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The Ultimate Mac

October 27, 2009
By Dave Hecei

Without the usual fanfare, Apple updated several components in its Macintosh computer line on Tuesday September 20th. Included in this major update are the MacBook, the mini, the Mac mouse, the Apple Remote, plus a minor update to their wireless products the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule. In this round of updates, the iMac has received some major renovations.

The Apple iMac update brings some major design changes. The new iMac is still available in two sizes. The now old iMac had either a 20-inch or 24-inch LCD display. The new iMac is available with either a 21.5-inch or an impressive 27-inch LCD display.

These new 16-by-9 ratio displays have a resolution of 1920 by 1080 (considered full HD) on the 21.5-inch model and 2560 by 1440 pixels on the 27-inch model. This is also the first time Apple has used LED backlight technology in an iMac. This technology has been used for a while now in Apple's notebooks, and the 24-inch Cinema Display, introduced at the end of last year.

When looking at the new iMacs, the one thing that is striking is that the display goes to the very edge. In the previous iMac, the glass for the display was set into the aluminum case, leaving a thin border of silver surrounding the screen. The new iMacs show no border, it is black glass right out to the edge.

The LCD panels in the new iMac use IPS technology. This type of panel allows for much wider viewing angles, up to 178-degrees, and shows a wider color range than previous models. This is a vast improvement over older TN type panels, and even older TFT panels. Having such a wide viewing angle means that there is very little color and density shift as you move off to the sides.

The 21.5-inch iMac starts at $1199 which includes: a 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB hard drive, dual-layer DVD burner, and the Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics system. For $1499 you get all that but with a 1 TB hard drive and an ATI HD 4670 discrete video card, which Apple claims to perform up to 4 times better than the 9400M. The 27-inch iMac starts at $1699 with the same specs as the top-end 21.5-inch. The top-end 27-inch will have the new Intel Core i5 quad-core processor and the faster ATI HD 4850 graphics card with 512 MB of VRAM.

The high-end iMac is not shipping until later in November. This will be the fastest iMac ever made and will also be the first quad-processor desktop consumer Mac. Starting in November you can get the 27-inch iMac with an Intel Core i5 quad-core processor, or by special order with the new Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, running at 2.8 GHz.

The new iMacs now have the ability to use up to 16 GB of RAM. There are four slots that can use the newer 4 GB memory modules. By special order, the hard drive can be up to 2 TB (terabytes). Ports on the back have remained the same: 1-Firewire 800, 4-USB 2.0, audio-in and audio-out, DisplayPort, and Gigabit Ethernet. Inside is an Airport Extreme 802.11n wireless card and a Bluetooth 2.1 enhanced data rate card. New to the iMac is an SD memory card slot, just below the optical disc slot, which also recently appeared on the newest MacBook Pros.

All new iMacs come with a wireless Bluetooth Apple keyboard and the new Magic Mouse. Having both a wireless keyboard and mouse keeps your desk uncluttered. No more wires. The standard Apple Wireless is very small since it has no side keypad. For most this is no big deal, but if you deal with numbers you will want to order your iMac with the keyboard with keypad, an option in the online Apple Store.

Apple has once again changed the mouse. The new Magic Mouse is a sleek low-profile mouse (from what I've heard they lost the use of the name Mighty Mouse). When you first look at it, and it is a great looking mouse, you notice that there are no buttons, wheels, or balls. The Magic Mouse also uses a laser for tracking instead of the standard LED optical system. This allows the Magic Mouse to work on more surfaces than a standard optical mouse.

As with older units from Apple, the whole mouse is the button. Instead of a left and right button, the Magic Mouse can sense where you are pressing. Instead of a scroll wheel or ball, like in the Mighty Mouse, the entire surface of this mouse uses multi-touch technology.

You can scroll in any direction with a single finger. Just like the ball on the Mighty Mouse, you can scroll left, right, up, down, and any way diagonally. By using multi-touch gestures you can flip through web pages and photos using two fingers. The Magic Mouse even has the same 'momentum' like scrolling like the iPhone. These features can be turned off in the mouse System Preferences window.

There are a few differences between the 21.5 and 27-inch models. The new iMacs have a DisplayPort connection to use a compatible external monitor. On the 27-inch iMac, this DisplayPort can also be used for input, essentially turning the 27-inch iMac into an amazing display. In theory you could connect a MacBook Pro, a cable box, or even a Sony Playstation 3. The 27-inch has the ability to use a VESA mount adapter kit. This allows the 27-inch to be mounted on a wall, turning it into an HDTV/media center.

Since the 21.5-inch iMac is the same price as the older 20-inch model, you will get more bang for your buck. The 27-inch model is the real deal. At $1699 you get an amazing Mac with one of the biggest and brightest screens ever on an iMac. But the 'Ultimate' iMac is definitely the 27-inch Core i5 model quad-core for $1999



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