Inside Apple's new cheaper iMac

Inside Apple's new cheaper iMac

Summary: The new iMac is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, and this is backed up by 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and uses the Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU -- but are you better off spending an extra $200 for the higher model?

TOPICS: Hardware, Apple
(Source: Apple)

This morning Apple reshuffled its store and added a new product to its lineup – a new, cheaper 21.5-inch iMac. So how has Apple managed to out together a cheaper iMac, and what makes this one tick?

The new iMac starts at $1,099, making it $200 cheaper the existing 21.5-inch iMac offering, but what caught mu eye wasn't the scaled down price, but the scaled down spec.

The new iMac is powered by a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, and this is backed up by 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and uses the Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU present on the CPU to power the graphics. The only upgrade possible on this system is storage, with the option of a 1TB hard drive costing an extra $50, a 1TB Fusion drive for an extra $250, or a 256GB flash drive for an extra $250.

The main differences between this iMac and the $1,299 version is as follows:

  • Faster 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • 1TB hard drive comes as standard
  • Faster Iris Pro graphics
  • Option to upgrade RAM to 16GB
  • Option to upgrade flash storage to 512GB

Another thing that struck me about the spec of the cheaper iMac is that it is strikingly similar to that of the high-end 11-inch MacBook Air, with the processor, graphics card, and price all being identical.

One advantage the new iMac has is that it comes with 8GB of RAM as standard while the MacBook Air only comes with 4GB, but this is offset by the fact that the MacBook Air comes with a 256GB flash drive which is faster than the traditional hard drive found in the iMac.

Which one should you go for? Well, for general browsing the web and running the odd app, the new iMac with its dual-core processor is ideal, but for anything that needs more grunt then for an extra $200 that quad-core processor, better graphics and the extra storage will come in handy. Also, the cheaper iMac offers little in the way of upgrade options beyind storage, and it is unlikely that the RAM inside will be user-upgradeable, so bear this in mind.

Topics: Hardware, Apple

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  • Surprising drop in processor horsepower

    wonder why? They have a warehouse full of free 1.4 Intel dual cores?
    • Probably.

      I've always found it odd that there were a lack of Iris chips.

      My guess was that Apple bought them all, hence why most of the competition use standard ULV i5 chips with HD 4400 GPUs, rather than ones with HD 5000s.

      I wouldn't be surprised if they're trying to recycle older chips in anticipation for Broadwell, but this is a really disappointing refresh/line-up.

      This iMac is basically a gutted MBA, which is fine for a laptop but weak for an all-in-one.
      • Trying to get rid of outdated inventory

        before introducing a new MacBook Air with a next-gen Broadwell chip? Ars Technica has more details:

        "While the $1,299 model gets you a quad-core, 2.7GHz Core i5-4570R and Intel's best integrated GPU (the Iris Pro 5200), the $1,099 model comes with a dual-core 1.4GHz Core i5-4260U and Intel's third-best integrated GPU (the HD 5000). This is the exact same processor included in the speed-bumped MacBook Airs that Apple introduced in April."

        An interesting fact: Intel mobile chips are more expensive than the desktop variety. In this case the 4260U is a few dozen dollars more expensive than the 4570R, while having inferior integrated graphics processor, two cores instead of four and a smaller cache, not to mention lower clock speed. Yet the entire iMac version is $200 cheaper. Either Apple got a very good deal from Intel or it really tries to get rid of a large number of soon to be obsolete mobile CPUs.

        If you take a look at what's inside while having your brain shielded from Apple's reality distortion field, there are mainstream laptop-grade internals, a small, low-speed mechanical hard drive and a run of the mill 1080p panel. There is no optical drive.

        Leaving aside OS X vs Windows argument, are there cheaper PC alternatives both all-in-one and not? I'd like to really know that.

        Anyway, kudos to Apple for creative thinking. The stock has nowhere to go but up.
  • I'd go with a Mac Mini

    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Yes and

      Yes, the Mac Mini makes more sense. I have one. Do note, that like this new iMac, the Mini has that terribly slow 5400 spin laptop HD. I can not believe that Apple has not replaced all devices with SSD. If sold with SSD, this so called new iMac would be a better deal. It is NOT a great deal however with yesterdays technology, at today's pricing. I made a bad choice not going for SSD on my Mini purchase, but the SSD pricing at Apple is pretty ridiculous.

      I am trying something newer, as I type here using a Toshiba Chromebook hooked to 27" monitor, keyboard and mouse -- For under $279 you get SSD speed -- love it! Will consider a Chromebox ($179-$199) some day as well. That is if all works out, as in still liking Chrome OS months from now. There is still things which OS X and Windows have to offer, and even Ubuntu, which can best Chrome OS. But who knows, so far I find much of daily use can be done on a Chrome OS -- maybe it is most everything - we shall see. At any rate, a great 2nd computer.
  • I have a late 2012 imac and an early 2013 macbook air

    I have to tell you... while the imac has a much faster quad core processor... the macbook air blows it away in performance with video editing. The flash based storage just DESTROYS any advantage that faster processor creates. While I enjoy the bigger screen, I won't be buying another imac without SSD...period.
  • Rip-off price

    Buying an iMac is a foolish decision.
    • why?

      It is a pretty good all in one computer, and spec for spec, the original iMac holds up fairly well against other all in ones in its class, as far as price goes.
      • Only if you limit your choices to Apple products/OS

        Just a few options for hundreds less and most have faster HD's (5,400 for the Apple).

        824.00 THINKCENTRE E93Z, AIO 21.5IN W (NO TOUCH), CORE I5 4430S (2.7 GHZ) 4TH GEN, NO V

        800.00 Lenovo A520 23" AIO Touch i5 3220M 6GB /1TB HDD 1080p

        800.00 Intel Core i3 4130T (2.90GHz) 4GB DDR3 1TB SATA 6G Solid State Hybrid Drive with 8GB SSD acceleration cache HDD 23" Touchscreen Desktop PC Windows 8.1

        Dare I say. Chromebase? For basic web browsing/email
        $329.00 LG Chromebase Celeron (Haswell) 2GB DDR3L 16GB SSD (Sandisk) HDD 21.5

        In the end, its up to each individual to decide what his/her needs are. First, they know if they want an Apple product or are willing to look at other brands. Second is price and third is specs. Most shoppers havn't a clue whats inside. If they did, then would turn up their nose at a 5,400 rpm HD for the OS.

        ~Best wishes on everyone's choice. Just know there are more options out there.
        • I looked at the first of those

          and its no match... has a standard SATA drive (and not anything like the Fusion), half the drive space of a normal iMac, half the memory. Now its a fine machine, all the same, but they aren't similarly specced. They just aren't... so apples and oranges, as per usual.

          As for the gratuitous toss-in of a Chrome thingie, well Chrome appliances, in my opinion, don't entirely even deserve the moniker of "computer", so I don't even know what that's about.
          • Just some other options for less greenbacks

            The Chromebase is actually a great setup for someone who only needs a web-device. That's the whole point of Chrome OS.

            Email, Internet and some basic word-processing capabilities when needed.

            It' s a very reasonable price for individuals with simple needs IMO.

            It may not meet your definition of a "Computer", but never-the-less it is a computer.

            In the end, your choice for your needs.
          • FYI

            Interesting article on the new iMac.

          • A look inside one...

          • And lacking Thunderbolt….

          • People use Thunderbolt?

    • I hear hooting.

      Fly away Owl:Net! Back to the forest you go!
  • Buy a cheap Windows PC

    Seriously, don't fall for this BS from Apple.
    • Depends on your needs.

      Some people prefer Mac OS/OS X to Windows, and vice-verse.

      In my opinion, this product is a rip-off.

      Get a Mac Mini, the upper-level iMac, or even a MacBook Air, all of which are fairly priced with their competitors.

      In this specific case, the specs do not justify the price.
  • Older Generation iMacs can have considerable benefits….

    There are considerable advantages in having the older generation iMac. The Mid-2011 21.5" iMac has an Intel i5 2.5GHz Sandy Bridge Processor which is more than a match for the latest Haswell Processors. The AMD Radeon HD 6750M 512MB Graphics are crystal clear. It includes a built in Super Drive. The RAM is user upgradeable to a massive 16GB (27"model 32GB). It is more straightforward to access the interior components from the front (for example fitting an SSD) and for those needing Rosetta it is compatible with OS X Snow Leopard.

    The Mid-2011 iMacs are possibly the most flexible of all and a immaculate 21.5" model can be picked up for as little as £600 and represents considerably more bang for your bucks compared to later generation iMacs.
    • But when it comes to the HDD...

      it's a different story. Why? I have the 27" 2.7 GHz model that I just happened to upgrade the RAM and HDD. Unfortunately, there is this issue of the fans going into overdrive if you replace it with the wrong HDD. Check out this link you'll find more info an this particular iMac.

      You could you the software Harddrive Fan Control...

      or this might work...

      p.s. The thermal temperature kit didn't work for me but Harddrive Fan Control did.
      Arm A. Geddon