Apple today refreshed its iMac desktop line, which now sport Intel's second-generation quad-core processors and the new Thunderbolt connectivity technology that debuted in February on the company's MacBook Pro laptops.
The update was anticipated, with rumors swirling over the last week that Apple would upgrade the iMac, which was last refreshed in July 2010.
"It's really, really hard to be splashy with desktops," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, essentially reprising his take last February, when he called the MacBook Pro update "ho-hum."
As is its usual practice, Apple retained the price points of the earlier models, with the smaller 21.5-in. iMac starting at $1,199 and the least-expensive 27-in. desktop selling for $1,699.
All iMacs now come standard with an Intel's Core i5 quad-core processors -- Apple has ditched the low-end Core i3 dual-core processor found in 2010's systems -- although buyers can upgrade to a faster Core i7 quad-core chip for $200 extra. This is the first time that Apple's offered processors from Intel's "Sandy Bridge" architecture in its iMac line.
Apple's 21.5-in. iMacs are powered by a 2.5GHz or 2.7GHz Core i5, come with 4GB of memory standard, and feature a 500GB or 1TB hard drive. The lower-priced model ships with a Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), while the $1,499 system relies on a Radeon HD 6770M GPU.
The 27-in. iMacs boast a 2.7GHz or 3.1GHz Core i5, 4GB of memory, a 1TB drive, and the Radeon HD 6770M graphics processor.
Apple also added Thunderbolt, the I/O (input/output) technology developed by Intel, matching the move of late February when it unveiled the faster connectivity hardware in the MacBook Pro.
Thunderbolt offers direct bi-directional connections to high-speed peripherals such as data drives, and using optional adapters, to other technologies, including FireWire, USB, Gigabit Ethernet and Apple's DisplayPort.
Apple's desktop sales have been lackluster of late.
In the first three months of 2011, Apple sold just over 1 million desktops, which accounted for only 27% of its computer sales for the quarter. That's the lowest percentage since the July-September quarter of 2009. During the final quarter of 2010, Apple sold 1.23 million desktops, which represented 30% of the company's total system sales.
In those two prior quarters, Apple's desktop sales dropped 1% and 12%, respectively, compared to the same period the year before.
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