Apple has quietly updated its iMac line with faster CPUs that use Intel’s new Haswell micro-architecture, faster SSDs, beefier graphics processors, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi (for more information, see “802.11ac Promises Better Coverage, but Won’t Hit Advertised Speeds,” 13 June 2013). The new iMacs retain the same industrial design and ports as the late-2012 models, along with the same prices.
The base iMac model starts at $1,299 and features a 21.5-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 1920-by-1080, a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 1 TB 5400-rpm hard drive, and Intel Iris Pro graphics. You may wonder how Intel Iris Pro stacks up to the Intel HD 4000 graphics processor found in newer Apple laptops. AnandTech ran comparison benchmarks, and found that the Iris processors are nearly twice as fast as the Intel HD 4000. To put things into perspective, the Intel HD 4000 is powerful enough to support the graphically intensive game BioShock Infinite (for a review, check out “FunBITS: In Praise of BioShock Infinite for Mac,” 6 September 2013). Integrated graphics have came a long way over the years.
You can outfit the base iMac to 16 GB of RAM (add $200), plus upgrade the storage to a 1 TB Fusion Drive ($200) or either a 256 GB ($200) or 512 GB SSD ($500). The new iMacs now support PCIe-based flash storage, which Apple claims is up to 50 percent faster than last year’s iMac SSDs.
The high-end 21.5-inch model, starting at $1,499, swaps in a 2.9 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor and a Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics processor with 1 GB of video RAM. It has the same customization options as the base model, except it can also be upgraded to an optional 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 for $200 more. If you want more RAM in one of the 21.5-inch iMacs, have it added when you order, since the RAM is not user-accessible. Both 21.5-inch iMacs retain the same clock speeds as their predecessors.
That’s not true of the 27-inch models, which ramp up their CPU clock speeds from the late-2012 iMacs. The base 27-inch model starts at $1,799 and kicks the processor up to a 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 and the graphics processor up to a Nvidia GeForce GT 755M with 1 GB of video RAM. Like all the iMac models, it features 8 GB of RAM standard, but unlike the 21.5-inch model, you can add more yourself. It comes with a 1 TB hard drive standard, but it spins at 7200 RPM. The base 27-inch iMac can be ordered with up to 32 GB of RAM (add $600). Storage options include a 3 TB hard drive ($150); a 1 TB ($200) or 3 TB ($350) Fusion Drive; and a 256 GB ($200), 512 GB ($500), or 1 TB ($1000) SSD.
The top-of-the-line 27-inch iMac starts at $1,999 and upgrades the processor to a 3.4 GHz Intel Core i5 and the graphics processor to a Nvidia GeForce GTX 775M with 2 GB of video RAM. It can be ordered with the same options as the base 27-inch, but also with a 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 ($200) and/or a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M with a whopping 4 GB of video RAM ($150).
All models of the iMac feature an SDXC card slot, four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, Mini DisplayPort output (though you’ll need to buy DVI, VGA, and dual-link DVI adapters separately), Gigabit Ethernet, FaceTime HD camera, the capability to drive an external display at up to 2560-by-1600, stereo speakers, dual microphones, a headphone port, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Overall, while these new iMacs are not a drastic change from last year’s models, the addition of faster CPU clock speeds, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and more powerful graphics processors make the 2013 iMac lineup a welcome enhancement. Now if only you could replace a failed hard drive without a set of suction cups…