In one fell swoop, Apple updated its entire desktop line this morning. The 24-inch iMac now starts at $1,499 (the previous price of the 20-inch model) and the Mac Pro workstation gets the first Xeons in Intel's Nehalem family. Meanwhile the Mac Mini is alive and well, and it gets new Core 2 Duos and Nvidia 9400M graphics. All of these updates were sorely-needed, and should give Apple desktops a quick performance boost, but since the designs remain largely unchanged, they lack the wow factor usually associated with an Apple announcement.
Despite some initial reports stating the new iMacs had Core i7 quad-core processors, the new line continues to use the same dual-core mobile processors, which are much better-suited for the thin all-in-one. The new 20-inch iMac starts at $1,199 with a 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo T9550, 2GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce 9400M and a 320GB hard drive. The $1,499 24-inch version has the same processor and Nvidia integrated graphics, but with 4GB of memory and a 640GB hard drive. There are two pricier models with faster processors (up to a 3.06 GHz Core 2 Duo), and you can configure any of them with up to 8GB of memory, 1TB of storage, and on the 24-inch models, Nvidia GeForce GT120/130 or AMD ATI Radeon HD 4850 discrete graphics. All of the new iMacs also have a Mini DisplayPort connector for attaching an external Apple Cinema display.
The aging Mac Mini was most in need of an overhaul, and the addition of Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics should make a big difference. The $599 starting configuration includes a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of memory, Nvidia integrated graphics and a 120GB hard drive. The $799 model has twice the memory and a 320GB hard drive, but is otherwise identical. Like the iMac, the Mac Mini now has Mini DisplayPort, as well as mini-DVI, for connecting an LCD display, plus five USB ports. There had long been rumors that Apple was planning to discontinue the Mac Mini, but instead it has dusted it off and re-packaged it as the "most energy efficient desktop in the world." Apple claims the Mac Mini uses only 13 watts of idle power or 10 times less than a typical desktop.
The new iMacs and Mac Mini are both available immediately.
The big change in the Mac Pro is the addition of Nehalem quad-core processors. Intel announced the first Nehalem chips, the Core i7-920, i7-940 and i7-965 Extreme for desktops, last November, but it hasn't officially released Xeon versions for servers and workstations. The Mac Pro now starts at $2,499 (it previously started at $2,799) with a 2.66GHz Xeon 3500 series quad-core processor, 3GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics with 512MB and a 640GB hard drive. A dual-processor configuration starts at $3,299 with two 2.26GHz quad-core Xeon 5500 series chips, 6GB of memory, Nvidia GeForce GT 120 graphics with 512MB and a 640GB hard drive.
You can configure the Mac Pro with faster processors, more memory, larger hard drives and ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics with 512MB. Apple says it will be up to twice as the old Mac Pros, which is probably a stretch, but because of many architectural changes in the Nehalem chips--including two threads per core (or 16 total threads in the 8-core Mac Pro)--these Mac Pros should be significantly faster. The new Mac Pros will be available starting next week.