Apple updates iMac, Mini today with nVIDIA chipsets instead of Intel

In a move that surprised even some of our sources and was in several key ways quite (but not entirely) contrary to our published projections as to the iMac’s specs, Apple announced new iMacs and Mac Minis today.

Although we are quite confident that Core i7 (“Nehalem” and “Gainestown” for desktop and Xeon products respectively) will indeed make its way into the Mac platform over the rest of the year, clearly the issues we’ve previously reported with Intel’s chipsets and the outstanding issues with some of the prototypes we’ve had the chance to examine (bugs, largely — though supply and timing were also reportedly issues; we had some internal debates over whether March 24th was really a remotely realistic announcement date, no less ship date) convinced the company’s decision makers to go with a Core 2 Duo based lineup using basically identical processors to previous models….merely adding more powerful memory, graphics, and nVIDIA chipsets.

Of course, many aspects of the iMac were as reported here — ATi HD 4850 graphics at the high end, DDR3-1066 memory (though dual channel, not triple as a system based on Nehalem would have been), additional (total of six) USB2 ports, and a single Firewire 800 port with no Firewire 400.

But there can be little doubt our excitement over access to quad-core Nehalem prototypes led us wide of the mark, and we’re not afraid after 15+ years in the rumor-mongering biz to admit being wrong.

The Mini, which fits somewhat more closely with our predictions (although in keeping with the nVIDIA partnership, it sports an integrated GeForce 9400M instead of the Intel integrated X3100 we had otherwise been expecting), has experienced a rather more dramatic upgrade — from DDR2-667 memory to DDR3-1066, faster/newer Core 2 Duo processors at up to 2.26GHz with 3MB of on-chip L2 cache, Bluetooth 2.1, and many other enhancements.

Aside from its graphics and chipset, a few other notable changes have been made to the iMac: along with a new 24-inch display (TF LCD, not LED like the standalone Apple 24-inch Cinema Display, its entry-level models on both 20- and 24-inch versions now utilize low-cost nVIDIA 9400M graphics, which help offset the costs of the powerful nVIDIA chipset and 2.66GHz entry-level Core 2 Duo for a starting price of $1,199.

Although we stand by our sources, access to prototypes and information, clearly our interpretation of those reports has been flawed. We’ve seen the 16-core/32-thread/dual-chip “Gainestown” prototypes, just as we saw the 8-core/16-thread/single-chip prototype iMacs which lacked any nVIDIA components — even included an ATi GPU in either the HD3K or HD4K series’. But given the newly announced facts of the matter, we have a lot of re-examining of those rumors to do as we do of the whole Mac hardware roadmap we’ve been working from.

Given the tremendous inter-twining of Mac OS X 10.5.7 and these new products as we have reported previously — not to mention the surprise timing of this announcement (which seemed almost deliberately timed to remind us of the pitfalls of overconfidence in even the most well-based rumors!) — we still believe that 10.5.7 is imminent, but are no longer certain of its release being associated with the March 24th Apple Event.

Stay tuned to Rumors for many updates in the coming hours and days on this and all things Apple….as always, take all rumors with a grain of salt and if you believe you have information that exposes inaccuracies in anything that MOSR reports, by all means don’t hesitate to let us know:!

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  • Tom

    So the previously mentioned embargo on benchmarks still holds? So either wide of the mark, or 1 generation ahead, eh? Here’s to getting some decent accurate material on 10.6 prior to other sites.

  • Francesco

    Maybe the rumoured 24 March event is around Snow Leopard – announcing its shipment date. Complete speculation on my part, but Snow Leopard is anticipated in the next 3 months or so.

  • Marty

    OK; so March 3rd did not bring new iMacs based on quad-core “Nehalem” Intel Core i7 processors, which seemed to make a lot of sense (see In fact, we are still stuck with the same high-end processor for the iMac: a 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo, which has been available for the last 11 months in the previous version of the iMac. Although it seemed like a reasonable possibility that at least the high-end iMac would offer a quad-core “Nehalem” Intel Core i7 processor, it is shocking that there was no processor upgrade at all (to a Core 2 Quad, even?). With Snow Leopard coming soon (?), it seems that some sort of a quad-core processor will be needed to take full advantage of its \Grand Central\ capabilities for managing multiple cores. Does this mean that the March 3rd iMac release is just a stopgap measure for the next few months, until Snow Leopard can be released?

    I have the last G5 version of the iMac before the switch to Intel processors, and the March 3rd iMac release feels similar–the last incremental improvement before a major upgrade. I am anxious to upgrade soon, but I do not want to waste my money on a Core 2 Duo iMac when the future appears to be based upon some sort of a quad-core processor. As you re-examine your iMac hardware roadmap (and its related timing), it would be helpful to understand how the status of Snow Leopard is (or will) affect when a quad-core iMac is likely to be released. Are we looking at a situation similar the release of the first Intel-based iMacs, which came out only 3 months after the previous iMac update?