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What About Desktops?

June 29, 2012 - Dave Hecei
Now that Apple has updated their entire laptop line, including a completely new model with Retina display, it is time to look at desktops. While tablets and laptops seem to be more popular, meaning they sell a bazillion of them, the desktop is the workhorse computer and one that Apple is about to update.

Of course no one but Apple knows what the new desktops will look like let alone what will be inside them. The current line of desktop models from Apple include the Mac mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro tower. The Mac Pro was recently updated along with the refresh of the MacBooks. The problem is that it really wasn’t much of an update. Apple pretty much just threw in the latest Intel processors and called it a day. This is something they probably had to do since the chips they were using are likely discontinued.

Sometime soon, which could be this month or even as late as September, Apple will be releasing an updated Mac mini and iMac. Recently, Tim Cook, current Apple CEO, sent an email response to an Apple customer that they are working on a new Mac Pro for next year, so it looks like a bit of a wait for an all-new Mac Pro tower.

That said, the mini and iMac should get the same treatment as the new MacBooks. This includes the faster Ivy Bridge Intel chipset, USB 3.0 ports, and faster graphics chips. The current Mac mini has no optical drive so the form factor of the mini is likely going to remain the same, but the iMac is ripe for change. Just guessing, hopefully an educated one, the next iMac should be faster and thinner – meaning no optical drive and an SSD boot drive.

Apple is definitely on an SSD (solid state drive) kick these days. There is no question that using an SSD for the boot drive increases operating speeds – the machine will boot faster, load Apps faster, etc. The problem is that SSDs have much smaller capacities compared to a spinning drive.

I have no doubt that the next iMacs coming out of Cupertino will not have optical drives. If Apple wanted to slim down the iMac even more they could go with all SSD storage. The ideal solution, if I were on the design team at Apple, would be the same SSD from the MacBooks as the boot drive and a spinning 2.5-inch laptop drive (500gb to 1TB) as data storage. This design would allow for a thinner and lighter iMac that boots fast plus has plenty of internal storage. This setup is an option on some current iMac models, only if you use the build-to-order system (using a 3.5-inch drive). Apple should make the SSD the standard drive with a spinning laptop drive as the secondary drive.

The Mac mini update will likely not include a design change. The mini as it sits today is small enough and already has a pretty decent selection of ports. The current mini has gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, HDMI, Thunderbolt, (4) USB 2.0, analog/digital audio out, analog/digital audio in, and an SD memory card slot. An update to the mini should only bring USB 3.0 to the mix. If Apple decides to put SSD in the mini, then things could change a bit. Since the mini is positioned as the lowest priced Mac then this is unlikely. SSD storage does not come cheap and I’m sure Apple wants to keep the same low price point. I just hope that Firewire will still be in the next mini.

Desktops are where work gets done. That’s not to say that a MacBook is incapable of hard work, but for day-in-day-out computer processing, most users would rather be sitting comfortably at their desk than sitting with a hot computer on their lap. I’m looking forward to new minis and iMacs, which should be announced right around the time that Mountain Lion becomes available.


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