Apple releases new iMac PCs with Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge update

Apple releases new iMac PCs with Thunderbolt and Sandy Bridge update

Apple on Tuesday updated its iMac desktop computers with next-generation Intel processors and the chip company’s high-speed data-transfer technology, following similar upgrades to the MacBook notebook line from February. The new generation of iMac models, running at speeds up to 3.4 GHz and powered by the next generation of Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors. The models also build in support for the new Thunderbolt, high-speed peripheral connection interface that debuted in Apple’s MacBook Pro line earlier this year.

The new iMacs are available in the familiar 21.5-inch and larger 27-inch form factors, starting at $1,199 for the 21.5-inch model with an Intel Core i5, AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics, and a 500GB hard drive. In addition, the computers incorporate Intel’s chips that combine processing and graphics on the same piece of silicon, making the computer up to 70% faster. The iMacs also come standard with new Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) discrete HD graphics, which Apple says deliver up to three times the performance of the previous generation and “provide the most powerful graphics ever in an all-in-one desktop.”

These Imacs are also some of the first machines to support Apple and Intel’s Thunderbolt I/O technology. Launched in February this year, Thunderbolt offers 10Gbit/s on a single cable that supports both data and display traffic using the PCI Express protocol for data transfer. The 21.5in Imac has a single Thunderbolt port and the 27in model has two.

The low-end 21.5-inch model sports a 500GB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB of video RAM, while the more powerful 21.5-inch configuration has a 1TB hard drive and an AMD Radeon HD 6770M with 512MB of video RAM. Both versions feature a 1920 by 1080 pixel display and 4GB of memory. They retail for $1,199 and $1,499.

On the software side, all new iMacs come with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, along with Apple’s iLife ’11 software (iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, GarageBand, etc.). New for the iMac line is the inclusion of FaceTime HD, which allows video chat with FaceTime equipped iPhone 4, iPod Touch, and iPad 2 devices.

Apple said the new line will be the first desktop computers on the market to include the high-speed connectivity technology previously code-named Light Peak but now dubbed Thunderbolt. Apple said it expects Thunderbolt to be widely adopted as a new standard for high-performance data transfer. Intel, which has been working for years on laser-based communications, unveiled Light Peak in late 2009. The company has predicted the technology–which combines high-speed data transfer and high-definition display on a single cable–could be upgraded to run at 100 gigabits within the decade.

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