Needless to say I am very pleased that Apple has brought out new iMacs. It feels like a long time since they were thoroughly refreshed.

I have talked several times about how Apple's iMacs have become powerful enough that publishing and other professionals have been buying two or three desktops instead of just one Mac Pro Tower and an accompanying monitor. A baseline Mac Pro with a quad-core 2.66GHz CPU costs $5599.

For that you'll also get a mouse and keyboard but you'll have to spend another $1699 for an Apple 24-inch display, or $3198 for a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display (of course, with the right adapters, you can use pretty much any third party monitor).

Anyway, the baseline Mac Pro plus Apple 24-inch comes to $7298; wouldn't you rather have some desk space and a 27-inch display? It will save you $3899 - enough for two 27-inch iMacs, coz they only cost $3399 each.

Considering iMacs could easily handle Final Cut, Logic, InDesign, Photoshop etc already, before this power boost, buying iMacs instead made really good sense - two or three people could be productive for the price of, previously, one set of pro gear.

A new offering in the consumer MacBook range makes sense too, since Apple's consumer laptop range was down to one model. Although I still think the category has room for some sort of tablet device.

Commenters on this blog talked about wanting an 'iMac Pro': with this latest range, you pretty much have one. The new 27-inch iMac, at least in its quad-core version, can well be thought of as an 'iMac Pro'.

Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Mac Hardware at Apple, even says so himself in the Apple promo video saying "Inside, it's really radically new. Storage, memory, new CPUs, new graphics' processors ... really, everything's better and faster in this new iMac. The 27-inch computer with this new quad-core Nehalem processor; it's a real workhorse. Those are workstation-class technologies that are really built in a consumer computer."

Exactly. While not exactly a cheap option in itself (at NZD$3399 stock, with i5 2.66GHz quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, 1TB HD and ATI Radeon HD 4850 video), this can only look like good buying for existing Mac users.

Why? The 'big' iMac it replaced had a smaller (24-inch screen), 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB RAM and a 500GB drive, plus an ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro 256MB video card memory. And it cost $3583! So if you were in the market for a new iMac, the new model with all the bigger faster stuff at $184 cheaper really looks like excellent buying, to me anyway.

The larger chassis of the 27-incher let Apple fit four RAM modules in, meaning you can max it out to 16GB memory. A build-to-order option for, ahem, an additional $2800 (you can get third party RAM, of course). Sources overseas, including Gizmodo , say the larger case also means the sound quality from the internal speakers is better.

Gizmodo also claims there's a new SD card slot under the optical drive slot on the right-hand side. I didn't know that.

The other iMacs, by the way, comprise two 21.5-inch monitor versions, both with Core 2 Duo CPUs, both running at 3.06GHz, both with 4GB RAM, but with different graphics cards and the more expensive unit has a 1TB HD instead of 500GB. The NZ prices are $1999 and $2499 respectively.

A 'low-end' 27-inch is also available: 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 1TB HD, with the monitor run by a 256MB ATI Radeon HD 4670 graphics card.

There's more detail on the specs here.

And as far as price comparisons with PCs go, there are only two worth considering: PC users who may go Mac, and existing Mac users.

To PC users who might switch, we have established that Macs are more expensive. Yes they are. No dispute. Instead, ask yourself 'why are Mac users so enthusiastic even after paying 'so' much money?' and work out how much becoming a Mac enthusiast is worth to you.

Because the reason so many people who switch to Mac become such enthusiasts is due to Apple's enhanced productivity, sublime bundled software, good back up, complimentary Apple and third-party devices and software, ease of use, and still no malware or viruses worth worrying about, despite the Chicken Lickenish prophesies.

Even some of the nutters who read Kiwiblog agree with me, which is kinda disturbing.
But sure, not all switchers stay the distance. It's not 100 per cent satisfaction rate. Some people just can't change. Some people need things OS X just can't give 'em.

If money is the bottom line for you and you have the time to solve problems, or maybe wait on the phone for support sometimes, there's heaps of PCs to choose from. Go for it. But if you stump up the extra for Apple gear, you'll most likely quickly realise just what those extra dollars are worth.

To existing Mac users, these new iMacs all look like good buying, partly because the prices offer more bang for your buck, with newer tech, greener construction methods, more RAM and bigger drives, plus wider screens. Partly the good prices reflect the fact the NZ dollar is currently so high.

I hope to get one of the new iMacs to put through its paces soon.

And I'll write about the new MacBook, and all sorts of other little updates and upgrade Apple rather surreptitiously released at the same time, in my next post.

- Mark Webster