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Apple unveils new iMacs, revamps MacBooks and minis

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 22, 2009
'Same old, same old,' complains analyst about refresh sans price cuts

FRAMINGHAM, 20 OCTOBER 2009 - Apple today (20 Oct) revamped its iMac, MacBook and Mac mini lines in a long-expected refresh that company executives hinted yesterday was imminent.

But as is Apple's custom, the company did not lower prices for the least-expensive new models.

"Same old, same old," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Boring."

The new iMacs -- 21.5-inch and 27-inch models -- replace the former 20-inch and 24-inch iMacs, and are priced starting at US$1,199. The low-end MacBook also remains at the $999 mark, putting an end to talk by analysts that Apple would drop the price of its entry-level notebook, perhaps as far as $699.

While the three lowest-priced iMacs are powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 3.06GHz, the priciest model, the $1,999 27-in. iMac, is equipped with a 2.66GHz Intel Core i5 quad-core processor. Customers can swap out that CPU for a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 quad-core for an additional $200. This is the first time that Apple's dropped a quad-core processor into its iMac desktop line, but buyers will have to wait if that's the iMac they want: The quad-core models don't ship until next month.

Storage space has also been boosted in the new models. The $1,199 iMac comes with a 500GB hard drive -- versus the 320GB drive in the older 20-in. iMac -- while the other three models come with a 1TB drive as standard. All boast 4GB of RAM.

The new iMacs' profile is significantly wider to accommodate the larger displays and features an all-aluminum back, replacing the black plastic used on earlier models.

Prices range from $1,199 for the low-end 21.5-inch iMac to $1,499 for the upper-end 21.5-inch, and $1,699 and $1,999 for the two configurations of the 27-inch system. The latter two are priced $100 and $200 less than the corresponding 24-in. iMacs that they replaced.

Apple's lowest-priced iMac uses the Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics, includes four USB ports, a single FireWire 800 port and a new SD card slot, the latter positioned below the optical-drive slot and designed to accept memory cards -- like the kind used in most digital cameras -- for quick copying of images and video. The higher-priced iMacs feature an ATI Radeon HD 4670 or 4850 graphics card with 256MB or 512MB of memory.

All the iMacs come with a wireless keyboard and Apple's new wireless Magic Mouse , which the company bills as the first multi-touch mouse. The top surface of the Magic Mouse accepts several gestures; a two-fingered swipe within Safari, for example, moves back or forward a page in the browser.

The last time Apple refreshed its iMac line-up was March 2009, when upgraded the desktops with faster processors, more memory and storage, and more capable graphics. At the time, Gottheil called the new models "underwhelming."


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