Apple iMac (2013) Product Notes

On September 24, 2013, Apple announced significant updates to its iMac line of all-in-one desktop systems. Specific changes include the introduction of 802.11ac WiFi connectivity and improved graphics capability. As expected, the new iMac line includes the Haswell line of Intel processors. The iMac line was last updated in October 2012.

Design and changes

Apple iMacThis latest generation of iMacs retains the aluminum enclosure introduced in 2012: a sleek form factor with a 5mm edge around the entire body, no optical drive slot, a thin display panel, and the lamination of that panel directly to the display glass.

The Fusion Drive remains available as extra-cost configurable choices for both 21.5-inch and 27-inch models, This technology consists of two storage devices (a 128 GB solid state drive and either a 1 or 3 TB traditional hard drive) which appear as a single drive to the operating system with automatic file placement to optimize performance. Note that the 3 TB version is only available with the 27-inch.

One welcome change is a move to 802.11ac WiFi connectivity, first introduced in the MacBook Air line and AirPort base stations earlier in 2013. The new iMacs also include four USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports (though not the Thunderbolt 2.0 which will ship on the Mac Pro later this fall), a gigabit Ethernet port, a SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack on all models. Both the 21.5-inch and the 27-inch systems can be ordered with a built-in VESA mount adapter.

There is now a wider set of video options available, with Intel's integrated Iris Pro graphics anchoring the low-end 21.5-inch system while an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M discrete video card with 4 GB memory is available on the 27-inch system. Unlike with some MacBook Pros, there continues to be no matte screen option on the iMac, which is important 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 quad core Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that the Core i5 is sufficient for most users.
  2. The 21.5-inch configuration comes with a 1 TB 5400-rpm hard drive as standard, although it's configurable with a 1 TB Fusion Drive or 256 GB or 512 GB of flash storage. The 27-inch model comes standard with a 1 TB 7200-rpm hard drive; it's configurable to a 3 TB hard drive, 1 TB or 3 TB Fusion Drive, or 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB of flash storage. ISC believes that the hard drives or the Fusion drives are the best choice for most users.
  3. 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 charge.
  5. External SuperDrives are available for users who require an optical drive at additional cost.
  6. Although Apple has not made it part of the default iMac configuration, ISC strongly recommends that AppleCare 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. Configuring an iMac to the Performance Desktop specification is possible for approximately $1,250 to $1,750 (the Mac mini remains the best choice for an OS X-based Value Desktop). The University's Computer Connection will have new iMac configurations available for order as soon as possible.

Analysis

ISC sees the updated iMac as being a solid choice among all-in-one desktop systems available in late 2013, and the iMac continues to serve as the Apple component of the University's Desktop Recommendations. Even the most basic iMac models in this generation meet or exceed the specifications in the Desktop Recommendations.

Moving to 8 GB as a RAM standard across the line slightly decreases the entry cost while using high-end Intel Iris Pro integrated graphics in the lower end of the 21.5-inch in line is an interesting test of how far integrated graphics have come. ISC will be testing an iMac with Iris Pro graphics shortly.

Finally, iMac specifications often closely track MacBook Pro specifications. So, these iMacs are at least a partial preview of the Haswell-based MacBook Pros that ISC expects Apple to announce later this fall.

iMac graphic courtesy of Apple.

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

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Date Posted: September 24, 2013 Tags: Product Notes, Apple, iMac

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