Apple iMac (2012) Product Notes

October 23, 2012

Apple announced significant updates today to its iMac line of all-in-one desktop systems. Specific changes include a major redesign of the case, omission of an optical drive, and the introduction of a new solid state/traditional hard drive combination dubbed "Fusion Drive". This update follows a previous iMac refresh in June 2011, and shows Apple's continuing pattern of extended refresh cycles with the iMac.

Design and Changes

Apple iMacThis latest generation of iMacs is a heavy modification of the same general enclosure that iMacs have had since the introduction of the "aluminum" iMac in August 2007, with some modifications to account for the move to 16:9 displays in October 2009. The new iteration is noticeably thinner with a 5mm edge around the entire body, allowed by the lack of an optical drive slot, a thinner display panel, and the lamination of that panel directly to the display glass.

The major internal change is the availability of a technology dubbed "Fusion Drive". This is two hard drives, one 128 GB solid state drive and one 1 or 3 TB traditional hard drive, that appear as a single drive to the operating system with automatic file placement to optimize performance. This is not a standard feature and will be available at additional cost on all but the base 21.5-inch model.

Another welcome change is a move to USB 3.0 for all USB ports, and connectivity is rounded out by two Thunderbolt ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, a SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack on all models. The new iMac also features Intel's Ivy Bridge chipset, continuing the availability of Core i5 and i7 processors in the iMac line, NVIDIA GT and GTX series GPUs, and a new upper limit of 32 GB of RAM on the high-end 27-inch model.

Missing (again) from this latest update is the availability of Blu-ray drives. Also, there is no matte screen option, which matters to some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons.

These new iMacs meet or exceed the specifications in the newly-revised Performance Desktop Purchasing Guide.

Both sizes of the iMac are EPEAT Gold-compliant and Energy Star 5.2-certified.

Ordering Notes

Several considerations when ordering an iMac:

  1. The iMac is available with Intel's current Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that the 2.7GHz Core i5 in the 21.5-inch system is sufficient for most users. For 27-inch systems, either available Core i5 or the Core i7 processor is appropriate.
  2. Hard drive options are rather limited on the 21.5-inch configuration, particularly on the base model which only has a 1 TB 5400-rpm drive available, while the only additional option on the higher-spec 21.5-inch model is a 1 TB Fusion Drive. The only full flash storage option available in the lineup is a 768 GB drive on the 27-inch model.
  3. It is important to note that the standard keyboard for an iMac continues to be the compact Apple Wireless Keyboard, which does not include a numeric keypad. Providers configuring to order from the University's Apple pages can choose the wired Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad at no additional charge.
  4. The default mouse continues to be Apple's multi-touch wireless Magic Mouse. Apple's Magic Trackpad may be substituted at no additional cost.
  5. External SuperDrives are available for users who require an optical drive.
  6. Though Apple has not made it part of the default configuration for the iMac, ISC believes that AppleCare should be considered by Schools and Centers ordering desktop systems. For larger orders, LSPs may wish to consider 4-year AppleCare.

See ISC's Performance Desktop Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. Full configuration pricing is not yet available, but ISC expects that configuring an iMac to the Performance Desktop specification will be possible for approximately $1,300 to $1,600 (the Mac mini remains the best choice for a Mac OS-based Value Desktop). The University's Computer Connection will have new iMac ordering configurations available as soon as possible.


ISC sees the updated iMac as being a solid choice among desktop systems available in late 2012 and the iMac continues to serve as the Apple component in the University's Desktop Recommendations. At this point even the most basic iMac models meet and exceed the Desktop Recommendations, though note that an optical drive, if required, must be purchased separately.

iMac graphic courtesy of Apple

--John Mulhern III, Michael McLaughlin, and Vern Yoneyama, ISC Technology Support Services

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Date Posted: October 23, 2012 Tags: Product Notes, Apple, iMac

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