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Summary:

Rumors abound that Apple’s popular all-in-one desktop computer is set for an update in May, complete with Sandy Bridge processors from Intel and a new Thunderbolt port. It’s an upgrade that’s worth waiting for, maybe more so precisely because the iMac is a desktop.

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Rumors abound that Apple’s popular all-in-one desktop computer is set for an update in May. The iMac line will reportedly inherit the recent improvements made to the MacBook Pro, complete with Sandy Bridge processors from Intel and a new Thunderbolt port. It’s an upgrade that’s worth waiting for, maybe more so because the iMac is a desktop.

I’m on record as being somewhat underwhelmed by the MacBook Pro update, because the changes didn’t address my needs in a mobile computer, which include better battery life, improved display quality and instant-on capability. Those same updates in a desktop machine are a different story altogether. As an inexpensive workhorse, the iMac stands to gain quite a bit from faster, stronger guts and new connectivity options.

According to the report, which stems from Cnet’s Brian Tong, who heard the news from a reliable source, the new iMacs will be shipping soon in advance of an early May launch. As I mentioned above, they include Intel’s Sandy Bridge chip processors and the new Thunderbolt port, which was developed by Intel working with Apple and provides high-speed dual-channel I/O communication in addition to DisplayPort connectivity for external monitors. The update will be the first since the iMacs got Core i3, i5 and i7 processors last July. Tong also reports that the iMac will get no major cosmetic changes with this update.

The improvements in iMac speed and processing power are in line with what we’ve seen from MacBook Pro benchmarks and will be a welcome upgrade. iMacs also have the benefit of being less concerned with power consumption, so in theory, they should beat their portable rivals on most measures. All that extra power will really come in handy for processor-intensive desktop computing tasks like long video-encoding sessions and outputting complicated animation.

Thunderbolt, which currently doesn’t really provide much to MacBook Pro owners (the accessory ecosystem, with a few exceptions, has yet to really embrace and make good use of the standard), should find a better and more useful home on the desktop, too. It’ll be easier to set up semi-permanent hard drive arrays for backup and additional storage, and as camera manufacturers adopt the tech (Canon at least has suggested that it will), the iMac will become an even more attractive option for professional and advanced amateur video editors. Overall, Thunderbolt is a tech that makes more sense on a stationary computer that can take advantage of its high-speed, high-fidelity transfers during long and complicated tasks.

Maybe it’s just me, but I never find myself being terribly concerned over the sluggishness of my laptop the way I do my desktop. That’s probably because I use my iMac to do all the heavy lifting, and keep the MacBook light and breezy. My iMac is about due for an upgrade, too, so I’ll likely make an investment when the update comes down. What about you?

  1. Sandy Bridge would mean 6Gbp/s SATA too, wouldn’t it? So some of the third party solid state drives that take advantage of 6Gbp/s could be added by a user?

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  2. Most people are not going to have a desktop and laptop. So one has to do both jobs which is why so many people have laptops only and they do want the power of the new MBP’s.
    It falls on deaf ears at Apple but a mini tower is still needed. Faster procs make this even more important because most people would be easily satisfied with a Mac Mini as their desktop with an i3 proc.
    For me the iMac 21 is too small and the 27 too big because the screen res is so high I have to constantly enlarge fonts to read anything.
    Right now I’m using an iPad 2 and 13″ loaded MacBook Air plugged into a very nice NEC display. Doubtful I will buy another iMac and the loss of flexibility and choice the all in one entails.

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    1. Unless you are into heavy duty video work, you might look into a Mac mini. I have a friend who is a pro photographer and he uses a mini for all his photoshop work.

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  3. I’m thrilled with my new 13″ MacBook Pro update because it flys and addresses most of my needs for mobile computing i.e. can almost always find WiFi, has 7-8 battery life, 20 sec bootup, blows away an iPad2 ;)

    I do however agree with your thoughts on updated iMac ( wife has one and wants new one )

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  4. The single biggest update that I would like to see is an anti-glare option for the iMac. If that isn’t in the cards, then I second the call for a “headless iMac.” I don’t appreciate it that Apple’s intransigence regarding offering anti-glare LCDs for its iMac lines means I will have to buy either a Mac Mini or MacPro in order to be able to use a non-glassy monitor.

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  5. I’m underwhelmed by any iMac update that doesn’t include optional matte screens.

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  6. Yes, I’m also ready for an iMac update. Was going to order one this weekend, but have decided to wait for these new machines. Like you, I use my MacBook Pro for travel and light work; my desktop does the heavy lifting. I’m looking forward to having a faster machine that can work better with Final Cut Pro and drive my second monitor more reliably.

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  7. I’m not sure if the Thunderbolt port currently supports this, but if it TCP/IP like Firewire does, it could be used to VERY quickly copy files and sync data between two computers…

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  8. Am I the only one expecting a multitouch iMac with Lion and the design of the present cinema display?

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  9. Assuming I have the money, I will be buying an iMac. Right now, I do everything on a MacBook4,1 that I upgraded from 2 to 4 GB RAM last year. I love my MacBook,
    and will continue to use it, but have reached the point to where a desktop would
    serve me much more efficiently at home.

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