while the 27-inch iMac will ship starting in December.