New Macs (as if you didn’t know)

March 4, 2009  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Apple announced new Macs across the entire desktop line yesterday (Mac Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini). I’ve been in the market for a new iMac, so these updates are very welcome (although with the economy being the way it is, the rush to buy one has subsided just a little).

Still, there’s lots to like about the updates. I am most impressed with the changes to the Mac Mini. The Mini has long lagged the iMac in four key performance-related areas: processor, memory, memory speed, and hard drive speed. Now it looks like we’re down to three. The Mac Mini and the iMac both sport a 1066MHz front side bus. Prior to Tuesday’s updates, the iMacs raced along at 800MHz while the Minis were saddled with a 667MHz FSB. Unfortunately, the Minis are still limited to 5400rpm hard drives. That may have made sense at one time, but now 7200rpm hard drives are even available on Macbook Pros. It’s time to let the Mini catch up.

The iMacs saw a nice boost too. The big shock for me was the switch from two 20″ models and two 24″ models to a single 20″ model and three 24″ models. For me, the 24″ model never made sense before. For the price of the cheapest 24″ iMac, you could almost buy a 20″ iMac and a 20″ Apple Cinema Display (this model has since been discontinued but it was still available when I purchased my current iMac). If you’re willing to step outside the Apple Store and buy a non-Apple display, you could definitely have made that purchase. I would much rather have two 20″ displays side-by-side than a single 24″ display. The reason for this seemingly crazy pricing situation is that Apple bundled better processor and graphics into the cheapest 24″ iMac. If you don’t need that extra horsepower, the larger monitor becomes a very pricey upgrade.

Now things are entirely different. The cheapest 24″ iMac comes in at $1499 with a larger hard disk and more memory. But I can see lots of people wanting to upgrade to 4GB of RAM (a must in my opinion!) and 640GB hard drive (320GB is becoming “small”). Upgrading the 20″ iMac to comparable RAM and hard drive brings the price to $1374. In my opinion, $125 is a small price to pay for the larger screen real estate.

I don’t have much to say about the Mac Pros. My last true desktop was an 867MHz Mirror Drive Doors PowerMac. I can get so much done on a laptop or iMac that I would be wasting my money to buy a Mac Pro. Still, I enjoy pricing one out occasionally to see what kind of ridiculous specs and prices are available. A dual 2.93GHz, 32GB RAM, 1TB HD model currently rings up at just over 12 grand. At least there is free shipping.

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