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May 16, 2011 - Dave Hecei
The latest iMacs, the ones with the new Thunderbolt port, are the fastest iMacs ever. That being said, you can boost an iMac’s performance even further by custom ordering from the online Apple Store. This allows you to set the amount of RAM, the size and type of Hard Drive, but more importantly, you can upgrade to the latest Core i7 Intel processor.
Today, the stock iMac comes with an Intel Core i5 quad-core processor running from 2.5 to 3.1GHz. Since the new ‘Sandy Bridge’ Core i5 processor is a quad-core design it means that for the first time, all iMacs are quad-core. But, and you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, the new Core i5 does have Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, but does not have Intel’s Hyper Thread technology (HT). Turbo Boost allows a processor to shut down unused processor cores and increase speeds on the ones being used. Hyper Thread allows each processor core to work on two processes at the same time. While not the same as doubling, a multi-threaded operating system will see an HT capable processor as having 2x the cores.
As a Build-To-Order (BTO) option on both the 21- and 27-inch iMac, the Core i5 can be upgraded to the Core i7. The upgrade to i7 is $200. The 21-inch iMac can move up to the 2.8GHz Core i7 HT, while the 27-inch iMac can be upgraded to the 3.4GHz Core i7 HT.
For the average, and even above average, Mac user, this upgrade might not be worth the extra $200. If you are buying a new Mac for production work, then you can probably justify the added expense. Macworld.com just posted some benchmarks on the BTO iMacs. The numbers are somewhat surprising, especially since they compared the new iMacs with last years and a six-core Mac Pro tower running at 3.33GHz. The 21-inch i7 iMac actually beat the six-core Mac Pro tower on some of the tests.
By bumping up the 21-inch 2.7GHz Core i5 iMac to a 2.8GHz Core i7 with HT, the total price is $1699. This is an amazing deal is you considering the performance you are getting. By the way, the six-core Mac Pro tower workstation they were comparing the new iMacs to costs just over $3900. And that doesn’t even include a monitor yet.
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