24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.66GHz full review

Apple seems to be happy with releasing iMac updates once per calendar year. The new iMacs replace models that were released 10 months ago, which is an eternity in technology. And before that, there was an 8-month gap between iMac updates. Fortunately, the new iMacs feature significant changes that result in a performance boost.

Changes inside

This is the third generation of the aluminum iMac, and the design hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 2007. The grey bezel, the black Apple logos front and back, the aluminum stand, the matte black plastic rear, it’s all there, including the big glossy screen - much to the chagrin of anti-glare proponents. And there’s no anti-glare option, either.

Apple offers four standard configurations of the iMac, three 24-inch models and only one 20-inch iMac. The iMacs still use TFT active-matrix LCDs. The 20-inch LCD is 1,680 by 1,050 pixels, and is a 6-bit colour display that achieves millions of colours by dithering, like the previous 20-inch iMac display.

And like that previous display, the new 20-inch iMac, when viewed at an angle, shows colour and contrast shifts. But the display does look brighter than the previous 20-inch iMac display. The 24-inch LCDs, at 1,920 by 1,200 pixels, are 8-bit displays and look good at an angle.

Behind the glossy screen is where all the changes have been made, resulting in a performance boost that reinforces the iMac’s value. The iMac’s Core 2 Duo processor speeds start at 2.66GHz, and include 2.93GHz and 3.06GHz. Previously, iMac processor speeds started at 2.4GHz, and included 2.66GHz, 2.8GHz, and a built-to-order 3.06GHz.

The system bus, used in communications between the processor and system memory is still at 1,066MHz, but now Apple uses 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM instead of the 800MHz DDR2 RAM in the previous iMac - this bump in RAM speed also contributes to the impressive speed increase over the previous iMac.

Apple also doubled the amount of RAM in the standard configuration, with 2GB in the 20-inch iMac Core 2 Duo/2.66GHz, and 4GB in the other three models.

The hard drives in the standard configurations received a nice jump in capacity, too. Previously, there was a 250GB drive in the entry-level iMac, and 320GB drives in the other models.

Now, the entry-level iMac has a 320GB drive, the high-end iMac has a 1TB drive, and the two models in between have 640GB drives.

The iMacs no longer use ATI graphics subsystems as standard equipment. The two 2.66GHz-based iMacs use Nvidia’s GeForce 9400M, which shares 256MB of memory with the CPU.

The 2.93GHz iMac uses Nvidia’s GeForce GT 120 and the 3.06GHz iMac uses Nvidia’s GeForce GT 130; those two iMacs have 256MB and 512MB of dedicated video memory, respectively. For artists and designers, and of course gamers, that means better performance for their graphics-intensive apps.

Apple made two major changes regarding the rear ports. First, the FireWire 400 port has been replaced by an additional USB 2.0 port, bring the total number of USB ports on the back of the iMac to four.

The FireWire 800 port is still there, so you can use a FireWire 400 to FireWire 800 adapter cable to connect your FireWire 400-based peripherals. The second change is that the mini-DVI port for connecting an external display has been replaced by a Mini DisplayPort.

You can connect a DVI-equipped display by using - you guessed it - an adapter, like Apple’s Mini DisplayPort to DVI (£20).

The final major change is with the keyboard. The standard configurations now come with a compact wired keyboard that doesn’t have a numeric keypad, or the home/end/page up/page down/delete group of buttons.

It’s as if Apple chopped off the right side of the keyboard. The full-sized keyboard is available as a customization option at no additional cost if you order an iMac through Apple.com.

NEXT: iMac performance

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