About the new iMacs

So, along with a number of other products, Apple finally refreshed its iMac line yesterday. I’ll be buying one; I’ve had money set aside for a new Mac desktop for some time, and have been waiting for this refresh to pull the trigger. But I haven’t quite figured out how to spec out my iMac yet; the two main questions are the keyboard and the graphics chipset.

A smaller keyboard that lacks the numeric keypad is now standard — it’s essentially the same keyboard as Apple’s wireless keyboard, except that it’s not wireless (and has USB ports). If I want, I can swap out a full keyboard with numeric keyboard, as a BTO option, and it doesn’t even cost anything. I’m not sure whether I need to. I don’t use the number pad, but I would miss the page up and page down keys. And there is one frequently used application that does use the number pad: Civilization IV. I guess I’ve just answered my own question.

The 24-inch iMac comes with a dizzying selection of graphics chipset options: the integrated Nvidia 9400M on the low-end model, and either the Nvidia GeForce GT 120, the Nvidia GeForce GT 130, or the ATI Radeon HD 4850 on the higher-end models. I’m sure that any of these options is an improvement over the ATI Radeon X1600 on my current machine; the question is, how much more do I need? If I were just writing and blogging, I’d opt for the base model, but photography software — i.e., Aperture and Adobe CS4 Design Premium, in my case — is kind of demanding. I don’t want to over-buy, but I don’t want to end up with the false economy of an underpowered system. Decisions, decisions.

Other observations:

  • Unlike the 24-inch LED Cinema Display, the LCD is not LED-backlit; it still uses CCFL backlights, for what I imagine are cost or supply reasons.
  • There’s one extra USB port and only one FireWire 800 port. This does not strike me as a problem; most of us have far more USB devices than FireWire devices, and you can always daisy-chain FireWire.
  • The drop in the Canadian dollar made these machines more expensive than their predecessors — $200 more expensive, in the case of the price point I was looking at.