Apple Updates iMac, Gets Intel's Montevina CPU Early

Cupertino (CA) - Apple today announced refreshed iMacs and is offering an unannounced Intel processor as part of the package : The systems can be ordered with the 45 nm Core 2 Duo Extreme X9100, processor, which is expected to officially launch with Intel’s Montevina refresh. Once again, Apple has the privilege to offer a faster processor than what PC vendors are selling today.

You have to admit, there is a certain pattern. A little over a year ago, Apple announced the availability of an Intel 3.0 GHz quad-core-processor, which, at the time, was not officially announced and appeared to be exclusive to Apple back then. When we asked Intel about this "special" CPU, which turned out to be the Xeon X5365, we were told that the chip was shipping in "limited" quantities.

The Core 2 Duo Extreme X9100 seems to be another "limited quantity" CPU, as Apple has begun offering this processor for its new iMacs today. The reason for the availability of this processor may be that Apple is simply faster at adopting new processors and its design refreshes have been timed perfectly, but there is clearly the impression that Apple has some privileges over other PC manufacturers - and we can’t imagine that HP and Dell are happy about the fact that Apple can be officially shipping and unannounced Intel product.

The new iMacs look just like the iMacs introduced in August of last year, but received a solid hardware upgrade across all major components. Processor speeds now reach from 2.4 GHz over 2.66 and 2.8 GHz all the way to the 3.06 GHz X9100 CPU with 6 MB L2 cache and a 1066 MHz FSB. Apple continues to exclusively rely on mobile processors, even if the power consumption increases on the high end. While the mainstream chips 2.4 and 2.66 GHz versions are rated at a thermal design power (TDP) of 25 watts, the 2.8 GHz (T9600) model runs at a 35 watt TDP and the X9100 at 44 watts.

Hardware capacities no go up to 1 TB, while the standard system memory in the base system remains at 1 GB. There are also new graphics card options, including Nvidia’s 8800GS, which is indicated by Apple to transform the iMac into a gaming system. Realistically, this chip has been available in numerous £800 PCs for some time and is currently Nvidia’s mainstream graphics chip, positioned below the not available 8800 Ultra, 8800 GTX, 8800 GTS and, oddly enough, the specific 8800 GT for Mac.

Pricing remains about the same as before. Apple charges £800 / €1,000 for the entry-level 20" iMac with a 2.4 GHz processor, 1 GB memory, a 250 GB hard drive and an ATI HD 2400 XT graphics card. The product family tops out at about £1,660 / €2,280 for a system with a 3.06 GHz chip, 4 GB of memory, a 1 TB hard drive and an Nvidia 8800 GS graphics card.

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