Upcoming new iMacs to go quad-core; what else will be new?

As promised, all the detailed specs our sources have reported to date; minor changes are still possible before the products’ release, and this is based on only two prototypes we’ve been shown (none of which were in person/hands-on as yet), but we consider them to be quite reliable at least in ballpark terms — and most them are almost certainly right in full detail:

*Core i7 processors — dual core 2.66GHz, quad-core 2.8 & 2.93GHz with 256KB of L2 cache per core and 8MB of on-chip shared “Level 3” cache; all caches are significantly lower in latency than existing Intel chips, allowing each KB/MB to contribute more to overall performance.

*On-chip memory controller eliminates traditional “front side bus” bottlenecks and combined with the powerful four-channel “QuickPath Interconnect,” communicates with all system elements far faster than any previous design by Intel, AMD or even most alternative platforms…..only super high end chips like IBM’s POWER6 are able to compete, and aren’t even close to competing on cost, energy/thermal concerns or compatibility with compact machines like the iMac.

*Three DDR3-1066 SO-DIMM slots supporting up to 6GB of memory with 2GB SO-DIMMs. Each slot has its own dedicated channel to the on-chip memory controller.

*ATi 2600-class GPU with 128MB GDDR3 graphics RAM in entry-level model; two higher-end configs will also use ATi cards, but with 256MB of GDDR3 and GPUs in the 4000-series. One BTO option, as with existing iMacs, will be an 8000-series nVIDIA card with 512MB of graphics RAM. There has been some suggestion that at least one top-end config (most likely build-to-order, not stock) may offer the option of dual GPUs in an “SLI” configuration or at least an ATi or nVIDIA card which has dual GPUs on a single card….but this has not yet been confirmed and no such configuration has been seen in any of the prototypes we’ve sneaked a peek at to date.

*Earlier reports suggested that all 3 (or 4, counting an SLI/dual GPU card) graphics systems would be built by ATi, but the latest prototype we’ve seen included the same GeForce 8800GS 512MB GPU that exists in current-generation BTO models.

*Mini-DVI secondary display connector may be switched to DisplayPort (just as the current Macbooks & Macbook Pros have been); this too is as yet un-confirmed but considered fairly likely by most on the grapevine.

*Stock HDDs increased to 320 and 500GB from 250/320; optional 10,000RPM “Raptor”-style drive *may* be added to BTO possibilities (only partially confirmed; apparently Apple has struck a deal with at least one drive maker to get a special rate on 10K drives that are compatible with the thermal and auditory requirements of the iMac).

*Optional HDDs (not including possible 10K RPM “Raptor”) will be similar to current ones, simply bumped up one notch: 750, 1TB, and 1.5TB 7200RPM drives — mostly from Western Digital & Seagate, reportedly.

*Due to the integration of the memory controller onto the CPU die and other dramatic changes in the Nehalem architecture….despite confirmation that the new iMac enclosure will be otherwise unchanged, some sources report it will be slightly thinner than its predecessor instead of merely just running cooler/quieter; but measurements of the prototypes we’ve seen did not bear this out. This is far from confirmation of no change in thickness, but we don’t consider these reports to be particularly reliable.

*Screen size and resolution will apparently remain the same, but the panels used by Apple may change in both cases — the 20 and 24-inch versions alike. According to reliable sources, these unique LCD panels will be from a new supplier. Early on there was speculation about LED backlighting but as yet we have not been able to discern either way….no prototypes we’ve seen included this feature, but they were relatively early builds and might not include it anyway for several reasons, even if the final version does. We’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on this aspect of the new iMacs and will report anything we hear as soon as it comes in, barring source embargoes.

*Weight will be slightly less than current iMacs, and the new machines will be even “greener” — considerably reduced lead, mercury and other toxic/volatile pollutants, plus even more recyclable than before. “Environmental features” listed for the current model, including low amounts of brominated fire retardant, PVC cable sheathing, and its EPEAT rating — are all significantly improved, notably the EPEAT rating which will reportedly go from Silver to Gold.

All of those “green” changes will be a big deal to many — but what’s really impressive is the Gold EPEAT rating. Currently, not one single “integrated desktop” of the iMac’s type carries this rating; all such machines rated by EPEAT have the same Silver rating as the current iMac; moving up to Gold will set it apart….even quite possibly from its Nehalem-based cousins because of several things unique to this new iMac.

In fact, one of the primary reasons we believe that the LED-backlighting rumor may be at least partially true is due to the excessive bragging about its expected Gold EPEAT rating. Perhaps one model (20-inch?) will include the new low-energy, “greener” LED backlight; we’ll just have to see how the rumors evolve and what we can get from our sources on that front.

In conclusion, it’s hard to be anything short of excited about — even lusting after — these new quad-core Nehalem iMacs. Price points are expected to remain the same or even drop at the entry-level ($1,099 or $999 versus the current $1,199) to address the current economic pressures and better acknowledge the considerable performance gap between the dual and quad core models….and even at the current $1,499 mid-range price point, a 2.8GHz quad-core Nehalem system is an insanely great deal!

Stay tuned; we have much more about the Nehalem-based iMac & “Gainestown” Core i7 Xeon based Mac Pro to come in the days ahead and tons more dirt in general, so don’t miss a beat — check back often and if you haven’t already, follow our Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/macosrumors Also, be sure to keep an eye on this post over coming days & weeks since significant new information is often posted in the comments discussion section below!

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  • Rob

    Well, i guess the rumors on this page are indeed just that. I did so wish the top-end iMacs would indeed have the Nehalem quad-core processors but I guess it’s not yet meant to be. I’ve been holding off replacing my Mac waiting for this new line, I guess I’ll have to look at the entry-level Mac Pro. I wonder how significant the speed difference is between the 2.66 and 2.93 quad core Mac Pro ?

  • Paul

    Just rumours… unfortunately. I’m going to be hanging in with my G5 iSight until iMacs are released with 4 cores! Q4 2009?