Should You Upgrade to the New iMac?

Considering purchasing a new iMac(s aapl)? Here’s a look at what the new models can do, compared to the previous generation, as per Apple in a call Tuesday morning with GigaOM. The key takeaway here is that these new iMacs are very, very fast:

  • The new $1199 iMac is 70 percent faster than the previous generation entry-level model at the same price point. That’s probably due mostly to the fact that it’s packing a 2.5 GHz quad-core processor, vs. the 3.06 GHz dual-core Intel (s intc) chip powering the older version.
  • The new $1199 iMac is 30 percent faster than the top of the line 27-inch previous generation iMac, if you’d rather compare quad-core Apples to quad-core Apples. That means buyers of even the most basic new iMacs should be seeing considerable performance improvements over the older models.
  • The AMD (s amd) graphics processor in even the entry-level new iMacs is three times faster than the one it replaces. Apple claims it can do 100 frames per second in the high-end iMac, with up to 1.3 teraflops of performance. That’s pushing weight previously only available from Mac Pros.
  • FaceTime HD support means that the iMacs can do 720p video calling with other FaceTime HD equipped Macs (MacBook Pro and iMacs for now), and can still do SD calling with all other Apple FaceTime-enabled devices.
  • Thunderbolt ports mean you can get up to 10GB per second transfer speeds with connected storage and A/V transfer devices. It also means you can daisy-chain and output to an external display on the 21.5-inch iMac, or to two displays using the 27-inch model.
  • Apple now offers SSD/HDD combos as an upgrade option that allow for faster boot times while still providing affordable, spacious storage options.

These are a strong update for the iMac line, and anyone considering an upgrade would be well-served by these improvements. The only thing Apple didn’t change were the looks of the all-in-one, which is a good thing considering how attractive the aluminum and glass combo is. The only downsides to consider are the fact that Apple seems to have gotten rid of the 27-inch iMac’s target display mode, and that it may be preparing to ship OS X Lion this summer. But target display mode probably has limited usefulness for most, and Lion will be an inexpensive upgrade when it does arrive (plus there are no guarantees its coming in early summer, anyway). If you’ve been waiting for the right time to upgrade your Apple desktop, this is definitely a good time to do so.

With additional reporting by Om Malik.